After reviewing German heavy metal bands new album, 'Return Of The Reaper' I wanted to find out more about the new album, as well as how the German metal scene has changed since the 1980s and more, as Grave Digger were and still are a big part of this. I put my questions to the guitar virtuoso, Axel Ritt..
After releasing an incredible sixteen studio albums since your formation in 1980, you are back with your seventeenth album, 'Return Of The Reaper' which was released on 11th July 2014, how happy are you with this new release and the response so far?
We are very, very happy with the result, especially because it was a lot of hard work to put the album where it is now. Fortunately, the fans are of the same opinion, because we got the highest chart entries ever worldwide in the whole band history! It’s awesome!
The new album pays homage to your earlier classic albums, such as 'Heavy Metal Breakdown' (1984), 'Witch Hunter' (1985) and 'The Reaper' (1993), what made you decide to do this and with that in mind, how do you think this release compares to your earlier material?
We thought it would be the right time to quit the concept album style and produce an album like we did decades ago. Raw, straight, heavy and pure, more belly, less brain. But in the most perfect performance ever, because the actual line up got a lot more skills than the earlier line ups had. We brought the best in all of us together.
As you have been together a long time and had so many releases, what would you say inspires you most musically and creatively to write new material after all this time?
It’s the permanent aim to get better and better. There’s always something left you can optimize in the next record. We get the inspiration in every second, looking what’s happening around us. It never stops …
You were part of the German heavy metal scene to emerge in the early to mid 1980s, how you do feel the metal scene has changed and developed since you first started out?
To be honest, it's not harder to break through these days, it's IMPOSSIBLE! Music is stronger than ever related to our lives, but as a newcomer, you can't earn money in business anymore, most of the bands are even loosing money with the band. The distribution of music via Spotify and Deezer for example is great for the customer, but legal burglary to the artist. When you are a young guy, you can live this life as a single person for a few years, but you will never be able to feed a family by performing your own songs in a band. Very sad, but true, we are the last mohawks who are able to live on their music ..
What was the recording and song writing process like for the new album?
It’s the same procedure for 5 years now. First of all Jens and I will collect riffs. I myself for example composed about 70 riffs for the actual album. Then we’ll send them over to Chris, who’s putting lyrics and vocal line ideas to the riffs. Then we’re gonna meet in my studio to do the pre-production with some guide-instruments and a drum-programming, done by me. After the final arrangements, the drum-programmings will be replaced by real drums, I record the final guitars in my Meadow Studios and the rest will be recorded in the Principal Studios / Germany.
The album artwork is fantastic for 'Return Of The Reaper', and was created by Gyula Havancsák, who has been responsible for all of your album artworks since 2005's, 'The Last Supper', it must be great working with someone who understands your imagery as a band; how important is the artwork and representation of the band to you?
It’s very important, because the artwork is the first impression for the fan. It has to be the visual part of your music!
You are currently on your summer tour, how is it going so far and what new songs are you enjoying playing the most live?
It’s doing very well and the actual songs of the new album are „Hell Funeral“, „Tattooed Rider“, „Season Of The Witch“ and „Grave Desecrator“. But there will be more in the future.
Then in November/December 2014 you are heading out on tour again in mainly Germany and Europe, how excited are you for this? And what can attending fans expect from your shows?
It’s always a great thing to promote a new album on the road, so it will be this time once again. The fans will get a complete new stage construction and some more specials. To to our show and check it out!
Following on from this, have you got anything you would like to say to your fans?
Hope to see you at one of our upcoming shows!
What other plans are in store for Grave Digger for the rest of 2014?
That’s still a secret, wait and see … ;-)
Check out my review of Grave Digger's new album, 'Return Of The Reaper' here: http://carinasmusicreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/grave-digger-return-of-reaper-album.html
GRAVE DIGGER Tour Dates:19.06.14 DE - St. Goarshausen / Metalfest
28.06.14 DE - Burkhardtsdorf / Rock im Zwönitztal
10.07.14 DE - Balingen / Bang Your Head Festival
12.07.14 DE - Burgrieden / Riffelhof Burgrieden
17.07.14 DE - Neukirchen-Vluyn / Dong Open Air
19.07.14 DE - Kierspe / Gut Haarbecke Metal Festival
14.08.14 DE - Gardelegen / Metal Frenzy Open Air
16.08.14 CZ - Ostrava / Fest Rockova
06.11.14 DE - Saarbrücken / Garage
07.11.14 DE - München / Backstage
08.11.14 DE - Andernach / JUZ
14.11.14 DE - Hamburg / Markthalle
15.11.14 DE - Berlin / C-Club
16.11.14 DE - Bochum / Zeche
20.11.14 DE - Frankfurt / Batschkapp
21.11.14 DE - Speyer / Halle 101
22.11.14 DE - Glauchau / Alte Spinnerei
23.11.14 CZ - Zlin / Masters of Rock Cafe
27.11.14 CH - Pratteln / Z7
28.11.14 DE - Regensburg / Airport Straubing
29.11.14 DE - Lahstedt/Peine / Black Hand Inn
05.12.14 DE - Lichtenfels / Stadthalle
06.12.14 IT - Milan / House of Ashes
07.12.11 DE - Ludwigsburg / Rofa