Not too long after touring and the release of their critically acclaimed full-length The Clans Will Rise Again, Grave Digger return with a follow-up EP entitled The Ballad of Mary. This five song release features two new renditions of the song “The Ballad of Mary” and “Rebellion”, as well as two instrumental tracks, and a couple guest performances. But, does all this add up to the makings of a great companion piece to The Clans Will Rise Again? Or is this just another post-release EP to milk more money from a fan base that has become rabid once more?
Fans of Grave Digger will probably remember “The Ballad of Mary (Queen of Scots)”, a strong ballad track is considered one of the band’s most memorable recordings. This EP features two versions of this song that were recorded in 2010, along with a newly recorded version of the song “Rebellion”. The first rendition of “The Ballad of Mary” keeps the tradition of the original composition alive, but features female Metal legend Doro and Van Canto pulling guest vocal duties on the track. Van Canto’s contribution seems a little too over dramatic, but Doro is spot on with her performance, and manages to do a good job at emulating the proper emotions of the song. The second rendition fo “The Ballad of Mary” is an extended version that focuses more on making it a Symphonic rendition of the track. The vocal tracks are exactly the same, just on a different track, but due to the music being more Symphonic in nature, Van’s voice perfectly matches the music, and Doro‘s emotional performance sounds even better. Clearly, this was the version these two were meant to share, and not the traditional version that starts the EP.
“Rebellion” is another great re-recording, and features Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian fame, and Van Canto once more. Again, Van’s performance feels a little too over the top for the music here, which isn’t too epic to start with, being a more traditional old-school Heavy Metal track. Hansi does a good job, though, and doesn’t go over the top with a dramatic performance, and keeps his performance back a bit from what one would expect from a Blind Guardian release, feeling restrained, but in a very good way.
Finally, the EP features “Highland Farewell” and “Coming Home”. These two tracks are instrumental songs, but they both feature choirs, which actually don’t sound any different. Basically, “Highland Farewell” has a tame “choir” vocal approach for the chorus, and that’s it. The rest is just an instrumental, but if you listen, sometimes you can swear you hear the vocals slightly, as if they just drowned them out in the final mix somehow. That doesn’t happen to be the problem on “Coming Home”, but the problem is that the choir sounds even more tame and as if it’s just the vocalist with two different vocal styles layered over them. Sadly, these tracks aren’t really worth much, and would have been more enjoyable just as instrumentals instead of having the chorus sung with layered vocals.
The Ballad of Mary EP isn’t really a mad grab for money from the fan base that had their rabid fascination with the band recently restarted. The rerecorded tracks with guest vocals on here are awesome, though Van Canto tends to be a little more serious then he should be at times. Then, you have the Instrumental/Choir tracks at the end, which really are just not that enjoyable. The choir is meerly the chorus, which would have had a greater impact had there been actual vocals done on the song outside of that, or all vocals, including the choir, been removed completely and kept an instrumental. In the long run, it’s nto a bad EP, but it definitely could have been better.