Review Summary: The end of (Grave) Digger's first brief era.
Despite having a career that has spanned the length of four decades now, Grave Digger's first incarnation as a band seems largely ignored by all save the most devoted fan-base. Indeed, those first few records (plus 1986's Stronger than Death
, under the changed name of "Digger") cemented the German heavy metal group in the Teutonic underground scene, but certainly didn't get to the level of fame that was given to the likes of Accept, Scorpions among others.
However, listening to War Games
, the third and final "Grave Digger" record before the band's first hiatus, will give you a definitive reason as to why they disbanded all those years ago. War Games
is simply a very hit and miss record, and in the end equates to something slightly above average at best. It's in the songwriting, the sometimes annoying vocal delivery, the uninspired choruses of "Heaven Can Wait" and "Fire in Your Eyes". It's also in the fact that, prior to 1985, bigger and arguably "better" bands from the same scene had already done this better, and with more fire in the belly. Basically what I'm saying is, War Games
immediately gives the listener the impression that Grave Digger were heading out of the music business. On the flip-side, there are some excellent songs here, which are unfortunately few and far between given the circumstances. The likes of belting opener "Keep on Rocking", "Paradise" and "Fallout" all develop a sound level of maturity within the songwriting which, elsewhere on the same record, came across as very hit and miss. These three songs are full of solid lead guitar work, menacing solos, and further proof that, when he can hit the right notes, Chris Boltendahl was a brilliant frontman. The songs which really made Grave Digger's third effort sub-par however are obvious. "Love is Breaking My Heart" falls flat from the very start, "(Enola Gay) Drop the Bomb" is too lenient for its own good, and "The End" is a mere two-minute instrumental filler stretching the overall run-time of the record.
signalled the end of a fairly short era for Grave Digger, and even though they had one more crack at the whip under a different pseudonym (1986's Stronger than Death
released under the band name "Digger"), very few fans look back on the band's early days as proudly as they would, say, The Reaper
. The musicianship and songwriting on War Games
can be great, but only if you're concentrating hard and looking for the best moments of an otherwise fair-to-middling album.