Grave Digger is a German heavy metal band formed in November 1980. They were part of the German heavy/speed/power metal scene to emerge in the early to mid-1980s.
After various appearances at small festivals, the band recorded two songs for the compilation album Rock from Hell in 1983. A year later, Grave Digger, now comprising Chris Boltendahl (vocals), Peter Masson (guitar), Willi Lackmann (bass) and Albert Eckardt (drums), released their debut album Heavy Metal Breakdown.
In 1985, with Lackmann having left the band, they recorded and released their second album Witch Hunter. Only after the album was completed, a replacement on bass was found in the form of C.F. Brank. Further festival appearances followed, a tour with Helloween as special guest and, finally, their third album War Games in January 1986. To promote this album, a triple headline tour with Celtic Frost and Helloween followed. Thereafter, Peter Masson gave way to Uwe Lulis; in 1987 the band's name was changed to Digger, the name under which they released the album Stronger Than Ever. This album hardly had anything in common with the earlier music of Grave Digger. It was more an attempt to reach the masses with mainstream rock like that of Bon Jovi or Van Halen. The album flopped, as it was not accepted by fans or the masses. As a result, Boltendahl declared, at the end of 1987, the breakup of the band.
In 1991, the band was partially reformed. Boltendahl and Lulis, along with two newcomers, Tomi Göttlich and Jörg Michael, who had been the drummer for Rage and Running Wild, released a comeback record called The Reaper in 1993. This album was a return to the true roots of Grave Digger. In the same year, the album The Best of the Eighties was released. It represented a quasi Best-of-Album of their earlier songs.
An EP titled Symphony of Death followed in 1994. In the interim, Grave Digger, now with a new drummer, Frank Ullrich, toured Germany, playing as the warm-up act for Manowar. In 1995, the album Heart of Darkness appeared. It was a very dark album with many influences from the early works of Annihilator.
In 1996, Stefan Arnold became the band's new drummer. This year also marked the release of the concept album Tunes of War, which dealt with the history of Scotland. This album was the first part of the Middle Ages Trilogy. The second album, Knights of the Cross, with Jens Becker as bass guitarist, was released in 1998 and was about the rise and fall of the Knights Templar. The final part of the trilogy finished in 1999 with Excalibur. This album explored the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Shortly after, a tour soon followed through with keyboardist Hans-Peter Katzenburg, who later became a permanent band member.
In 2000, Grave Digger celebrated their 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, they performed at a sell-out concert at the Zeche in Bochum. Many of the band's most popular songs were played alongside other less well-known ones. There were also a number of different supporting acts appearing with Grave Digger. This concert also marked a defining chapter in the band's history, as Uwe Lulis left a short while before the concert because of personal and business reasons. Lulis finally called his new band Rebellion.
A replacement, in the form of the ex-Rage guitarist, Manni Schmidt, was found. Along with him and the new record label Nuclear Blast, the album The Grave Digger, appeared in 2001. The works of Edgar Allan Poe served as an inspiration for the lyrics of the new album. Their first live album, Tunes of Wacken, appeared in 2002. This was coupled with the release of their first DVD, Wacken Open Air. In 2003, a further concept album, Rheingold, appeared, which centered on the opera Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner.
After the successful Rheingold-Tour, the band recorded another album, The Last Supper, which was released on January 17, 2005. However, unlike their previous albums, The Last Supper was not a concept album, despite several songs about the last days of Jesus. A few journalists described the album as the best since Tunes of War or Heavy Metal Breakdown. Less than a month later, the band began a tour with Stormhammer and Astral Doors in Andernach, the birthplace of Manni Schmidt.
October 2005 saw the release of a live DVD of the Last Supper Tour and the São Paulo concert titled, 25 to Live, which commemorated the band's 25th anniversary.
Grave Digger released a follow-up, Liberty or Death on January 12, 2007. A Double-Headline Tour together with Therion followed, beginning January 17, 2007 in Essen.
In mid August 2008, the band entered Principal studios with additional guitarist Thilo Hermann to record their 13th studio album entitled Ballads of a Hangman, which was released on January 9, 2009. It was their first album with twin guitars.
In February 2009, the band parted ways with Thilo Hermann. In October of that year, Manni Schmidt left the band due to ongoing disagreements with Boltendahl. An old friend of the band, guitarist Axel Ritt from the band (Domain), was chosen as a temporary replacement for Schmidt to play out the remaining tour dates. On January 12, 2010, it was officially announced that Axel Ritt is now an official full-time member of Grave Digger.
From mid-May to mid-July 2010, the band finished recording their new album The Clans Will Rise Again, which was released in Europe on October 1, 2010 via Napalm Records with a North American release following soon after. The album is a loose sequel of the Tunes of War album, but this time it is not a concept album about the Scottish history. It's more of a work about Scotland, its mysticism and its people. On September 11, 2010, Grave Digger released a video for "Highland Farewell", the fourth track appearing on The Clans Will Rise Again.
On July 27, 2012, the band released a new EP entitled Home At Last with their new album Clash of the Gods following on August 31 under Napalm Records. They went on to play a handful of shows in the UK and Europe from early to late 2012 before and after the album's release and then went all out the year of 2013 in Europe and played a few shows in Brazil in support of the album.
On 20 March 2014, the band revealed the artwork for their new studio album titled Return of the Reaper which was released on 11 July via their current label Napalm Records.
Chris Boltendahl - vocals (1980-present); bass guitar (1980-1983),
Axel Ritt - guitar (2010-present); live (2009),
Jens Becker - bass guitar (1997 - present),
Stefan Arnold - drums (1996 - present),
Hans Peter "H.P." Katzenburg - keyboards (1999 - present),
Manni Schmidt - guitars (2000-2009),
Thilo Hermann - guitars (2007-2009),
Uwe Lulis - guitars (1986-2000),
Daniel Socia - guitars (1980-1986),
Tomi Göttlich - bass guitar (1991-1997),
Martin Gerlitzki - bass guitar (1983),
Willi Lackman - bass guitar (1983-1984),
René "T-Bone" Teichgräber - bass guitar (1984),
C.F. Frank - bass guitar (1985-1987),
Frank Ulrich - drums (1994-1995),
Jörg Michael - drums (1993-1994),
Lutz Schmelzer - drums (1980),
Philip Seibel - drums (1981-1983),
Albert Eckardt - drums (1983-1987),
Peter Breitenbach - drums (1991-1993)
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license