Grave Digger

Grave Digger is a German Heavy metal band that was first formed in 1980 by Chris Boltendahl and Peter Masson. Emerging from the early-to-mid 1980s heavy metal scene of their native country, Grave Digger has been referred to as one of the so-called "big four" of German power metal, along with HelloweenRage and Running Wild.

Early years and split (1980–1987)

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, when Willi Lackmann 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. The album flopped, as it was not accepted by fans or the masses. As a result, Chris Boltendahl declared at the end of 1987, the breakup of the band.

Reformation and Middle Ages Trilogy (1991–1999)

In 1991, the band was partially reformed. Chris Boltendahl and Uwe 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.

The Grave Digger and Rheingold (2000–2004)

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. Uwe 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 of the same name.

The next album Rheingold was released on May 26, 2003, which centered on the opera Der Ring des Nibelungen  by Richard Wagner. They embarked on a tour in support of the album into early 2004.

The Last Supper and Ballads of a Hangman (2005–2009)

After the successful Rheingold Tour, the band recorded another album, The Last Supper, which was released on January 17, 2005. The artwork was first revealed in November 2004 which received positive feedback. A number of fans were disappointed by the artwork because of the motive. The band issued a statement saying that the cover isn't a message of the Devil and not against Christians, but a representation of a depressive Jesus Christ at his last days before his death. 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. According to the band, it contains "more metal, more passion and more power" than the group's previous efforts. 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 titled "25 to Live", which was recorded live in São Paulo, commemorating the band's 25th anniversary.

In December 2006, a number of release parties were announced for the band's follow-up album, Liberty or Death, which was released on January 12, 2007. A Double-Headline Tour together with Therion followed, beginning January 17, 2007 in Essen, Germany.

In late February 2008, Grave Digger began writing new material. In mid-August, they 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 under their new label Napalm Records. It was their first album with twin guitars.

In February 2009, the band parted ways with Thilo Hermann due to the built up excitement of a second guitarist and with the free space on stage and musical aspects that was observed by every old band member independently. In early October, Manni Schmidt left the band due to ongoing disagreements with Chris Boltendahl.

The Clans Will Rise Again and The Living Dead (2010–2018)

On January 12, 2010, Manni Schmidt was replaced by Domain guitarist Axel Ritt after performing temporarily during the remaining dates of the band's previous tour. On October 1, 2010, Grave Digger released the album The Clans Will Rise Again in Europe, with a North American release following soon after. The band members explain that it is a loose sequel of the 1996 album Tunes of War, "but this time not a concept album about the Scottish history, rather a work about Scotland, its mysticism and its people." On September 11, 2011, a video for the song "Highland Farewell" was made available for streaming.

On July 27, 2012, the band released an EP entitled Home at Last with the album Clash of the Gods following on August 31, 2012. They performed a handful of shows in the UK and Europe from early to late 2012 and then toured throughout 2013 in Europe and a few shows in Brazil in support of the album. In February 2014, the band began recording their next album titled Return of the Reaper, which was released on July 11, 2014, with later release dates elsewhere. In November 2014, keyboardist H.P. Katzenburg left the band in order to spend more time on outside projects. He was replaced by new member Marcus Kniep, who would continue performing as The Reaper.

In October 2015, "Exhumation – The Early Years" was released, which contains re-recorded versions of the band's "absolute classics with a dynamic and powerful sound of 2015," according to a press release.

In June 2016, Grave Digger entered the studio to begin working on their next album entitled Healed by Metal, which was released on January 13, 2017. They embarked on a tour with Blind Guardian as the support act on the second leg of the North American tour supporting the album Beyond the Red Mirror.

In March 2018, the band returned to the studio to record their nineteenth album "The Living Dead", which was released on September 14, 2018, with a European tour taking place in January 2019. On June 25, 2018, longtime drummer Stefan Arnold departed the band. He was replaced by Marcus Kniep.

Fields of Blood (2020–present)

Grave Digger's twentieth album "Fields of Blood" was released on May 29, 2020, celebrating the band's 40th anniversary. The follow-up album "Symbol of Eternity" was released on August 26, 2022. On September 10, 2023, the band announced the departure of guitarist Axel Ritt. He was replaced with new member Tobias Kersting, ex-guitarist of Orden Ogan.


Grave Digger (1982) demo

Born Again (1983) demo

Shoot Her Down (1984) ep

Symphony of Death (1994) ep

Heavy Metal Breakdown (1984)

Witch Hunter (1985)

War Games (1986)

Stronger Than Ever (1986) (as Digger)

For Promotion Only (1992) ep

The Reaper (1993)

Symphony of Death (1994) ep

Heart of Darkness (1995)

Tunes of War (1996)

The Dark of the Sun (1997) ep

Knights of the Cross (1998)

Excalibur (1999)

The Grave Digger (2001)

Tunes of Wacken – Live (2002)


Rheingold (2003)

The Last Supper (2005)

25 to Live (2005)

Yesterday (2006) ep

Liberty or Death (2007)

Pray (2008) ep

Ballads of a Hangman (2009)

The Clans Will Rise Again (2010)

The Ballad of Mary (2011) ep

The Clans Are Still Marching (2011)

Home at Last (2012) ep

Clash of the Gods (2012)

Return of the Reaper (2014)

Healed by Metal (2017)

The Living Dead (2018)

Fields of Blood (2020)

Symbol of Eternity (2022)


Chris Boltendahl – vocals (1980–present); bass (1980–1982, 1985)

Tobias "Tobi" Kersting – guitars (2023–present)

Jens Becker – bass (1998–present)

Marcus Kniep – keyboards (2014–present); drums (2018–present)

Former members

Lutz Schmelzer – drums (1980)

Peter Masson – guitars (1980–1986)

Philip Seibel – drums (1981–1982; died 2002)

Martin Gerlitzki – bass (1983)

Willi Lackman – bass (1983–1984; died 2013)

Albert Eckardt – drums (1983–1986)

C.F. Frank – bass (1985–1986)

Peter Breitenbach – drums (1991–1992)

Tomi Göttlich – bass (1991–1997)

Uwe Lulis – guitars (1986–2000)

Jörg Michael – drums (1993–1994)

Frank Ulrich – drums (1995)

Hans Peter "H.P." Katzenburg – keyboards (1996–2014)

Stefan Arnold – drums (1996–2018)

Manni Schmidt – guitars (2000–2009)

Thilo Hermann – guitars (2007–2009)

Axel Ritt – guitars (2009–2023)

Source: Wikipedia

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