What great fun this one turned out to be! Get those fists in the air and save your breath for the festival-sized sing-along because GRAVE DIGGER's "The Clans Will Rise Again" is that kind of loud 'n proud heavy metal album. But what else would you expect from a band that's been churning out high value heavy/power metal for 30 years and continues to play with a level of enthusiasm rarely matched by bands 20 years younger? As if that weren't enough, "The Clans will Rise Again" is "a loose sequel to the 'Tunes of War' album, but this time not a concept album about Scottish history, rather a work about Scotland, its mysticism, and its people."Never has a German metal band done such lyrical (even musical) justice to the brave 'n bloody history of Scotland. At least as far as I know. Then again, maybe another band has. Ah the hell with it; I'm just shooting from the hip here. The point is that "The Clans will Rise Again" is a step up from 2009's "Ballads of a Hangman" (also a fine album) as far as songwriting is concerned and a ballsy heavy metal riffmeister to boot. The folk elements are present throughout the album, but not in an overbearing sense, appearing during cuts like the tension-building bagpipe epic intro "Days of Revenge", an interlude called "Who the Gods Love Die Young", and the insanely catchy keyboard melody of "Highland Farewell". The huge freedom-ringing choruses drive the historical point home on songs such as "The Piper McLeod", which balances bagpipe melodies with riff tonnage. It is on molten metal rocker "Pain in Blood" that all guns (bows?) blaze, thanks to a magnificent chorus that'll have you shaking a fist and shouting along to lines like "They will never take our freedom!" Crank the volume on the car stereo for that one, roll the windows down, and take note of the looks you get in both the snooty and rough parts of town alike. Yeah, it's a hoot. "The Clans will Rise Again" is full of material like that, much of which hits like a coin-filled sock across the face. Chris Boltendahl toughens the songs up even more; his throaty vocals adding as much charm as true grit. It's not one homerun after another, but a lot of runs are scored just the same. For example, "Spider" is solid, but doesn't reach the same level of intensity as "Hammer of the Scots" and closing ballad "When Rain Turns to Blood" is a bit of a letdown. Minor quibbles I assure you. "The Clans Will Rise Again" kicks more than its fare share of heavy metal ass and gives you something to think about while it's happening. It also works exceedingly well as a 30th anniversary statement of denim 'n leather pride.
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