Grave Digger – Symbol Of Eternity Review

At this point, 42 years in, the title “Symbol Of Eternity” may as well refer to Grave Digger themselves. Like their fellow Germans in U.D.O., Chris Boltendahl and his cast of comrades have carved out a career through unflinching focus on straight-ahead Teutonic trad-metal. (In)Famously, their records are built of a singular steel, with only shades of lyrical theme or slight degrees of symphonic pomp to differentiate between them, but then again, isn’t that kind of the point of being a band, to find a sound and hone in on it, and then to reward the dedicated listener with a constant stream of new variations upon it? Don’t believe me? Ask Angus Young how that’s worked out for him.

And it’s worked out for Grave Digger, too, although obviously on a smaller level than for those Aussie arena-rock giants.

Now Grave Digger’s back with album number 21, and surprise, it’s a pop-country album. Don’t believe me? Well, you shouldn’t. That’s a stupid joke. It’s a Grave Digger album, so it sounds like a Grave Digger album. Shocking, I know, but true.

Release date: August 26, 2022 Label: Rock Of Angels.
So then, what shades of variance are there to help distinguish Symbol Of Eternity from those before it? Well, one, lyrical theme: Of late, Boltendahl has been prone to revisiting earlier albums – to wit, the stripped down Return Of The Reaper, or Fields Of Blood’s third take on Scottish highland history. Following that line, Symbol Of Eternity tackles the Crusades, following up on 1998’s Knights Of The Cross. So here you’ve got your knights, your raping and your pillaging and your slaughtering, some Spanish Inquisitions, and just generally a whole lot of bloodshed in the name of a supposedly benevolent God. Still, as interesting as man’s inhumanity to man will forever be, Boltendahl’s historical tales have never been the true selling point of Grave Digger’s metal, which brings us to…

Variance number two, these thirteen songs compared to the other two hundred or so. Built upon the usual Grave Digger tropes of rock-solid riff, rhythms so precise they’re almost mechanical, and huge, bombastic choruses, these are tried-and-true Grave Digger tunes, forged in the same fires as all those of the past decades and yet still fresh enough to hold their own. After the brief symphonic intro in “The Siege Of Akkon,” “Battle Cry” opens the album properly, one of the strongest Grave Digger tracks in the past few decades, all relentless metallic drive and epic pomp, with a chorus that’s damned near guaranteed to plaster a silly smile across the face of every Grave Digger fan, far and wide. Following that, “Hell Is My Purgatory” is another singalong ripper (“Hell! Hell! Hell!), and then “King Of The Kings” turns matters down to a slower but equally powerful midtempo, before the title track ratchets it all down yet again to a moody pace with one more huge Boltendahl chorus atop Axel Ritt’s harmonized guitar lines.

From there, Symbol Of Eternity stays the course, albeit with some diminishing returns, and it does drop off in the closing stretch – “Sky Of Swords,” “Holy Warfare,” and “The Last Crusade” feel like been-there, done-that tracks, jaunty choruses and more mentions of raping, slaughtering, killing, crucifixions, and so on. Not that any of the three are bad songs, just that there’s nothing new on offer, which is an ironic criticism, I know, for a Grave Digger album, but here we’re talking about within the context of the same Grave Digger album. It’s not until the Greek-language cover of Vasilis Popakonstantinou’s “Hellas Hellas” that Symbol Of Eternity catches back up to its front half. I’d never heard the original version of “Hellas Hellas” prior to this – or even heard of Popkonstantinou himself, I must admit, my knowledge of Greek rock being apparently lacking – but the track seems custom-made for the Grave Digger treatment, with another fist-in-the-air chorus and an almost action-movie-soundtrack epic flair.

In the grand scheme of Grave Digger albums, Symbol Of Eternity falls closer to Fields Of Blood’s middle-tier quality than to the higher marks of the few records before that, The Living Dead and Healed By Metal and Return Of The Reaper. Still, the variances between each of those are minor ones, as mentioned above, and if you like your metal pompous and historical and filled with tales of bloodshed and battle, then you could certainly do far worse than any Grave Digger, including this one, and when Symbol strikes squarely, it hits as hard as any, even if it’s less consistent.

Another year, another Grave Digger, another big riff and another big chorus and another step towards eternity…

Posted by Andrew Edmunds

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; born in the cemetery, under the sign of the MOOOOOOON...

  1. Funny you say that you consider the records previous to Fields of Blood to be stronger than that one. For me, it was a much needed return to form after a decade of quite lackluster releases (especially The Living Dead, ugh!), but then again I always preferred their historical/medieval albums. Anyway, I thought the singles for Symbol of Eternity were pretty good, can’t wait to hear the whole thing.

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  2. I agree with Jay. Healed by Metal and The Living Dead even moreso are easily some of the band’s worst albums. Fields of Blood was a decent return to form and this one absolutely blows them out of the water.

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