Grave Digger - Interview


When someone mentions German heavy metal, so many significant bands come to mind within a matter of seconds. There are too many great heavy, speed, power and thrash metal bands that left a big mark on the scene and have since ruled the world. One of the veterans of the German metal scene is still rocking out the tunes of war after so many years with pure heavy metal breakdown, fantasy and historic concept albums, with the grim reaper as the band's mascot. Yes indeed, I am talking about none other than GRAVE DIGGER. The band has a large catalog of classic albums that are still relevant to this day, constantly releasing new albums with the latest one being "Symbol Of Eternity" from 2022 and as of recently, they announced a new single 'The Grave Is Yours' which will include two tracks, the title track and the re-recording of 'Back To The Roots' from the "Symphony Of Death" EP. They recently had a lineup change as their longtime guitarist Axel Ritt had left after 14 years of performing in Grave Digger, and has since been replaced with Tobias Kersting who is also in Chris Boltendahl's solo project Chris Boltendahl's Steelhammer, which released its debut album "Reborn In Flames" this year. Grave Digger has released a total of 21 albums and are constantly working on new material with a plethora of concepts that fuel their creativity. For this occasion, I had the pleasure to speak with the man who is one of the founding members and only original member of the band, that being none other than legendary vocalist Chris Boltendahl. Join us as we speak about the upcoming single, the band's frequent activity, their cult status and many other things that might interest you.

Vladimir

Hi Chris! First of all, I'd like to wish you a warm welcome on behalf of MetalBite. To start things off, tell us a bit about your new single 'The Grave Is Yours' and the decision behind the re-recording of your older track 'Back To The Roots' from "Symphony Of Death" EP. What made you want to revisit that track in particular?

Yes, we had the idea directly after Axel Ritt left the band and we started working with Tobias Kersting, also on our live shows and we thought that it is a good idea to present our new guitar player with a single track and with an older one before we start touring more or less in 2024. And yes, then we wrote the song 'The Grave Is Yours' and decided to do this 'Back To The Roots' re-recorded version. And yes, it's a typical Grave Digger song I think in the vein of The Reaper album or Symphony Of Death.

Is the new Grave Digger single hinting that the band will be aiming to go for a darker musical approach for the upcoming album?

No we are not aiming for a darker musical approach, we are just writing more or less. Also the new songs are currently in the songwriting process for the new album. And it does not seem that it will be very dark. I think it's, yeah, really a straight heavy metal record. You will be excited about it.

I admire the fact that Grave Digger is frequently recording and releasing new material in just a couple of years span, which is not a common thing with bigger metal bands. What is it that fuels Grave Digger's engine of infinite energy and constant activity?

Yeah, we are really having fun writing new music and we don't need any five/six years to create an album. Our creativity is on a full level I think, and the engine is running more or less better than one year ago and also we see a new guitar player with new skills, he has brought a very good atmosphere in the band and I think we are more back to the original Grave Digger as you saw that we change the logo again to the older one and therefore it's a reason why Grave Digger is back.

Your longtime guitarist Axel Ritt has recently left Grave Digger and was replaced with Tobias Kersting who is also in your other band Steelhammer. Has this lineup change affected the band in any way and do you believe that Tobias has rightfully earned his place amongst the rest of the band?

Yes, every lineup change affected the band and as you listen to my solo record you find more or less a touch of what Tobias is able to play and what kind of music he likes and me too. But the Grave Digger stuff is also different, and Grave Digger is more straight, more typical German, more true.

I always wanted to know how you guys came up with the decision of Grim Reaper being the band's mascot from your fourth album "The Reaper" and onwards? What did you find about the reaper so fitting to be the central figure of the band and kept it like that for 30 years?

Yeah, when we made the return of Grave Digger in 1993, we had this cover on The Reaper album and then we established the Reaper with the Symphony Of Death album and we thought that's a good idea to have some kind of mascot and this mascot is guiding us till nowadays and it will be also a main factor on the next cover, so yeah, be prepared because I think the next cover idea is awesome. And the Reaper will be shown in a different way again!

Out of curiosity, is there any album from the classic Grave Digger discography (from "Heavy Metal Breakdown" all the way to "Rheingold") that holds a special place in your heart for a certain reason or does each album in your catalog represent a crucial part of your life?

Yeah, for sure. Of course, I'm very familiar with the self-titled album The Grave Digger, also with Tunes Of War, and I also like Heavy Metal Breakdown and I think this album shows Grave Digger in the way when I founded the band. Since this time we carry on with this kind of music and we never made such big changes, more or less.

Something that I found interesting about your unique style of singing still holds up after so many years, and yet I have not heard any other vocalist try to replicate your technique. I have two questions regarding that topic: What do you do in order to keep your voice in such a stable condition, is there a secret ingredient behind it? And also, has there ever been a moment where you realized that your singing voice is exceeding its limits?

I have no idea, it came from the bottom of my heart to start singing this way, because the first time with Grave Digger I think it was in 1983, when Peter Masson, the first guitar player of Grave Digger, was the singer and I was the bass player. And then Peter Masson stopped because his voice was broken and I started singing, but I could never play bass and sing at the same time, that is not possible for me. So I hung up the bass guitar and started singing. And I never made any thoughts about how it is coming, but it's coming from the deepest side of me, and if you can hear my normal voice it's not very rough, you know. So, yeah, I think it's a typical Grave Digger voice.

Grave Digger has had many interesting themes from horror, death and darkness to medieval history, religion, fantasy, mythology and war, whereas some themes have also spawned outstanding conceptual albums that are important to the band's discography. Tell me, do you always try to implement new conceptual themes to the band?

The next one is not a concept album because we did a lot of concept albums in the past. The next one is more or less in the vein of The Reaper album or Symphony Of Death and I like to deal with this historical stuff too, but this time I want to write not a specific topic and I want to give my ideas directly to the fans, my typical song lyric ideas and not following a special concept, you know.

Has there ever been a conceptual theme that you wish you had done earlier in your career or perhaps thought that you could expand upon more in the future?

No, definitely not. I don't know what the future will bring, but at the moment I don't think that we are carrying on with some concept ideas, because we did so many in the past and I want to enjoy a little bit of freedom, and yeah, we carry on with some typical cliché metal lyrics. I love that because when I grew up in the early '70s, '80s, that was it more or less, nobody made a concept CD and I think that was familiar with Queensyche and perhaps also with Pink Floyd. And then we followed it with Tunes Of War. So the next one is not a concept CD.

What I always respected about Grave Digger is that despite what direction you were going with every album, you managed to naturally evolve and constantly expand your creativity as a band while always remaining true to yourself without chasing any genre trends like many bands did during the 90's and early to mid-2000s. Even to this point, you are still very much in that same position and you are still a successful band, even more so than before. How did you guys manage to avoid the temptation of selling out for the sake of survival throughout so many years? Do you think that it is of crucial importance that a band such as yourself maintains that strength within the music?

Yeah, we are always following my intention. Grave Digger is my baby, and it will be until the coffin is closed, then Grave Digger will be dead, but until that I will carry on with my inspirations and to my ideas and Grave Digger is a straightforward heavy metal band. We love to entertain the people, we never told any political messages and I think I'm the driving force behind the band, nobody else is as long as I am in the band. We will carry on definitely and if I have the energy and the power to carry on, then Grave Digger will be reaching 50-55 years of the band existing.

Tell me how do you personally feel when you see that there is still love and support from fans towards Grave Digger and other respected German metal bands such as Accept, Blind Guardian, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Running Wild? Have you ever thought that the band would still be standing on a high pedestal among so many new coming artists and various sub-genres?

The fans are the essence of a band, and we love to play for the people outside. And yesterday evening, I made a stand-up show here in Cologne in my hometown, together with my buddies from Accept. And for the first time I sang "Balls To The Wall" and "I'm A Rebel" together with this band and it was awesome. And the fans enjoyed it so much. If you are on stage and you feel the energy of the people, you can't stop making music, you know? So yeah, the band had many more good years than before. And yeah, we are heading out for a couple of festivals next year and going on the cruise in January and doing Sweden for the first time, more or less three shows in a row. And every time we are looking for new experiences and we carry on, we are metal.

So far, what can your fans expect in the near future? Is there anything that fans should be looking forward to with Grave Digger's 22nd full-length album?

Yes, they should look out for Grave Digger, because on the 12th of January we are releasing a new single called 'The Grave Is Yours' and the B-side more or less is 'Back To The Roots', the new version, and in the very first moment, if you listen to it in the first 20 seconds, you will see it's Grave Digger and it's a riff monster, but on the other side it's a little bit melodic in the chorus, but it's a typical Grave Digger forward heavy metal song.

Thank you so much for doing this interview, Chris! I am really looking forward to seeing Grave Digger someday. Are there any final words you'd like to say?

Vladimir, thank you for the interview, I enjoyed it!

Entered: 12/21/2023 6:18:03 PM

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Discography


Symbol Of Eternity Symbol Of Eternity
Full-Length (2022)
Fields Of Blood Fields Of Blood
Full-Length (2020)
The Living Dead The Living Dead
Full-Length (2018)
Healed By Metal Healed By Metal
Full-Length (2017)
Exhumation (The Early Years) Exhumation (The Early Years)
Full-Length (2015)
Return Of The Reaper Return Of The Reaper
Full-Length (2014)
Clash Of The Gods Clash Of The Gods
Full-Length (2012)
The Clans Will Rise Again The Clans Will Rise Again
Full-Length (2010)
Ballads Of A Hangman Ballads Of A Hangman
Full-Length (2009)
Liberty Or Death Liberty Or Death
Full-Length (2007)
Yesterday Yesterday
EP (2006)
25 To Live 25 To Live
Live (2005)
25 To Live 25 To Live
DVD (2005)
The Last Supper The Last Supper
Full-Length (2005)
Rheingold Rheingold
Full-Length (2003)
The Grave Digger The Grave Digger
Full-Length (2001)
Excalibur Excalibur
Full-Length (1999)
Knights Of The Cross Knights Of The Cross
Full-Length (1998)
Tunes Of War Tunes Of War
Full-Length (1996)
Heart Of Darkness Heart Of Darkness
Full-Length (1995)
The Reaper The Reaper
Full-Length (1993)
War Games War Games
Full-Length (1986)
Witch Hunter Witch Hunter
Full-Length (1985)
Heavy Metal Breakdown Heavy Metal Breakdown
Full-Length (1984)

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