Grave Digger (band)
|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (September 2009)|
Grave Digger at Metalcamp in 2007
|Also known as||Digger (1987)|
|Years active||1980–1987, 1991–present|
Grave Digger is a German heavy metal band formed in November 1980.
After various appearances at small festivals, the band recorded two songs for the compilation album Rock from Hell in 1983. A year later, Grave Digger, now comprising Chris Boltendahl (vocals), Peter Masson (guitar), Willi Lackmann (bass) and Albert Eckardt (drums), released their debut album Heavy Metal Breakdown.
In 1985, with Lackmann having left the band, they recorded and released their second album Witch Hunter. Only after the album was completed, a replacement on bass was found in the form of C.F. Brank. Further festival appearances followed, a tour with Helloween as special guest and, finally, their third album War Games in January 1986. To promote this album, a triple headline tour with Celtic Frost and Helloween followed. Thereafter, Peter Masson gave way to Uwe Lulis; in 1987 the band's name was changed to Digger, the name under which they released the album Stronger Than Ever. This album hardly had anything in common with the earlier music of Grave Digger. It was more an attempt to reach the masses with mainstream rock like that of Bon Jovi or Van Halen. The album flopped, as it was not accepted by fans or the masses. As a result, Boltendahl declared, at the end of 1987, the breakup of the band.
In 1991, the band was partially reformed. Boltendahl and Lulis, along with two newcomers, Tomi Göttlich and Jörg Michael, who had been the drummer for Rage and Running Wild, released a comeback record called The Reaper in 1993. This album was a return to the true roots of Grave Digger. In the same year, the album The Best of the Eighties was released. It represented a quasi Best-of-Album of their earlier songs.
An EP titled Symphony of Death followed in 1994. In the interim, Grave Digger, now with a new drummer, Frank Ullrich, toured Germany, playing as the warm-up act for Manowar. In 1995, the album Heart of Darkness appeared. It was a very dark album with many influences from the early works of Annihilator.
In 1996, Stefan Arnold became the band's new drummer. This year also marked the release of the concept album Tunes of War, which dealt with the history of Scotland. This album was the first part of the Middle Ages Trilogy. The second album, Knights of the Cross, with Jens Becker as bass guitarist, was released in 1998 and was about the rise and fall of the Knights Templar. The final part of the trilogy finished in 1999 with Excalibur. This album explored the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Shortly after, a tour soon followed through with keyboardist Hans-Peter Katzenburg, who later became a permanent band member.
In 2000, Grave Digger celebrated their 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, they performed at a sell-out concert at the Zeche in Bochum. Many of the band's most popular songs were played alongside other less well-known ones. There were also a number of different supporting acts appearing with Grave Digger. This concert also marked a defining chapter in the band's history, as Uwe Lulis left a short while before the concert because of personal and business reasons. Lulis finally called his new band Rebellion.
A replacement, in the form of the ex-Rage guitarist, Manni Schmidt, was found. Along with him and the new record label Nuclear Blast, the album The Grave Digger, appeared in 2001. The works of Edgar Allan Poe served as an inspiration for the lyrics of the new album. Their first live album, Tunes of Wacken, appeared in 2002. This was coupled with the release of their first DVD, Wacken Open Air. In 2003, a further concept album, Rheingold, was released on 26 May, which centered on the opera Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner. They embarked on a tour supporting the album into early 2004.
After the successful Rheingold Tour, the band recorded another album, The Last Supper, which was released on 17 January 2005. The artwork was first revealed in November 2004 which received positive feedback. A number of fans were disappointed by the artwork because of the motive. The band issued a statement explaining the album cover, "For all: this is not a Satanic message or something else in this direction, and it's not against Christians. The cover represented a depressive Jesus Christ at his last days before death. He was left by his followers and the artwork shows the loneliness of Jesus while death waiting behind him. Read the chorus lyrics of 'Crucified' and you know what's the meaning of the cover: 'Father tell me what went wrong, my whole life my faith was strong, father tell me why should I die, this screaming mob yells crucify, my curse comes true I have to die, why I am crucified.'" Unlike their previous albums, The Last Supper was not a concept album, despite several songs about the last days of Jesus. A few journalists described the album as the best since Tunes of War or Heavy Metal Breakdown. According to the band, it contains "more metal, more passion and more power" than the group's previous efforts. Less than a month later, the band began a tour with Stormhammer and Astral Doors in Andernach, the birthplace of Manni Schmidt.
In December 2006, a number of release parties was announced for the band's follow-up album, Liberty or Death, which was released on 12 January 2007. A Double-Headline Tour together with Therion followed, beginning 17 January 2007 in Essen.
In late February 2008, Grave Digger began writing new material. In mid-August, they entered Principal studios with additional guitarist Thilo Hermann to record their 13th studio album entitled Ballads of a Hangman, which was released on 9 January 2009 under their new label Napalm Records. It was their first album with twin guitars.
In February 2009, the band parted ways with Thilo Hermann. An explanation was issued: "We are very sad to inform you that we have separated from Thilo Herrmann (ex-RUNNING WILD). After all the euphoria about the second guitarist in the beginning, first doubts regarding the current situation in the band started showing up, bit by bit. There were many different things, starting with the free room on the stage and going on to musical aspects, that have been observed by every old member of the band independently and which finally made us feel that we would have to separate from Thilo. This decision has been made by common consent and on behalf of the whole band. It does not have to do with any interpersonal problems or the like. In fact we took it very hard to separate from that really nice guy that Thilo is. Grave Digger has been a well-attuned team for a very long time and according to expectations it’s hard for a new musician to become integrated. Where previously a well practised team performed on the stage we were not able to pal up to a sixth man. As for Thilo, we wish him all the best for his musical and private future." In early October, Manni Schmidt left the band due to ongoing disagreements with Chris Boltendahl. An old friend of the band, guitarist Axel Ritt from the band Domain, was chosen as a temporary replacement for Schmidt to play out the remaining tour dates. On 12 January 2010, it was officially announced that he was now an official full-time member of Grave Digger.
From mid-May to mid-July 2010, the band finished recording their new album The Clans Will Rise Again, which was released in Europe on 1 October with a North American release following soon after. The album is a loose sequel of the Tunes of War album, but this time it is not a concept album about the Scottish history. It's more of a work about Scotland, its mysticism and its people. On 11 September, Grave Digger released a video for "Highland Farewell", the fourth track appearing on the album.
On 27 July 2012, the band released a new EP entitled Home At Last  with Clash of the Gods following on 31 August. They went on to play a handful of shows in the UK and Europe from early to late 2012 before and after the album's release and then toured throughout 2013 in Europe and played a few shows in Brazil in support of the album.
In February 2014, the band began recording their next album which would be titled Return of the Reaper. On 20 March, the band revealed the artwork followed by the track listing on 23 April. It was released on 11 July. In mid-November, keyboard player Hans Peter Katzenburg left the band in order to spend more time on outside projects. He was replaced by Marcus Kniep, who would also continue performing as the reaper.
In October 2015, Exhumation - The Early Years was released, which contains re-recorded versions of the band's "absolute classics with a dynamic and powerful sound of 2015," according to a press release.
In June 2016, Grave Digger entered the studio to begin working on their next album entitled Healed by Metal, which was released on 13 January 2017. They embarked on a tour with Blind Guardian as the support act on their second leg North American tour supporting the album Beyond the Red Mirror.
- Chris Boltendahl – vocals (1980-present); bass guitar (1980-1983, 1985)
- Axel Ritt - guitar (2010–present); live (2009)
- Jens Becker – bass guitar (1997 – present)
- Stefan Arnold – drums (1996 – present)
- Marcus Kniep – keyboards (2014 – present)
- Peter Masson – guitars (1980–1986)
- Lutz Schmelzer – drums (1980)
- Philip Seibel – drums (1981–1983; died 2002)
- Martin Gerlitzki – bass guitar (1983)
- Willi Lackman – bass guitar (1983–1984; died 2013)
- Albert Eckardt – drums (1983–1987)
- René "T-Bone" Teichgräber – bass guitar (1984)
- C.F. Frank – bass guitar (1985–1987)
- Uwe Lulis – guitars (1986–2000)
- Tomi Göttlich – bass guitar (1991–1997)
- Peter Breitenbach – drums (1991–1993)
- Jörg Michael – drums (1993–1994)
- Frank Ulrich – drums (1994–1995)
- Hans Peter "H.P." Katzenburg – keyboards (1996–2014)
- Manni Schmidt – guitars (2000–2009)
- Thilo Hermann – guitars (2007–2009)
|1984||Heavy Metal Breakdown|
|1986||Stronger Than Ever (under name Digger)|
|1995||Heart of Darkness|
|1996||Tunes of War|
|1998||Knights of the Cross|
|2001||The Grave Digger|
|2005||The Last Supper|
|2007||Liberty or Death|
|2009||Ballads of a Hangman|
|2010||The Clans Will Rise Again|
|2012||Clash of the Gods|
|2014||Return of the Reaper|
|2017||Healed by Metal|
- The Best Of The Eighties (1993)
- Die Definitiv Biografie (2002)
- The History - Part One (2002)
- Masterpieces - Best Of Album (2002)
- Lost Tunes from the Vault (2003)
- Exhumation - The Early Years (2015)
EPs and singles
- 1982 Grave Digger Demo (1982)
- Born Again Demo (1983)
- Shoot Her Down (1984)
- 1991 Grave Digger Demo (1991)
- For Promotion Only (1992)
- Symphony of Death (1994)
- Rebellion (1996)
- The Dark Of The Sun (1997)
- The Battle Of Bannockburn (1998)
- The Round Table (Forever) (1999)
- Rheingold (2003)
- Yesterday (2006)
- Silent Revolution (2006)
- Pray (2008)
- Ballads Of A Hangman (2009)
- The Ballad Of Mary (2011)
- Home At Last (2012)
- The Middle Ages Trilogy (2002)
- Circle Of Witches (1995)
- Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching) (1996)
- Dark Of The Sun (1997)
- Valhalla (2003)
- The Last Supper (2005)
- Pray (2008)
- Ballad Of A Hangman (2008)
- Highland Farewell (2010)
- Home At Last (2012)
- Zurück nach Haus (German Version Of Home At Last) (2012)
- Season Of The Witch (Lyric Video) (2014)
- Hell Funeral (2014)
- Heavy Metal Breakdown (2015)
- Healed By Metal (2016)
- Lawbreaker (2017)
- "GRAVE DIGGER Name New CD". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 16 January 2003.
- "GRAVE DIGGER Tour Dates Announced". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 7 June 2003.
- "GRAVE DIGGER Explain New Album Cover". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 24 November 2004.
- "GRAVE DIGGER: 25-Year-Anniversary Live CD/DVD Track Listing Revealed". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 6 June 2005.
- "GRAVE DIGGER: 'Liberty Or Death' Release Parties Announced". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
- "GRAVE DIGGER Begins Writing New Material". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 21 February 2008.
- "GRAVE DIGGER GUITARIST MANNI SCHMIDT CONFIRMS REPORTS OF SECOND GUITARIST JOINING BAND, REUNITES WITH RAGE AT SUMMER'S END OPEN AIR". Bravewords.com. Retrieved 30 August 2007.
- "GRAVE DIGGER: 'Ballads Of A Hangman' Track Listing, Cover Artwork Revealed". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 1 November 2008.
- "GRAVE DIGGER PART WAYS WITH GUITARIST THILO HERRMANN". Bravewords.com. Retrieved 22 February 2009.
- "GRAVE DIGGER Parts Ways With Guitarist MANNI SCHMIDT". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 8 October 2009.
- "GRAVE DIGGER INTRODUCE NEW GUITARIST". Bravewords.com. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
- "GRAVE DIGGER: 'Highland Farewell' Video Released". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 2011-09-11.
- "GRAVE DIGGER: 'Home At Last' Mini-CD Details Revealed". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
- "GRAVE DIGGER: 'Clash Of The Gods' Track Listing Revealed". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
- "GRAVE DIGGER Begins Recoding New Album". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
- "GRAVE DIGGER: 'Return Of The Reaper' Cover Artwork Unveiled". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
- "GRAVE DIGGER: 'Return Of The Reaper' Track Listing Revealed". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
- "GRAVE DIGGER's 'Exhumation - The Early Years' Album To Include Re-Recorded Versions Of Band's 'Classics'". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
- "GRAVE DIGGER To Enter Studio In June". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
- "GRAVE DIGGER To Release 'Healed By Metal' Album In January". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
- "BLIND GUARDIAN To Tour North America With GRAVE DIGGER". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
- "Grave Digger". Discogs.
- "Grave Digger, 1994 - Symphony Of Death (EP)". Media Club.
- "Grave Digger". HardHarderHeavy (in German). Poly4Media. 23 July 2010.
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