Grave Digger is a staple band name in the metal world known for churning out plenty of great, hard hitting albums since their debut full-length Heavy Metal Breakdown hit store shelves back in 1984, four years after the band first formed. However, in the recent years prior to The Clans Will Rise Again, many began to claim that Grave Digger were starting to lose track of what made them a fantastic band in the first place, claiming that some of the material being release was bland, or just generally bad. While the group’s previous effort, Ballads of a Hangman was a solid step up musically, there were still those who cried out depressed about the content of the album not quite being up to the standards of Grave Digger. For those who had denounced the band in recent years, your prayers have been answered with The Clans Will Rise Again, a solid full-length full of fist pounding metal assaults and athems, all set to a Scottish war theme, and all proving once more why Grave Digger is one of metal’s most important bands.
If you happen to glance at the track list to The Clans Will Rise Again, it’s clear that there is a war theme going on with this release, which isn’t too far fetched a thought for any band, let alone Grave Digger. However, some of the titles here, such as “Hammer of the Scots” and “The Piper McLeod” will set up a Scottish feel to the album, but it isn’t until the opening “Days of Revenge” introduction that the listener will fully grasp the concept of this release, and immediately be immersed in a world of Scottish-themed war. “Days of Revenge” sets up the album up nicely, starting off simply with bagpipes and accompanying ambience and drumming that makes the listener feel as though he/she were part of the march to war before “Paid in Blood” hammers right in with catchy, faster paced, well executed metal that moves the listener as well as “Days of Revenge” does, and continues to drip with atmosphere thanks to the well composed and performed chorus that keeps with the war theme nicely. Of course, the hard hitting metal doesn’t stop here, but the atmosphere does take a back seat for a bit when “Hammer of the Scots” kicks in, but that shouldn’t matter since this fist pounding old-school Heavy Metal track has enough force behind it to make any listener want to start a mosh pit wherever they stand.
The rest of the album jumps around a bit as far as the atmosphere and themes go. While never violating the overall war-theme of the album, and the Scottish setting concept, there are tracks that concentrate moreso on one thing then another after “Hammer of the Scots”. Some will focus more on setting an atmosphere of the general geographical location, such as the use of bagpipes, which can be heard in many of the tracks, including the following “Highland Farewell”. Then, there are tracks that simply have music that sound war-based, or heavy enough to make you want to get up and go to war period. Grave Digger also brings in some Folk atmosphere with this release on some of the songs, and it varies greatly outside the traditional folk-related geographical instruments on “Highland Farewell” and those like it. Instead, there are tracks that just have a folksy feel to the music, such as “Rebels”, which clearly focuses on a more Heavy Metal sound, but the way the vocals are performed in the chorus, and the music throgh the verses of the song, display this element in the background, which works with the overall atmosphere of the release. However, “Rebels” is a bit of an odd sounding track, as the vocals just sound different compared to the quality available on other songs, coming off a bit muddier or lower in quality. Sadly, this leaves the recording a little less then what listeners would desire.
Another aspect to The Clans Will Rise Again would be the slower tracks. The title track, “The Clans Will Rise Again”, moves at a slower pace, acting more as a anthem then anything, and it does affect the flow of the album given the pace the band manages to keep up from the start, putting and the feeling of being on the way to war themselves. The song lacks a great deal of the atmosphere the album carries with it, but as an anthem, it works out well. Perhaps this track would have worked better in the end of the album instead of where it is, but that winds up being it’s only true fault. The song itself is just as heavy as the rest with the way the song is performed. “Whom the Gods Love Die Young” can be considered an anthem with it’s slower pace, but it’s much darker and more haunting then anything on this album, suiting the lyrics very well, and the simple keyboards thrown in during the bridges of this song really just make it sound creepier, though the chorus does violate that creepiness by giving the song a more victorious feel, and the guitar solo is simply fantastic and well suiting for this song. Outside that, “Valley of Tears” follows the same fate as “The Clans Will Rise”, though it’s a little faster and not an anthem, coming off as just a simple, straight forward metal song with a vocal performance that pushes it forward, especially during the chorus, which actually comes off as having a bit of an on stage musical feel to it, or at the very least will remind some listeners of “Hammer of Justice” by Hammerfall, or even Meat Loaf‘s rendition of “In the Land of the Pig, The Butcher is King”.
However, out of all of these songs that don’t quite have the same kick, they are all still highly enjoyable and suit the overall theme. The only track that doesn’t really seem to fit in would be the song “Spider”. “Spider” is a really good song when all is said and done, it just doesn’t really fit the overall atmosphere of the release, but marks the time where the album seems to slowly drift away from the theme of the release musically, and becomes the only song to not share lyrics that have some kind of common thread with the rest of the album, and ends the little streak of atmosphere-less songs nicely, as “The Piper McLeod” throws everything back on track with a focus on the Scottish element of the album again, bleeding into the fantastic uplifting “Coming Home” before crushing the listener with the very saddening , yet beautiful, ballad “When Rain Turns to Blood”. Even with all the amazing tracks on this release, this closing song says it all, and shines the most, and will quickly become one of the most loved tracks off the album due to how powerful it genuinely is, playing with the listeners emotions to the point where it’s cascading depressive sound will leave you with a feeling of overwhelming sadness and a desire to sing along, and for those who aren’t afraid to do so, perhaps shed some tears while belting out along with the song. The only problem here is that this song will not make that kind of impact unless you hear it in it’s proper place on the album after listening to this release at least once from start to finish.
Aside a patch of songs that don’t quite share the same atmosphere as the rest of the album, starting with “Execution” and ending with “Spider”, and a few songs that simply aren’t as good as the rest of the album, but are good enough to not be considered filler, The Clans Will Rise Again makes for a powerful return to the roots of Grave Digger. This album is full of strong compositions that will move the listener and play with the senses, even emotions, on just about every song here, making for one of the best releases from Grave Digger in a good while. Sure, The Clans Will Rise Again falls just short of being a masterpiece, but there’s no denying that you’ll be going back to this release time and time again for a long time to come.