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I've been reviewing much of the Grave Digger discography of late, the band's first album Heavy Metal Breakdown is the sound of the German explosion of speed metal on the heavy metal scene, think Accept's "Balls to the Wall" musically but with less serious lyrical content.
The two first tracks are easily the best and it's little wonder that they're still played at most Grave Digger concerts nearly 20 years on, they start off the album with an amazingly aggressively fast pace, impressive guitar playing trickery, catchy choruses and generally create songs that not only talk the talk but walk the walk with titles like "Headbanging Man" and "Heavy Metal Breakdown"
"Back from the War" has one particularly tasty guitar riff and a catchy chorus, lyrically it's pretty good although Bohtendahl's shriek doesn't make the lyrics particularly definable.
The next track "Yesterday",is strong vocally but it's a pretty lifeless song, I'm not a big fan of ballads and this one doesn't even have a single guitar break in it...if I wanted that I would have gone to an empty church, I mean that's not really why you want to listen to a speed metal album is it?!
"We Wanna Rock You" in case you hadn't guessed is another sing-a-long rock anthem, it's not as good as the first two tracks of the album but it's another good headbanging tune, it's best played live though and you don't really get the full power of the song from the sound on this album.
The best of the rest is "Tyrant", this is a track where the shrieking really works, fast-paced and catchy, it's the perfect tune to secretly listen to at work, with the lyrics of the chorus "Tyrant, the beast, comes to kill us" the obvious warning to getting caught! Subject matter wise it's completely different from "Headbanging Man" and "Heavy Metal Breakdown" but it's the one other stand out track on the album, although "Heart Attack" is not that far behind, it's just a little too simple, the drumming or rather cymbal beating a little too relentless and I'm not sure if there's any need for the section where everything quietens down to allow the cymbal solo, perhaps it's supposed to represent a heartbeat or something but it just sounds aged.
There's a version of this album with a cover version of the Rolling Stones' "2000 light years from home", a pretty odd choice to do a heavy metal cover version of. I'm not even sure if the original works although I do like it for some reason. It's safe to say that it didn't become a regular part of the band's repertoire.
All in all this has some great songs on but there's some pretty weak tracks too and you'd probably have expected the band to release one or two albums and not have developed in the way they have today to become a stalwart of the metal scene constantly releasing new stuff.