Released: 2003, Nuclear Blast
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
ALBUM OF THE YEAR!
Ok, so the final judgement of this year’s metal offerings may yet be some six months premature, but I’m sure that at year’s end, two albums will be key forces in the final battle: the monstrous true power metal releases of Grave Digger’s RHEINGOLD or Cage’s DARKER THAN BLACK, both reviewed here this month.
Never doubt the Digger, that’s what I’ve learned. Though Grave Digger’s last two albums, EXCALIBUR, and THE GRAVE DIGGER were good albums, I thought that they were not up to par with the mastery of such epics and KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS or TUNES OF WAR, the best works in their catalog. Knowing that Grave Digger was gearing to release a concept album based on composer Richard Wagner’s The Ring/The Nibelungs operas, I felt that there were only two possible outcomes: a). Pompously bloated and symphonic or b).The best Grave Digger album ever. Guess which answer is correct.
Grave Digger unload with both barrels on this album. The speed metal side of Grave Digger and the epic power metal side of the band come together seamlessly into what is simply a monstrously heavy, absolutely incredible work. Manni Schmidt, especially, explodes here. The riffs are to the point, and catchy as hell, while the solos are awesome (especially on the title track). Uwe Lulis who? Hahaha.
It wouldn’t be a Grave Digger album without an intro, and “The Ring” fills that role nicely. Somewhat atypical for Grave Digger, this one is a sweeping keyboard epic, the operatic piece leading right into the title track.
Ok, guys, hold on. “Rheingold” rips straight ahead with the Grave Digger trademark crunch, a bombast of riffs pummeling. What’s this? HOLY SHIT! This chorus is fukken HUGE! Even the chorus is heavy as hell, and has a great atmosphere. We’ve got a nice, quick post-chorus continuation of the dark atmosphere through some keys, then right back into the riffs. Manni treats us to about a full-minute of kickass soloing about halfway through. The band does not slow down at all for “Valhalla.” The main riff here is uber-catchy, as is the epic bridge takes us to the silly chorus: “Valhalla! Valhalla! Valhalla! Valhalla!” Yeah, so lyrical geniuses Grave Digger are not. I bet this one will go over huge in their live set. “Giants” is very much like the previous track, though the guitars are even more crunchy. Same goofy chorus style, though. I love the Wagnerian keyboard piece kicking in around 2:25, followed by some great melodic guitar fills and another great solo. “Maidens of War” is probably my second favourite track on the album. It builds with a short acoustic intro leading up to the opening riff that is without doubt the best riff on the album. Where the hell is my towel? This gives way to an Iced Earth-NotSR-“Reaching the End” kind of interlude. The chorus here is not as big as on “Rheingold,” but very well written and a pure epic. We also get bits of the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” lead in the last few minutes of the track. “Sword” and “Dragon” are good tracks; nothing new there, just catchy, heavy riffs. “Liar” is the most efficient track on the album with 2:46 of pure speed riffing. Yeah, I’m headbanging like a madman to this one. I hope you’re taking notes here, because this is how metal is to be played. “Murderer” is a beautiful pseudo-ballad, not sacrificing any heaviness at all, but still managing to come up with some of the best atmosphere on the album and a chorus just pulsating with power. As if we haven’t been blown away sufficiently by the first 38 minutes of RHEINGOLD, here is “Twilight of the Gods” to remind us of everything for which Grave Digger stands. This track has all the goodness of a 20+ minute epic into just over seven minutes. This is the masterpiece of the album, with tons of variations in tempo, atmosphere, and style. The main riff in each verse has a headbanging coefficient like no other, and Stefan Arnold’s drumming absolutely pummels. Wow. This is definitely Grave Digger’s best song ever.
Fans of Grave Digger, and fans of Power Metal must own this album, no questions asked. Hell, any fan of metal would be incomplete if he does not score this one. Holy piss does this album rule!