Grave Digger - Tunes Of War


Not blessed, or merciful
Apr 11, 2001
Sarf Lundin, Innit
Grave Digger - Tunes Of War
Gun Records - 1996
By tenebrose

It is perhaps a little surprising that Grave Digger manages to keep their musical recipe so intact despite the constant change of line-up, but they do and Tunes of War is no different. At the time of this album, the line-up consists of Chris "Uncle Reaper" Boltendahl (vocals), Uwe Lulis (guitar), Tomi Göttlich (bass) and Stefan Arnold (drums). Lulis and Göttlich have since left the band.

The recipe is the same as many Grave Digger fans know it: an intro, a few quicker songs, a ballad and a closure. The old saying "why fix it if it isn't broken" clearly applies to the band's view on music, which is one of the downsides to Tunes of War. It doesn?t really offer anything which is strikingly fresh musically and you wont find yourself falling back on your chair, engulfed by long guitar solos and instrumental pieces. What you will meet, however, is quick metal with a classic sound and intriguing lyrics. Tunes of War is based entirely on Scottish history, beginning in the 11th century with Malcom King and ending with the battle of Culloden Muir in 1746. It is not so much an epic tale, but rather a chain of events, linked together in a chronological order.

The intro is a 'metalization' of the famous tune Scotland the Brave, on the album titled "The Brave", which is quite poorly done. The introduction of a guitar and a heavy metal drum beat in the middle of the track doesn't add anything to this beautiful classic. As a first draw it's a poor opening, but we still have roughly 50 minutes left to change that opinion. We quickly go on to some upbeat tunes, of course graced with Boltendahl's rough trademark voice and choir-sung refrains to add spirit the heroic themes covered. In the spirit of early Helloween we also get to hear some interesting sound effects, although Grave Digger are far more serious and more subtle in the implementation of these. For example, we have one of the album's finer tracks "William Wallace (Braveheart)", where we get a fighting scene and bag pipes carefully layered into the music in well placed intermission.

The album's mandatory ballad is the story of Mary. It's unimaginatively titled "The Ballad of Mary (Queen of Scots)", but the song in itself much outclasses its title. It's a surprisingly soft tune, showing the actual range of Boltendahl's voice. Again, we have sound effects, subtly beginning and finishing this sad tale.

All in all, it is a very good album, despite the lack of ingenuity in the instrumental department. The lyrics are creative and Grave Digger knows how to make music which fits harmonically with their texts and it isn't the same old thing over and over again, although it offers very few surprises. They capture the spirit and energy of the highlands and the spirit of war which makes Tunes of War a great album.