The Germans just have a knack for borrowing the best elements of the 80's godfathers and turning those into quality heavy metal songwriting that is familiar in the most satisfying of ways. Then again, it would not be entirely accurate to hang GRAVE DIGGER's knack for it on borrowed attributes from the old school, considering that they started in the old school in the early '80s. Much like countrymen SINNER, GRAVE DIGGER has never gotten much attention stateside (of course, bands like RUNNING WILD never really did either), yet most who call themselves fans of traditional heavy metal (or cheese-less power metal, if you must) on these shores would certainly approve of a rock solid effort like "Ballads of a Hangman".
Another example of familiarity not breeding contempt, the style heard in the riffs and solos of Manni Schmidt and Thilo Hermann are cut from the same cloth as classic JUDAS PRIEST (or vintage PRIMAL FEAR for that matter) and you'll find nary an example of it that is tired or worn. "Hell of Disillusion", "Sorrow of the Dead". "Stormrider", and "The Shadow of Your Soul" are all cases in point. In fact, it is a trait heard across the board in one form or another.
A handful of songs do get extra arrangement boosts though, whether the dark 'n creepy "Lonely The Innocence Dies" (a duet with BENEDICTUM's Veronica Freeman, her powerful voice smartly contrasting with Chris Boltendahl's gritty style), the melodic flair of the riffing on "Pray" or the twin guitar harmonies on "Grave of the Addicted". Last, but not least, the speedy "Ballad of a Hangman" is a heavy metal anthem extraordinaire with its power-drive cadence and a chorus that will have audiences singing along. It is destined to be a GRAVE DIGGER classic.
Keeping the album to 41 minutes was a good move. The momentum never wanes, even when things slow down on "Lonely the Innocence Dies". If your expectations are for nothing more than hearty power metal with an edge, then you will not be disappointed in "Ballads of a Hangman".