Abaddon magazine

Music magazine

Friday, February 3, 2023

Report: Grave Digger, Mystic Prophecy & Cellar Stone @ MusikZentrum, Hannover, Germany, 13.01.2023

My “adventure” started a day earlier when I took a journey through Hannover in order to find a venue. For someone who comes from abroad this is a must do task. Surprisingly, it was easy to find the venue, with great public transportation connection, but that happened during the day. It turned out that the real experience a night after will be a bit different.

But, let’s start from the beginning…

Grave Digger concert in Hannover was originally set on January 28th, 2022, previously postponed from March 12th 2021. 40 Years Grave Digger Tour 2021 officially started on January 13th, 2023 at MusikZentrum, Hannover, Germany but with a bit different title: Knights and Riots Tour 2023. The idea, back in 2021 was to celebrate 40 years of Teutonic metal masters and announce the album “Fields of Blood”. In the meantime, Corona happened, and the band released one more album, “Symbol of Eternity”.  It seems that the fans were waiting the whole eternity to hear the band after a long Corona break. I will not recall the band’s history because 40 years is a long period of time and it would take a really long text here. Simply, the way I see it, if you are a Grave Digger fan, you know everything, if you are not, you know nothing and that is a huge problem.

Now, January 13th, 2023…

The show is supposed to start at 19:30. Knowing from the previous experience with concerts abroad, especially in Germany, everything is precise and there is no need to rush to go inside, to fight for your place, no one will strip search you, check your phone or camera as we are used to it in Serbia. From the tram station I had to walk around 20 minutes to the venue, I was sick, hoping the rain would not fall (again), but the wind was a killer. To make the feeling complete, I witnessed the arrest of a homeless man at a tram station, very loud and primitive screams that still haunt me, sped me up and gave me motivation to get to the venue as soon as possible. On the way to the venue, I did not see many metalheads as I expected. Or I did, just did not recognize them because Germans are not obsessed by visual appearance as many Serbian metalheads are. Through the dark streets, along the railway line, one wrist twist (damn dark), finally, MusikZentrum! It was around 18:45 and fans waited patiently in line, two by two, like in school, this time not holding hands, just beer. Sharp at 19, the door was opened and again, civilized German fans entered the venue.

I was a bit surprised when I entered the venue, or better to say disappointed. First of all, in my head, Grave Digger is a band that deserves it, especially after 40 years of work, to at least play on a stadium or in arena. MusikZentrum was a factory once upon a time. What disappointed me is that the space was small, a bit claustrophobic, and the wardrobe did not work (a few people commented the same)… Stage is big enough for bands with a maximum of four band members; otherwise it is a bit crowded up there. Mystic Prophecy flag awaited and two sets of drums. Small set, obviously for the first band. Bigger one, it turns out, was used by Mystic Prophecy and Grave Digger.

Right on time, Greek heavy rock band Cellar Stone hit the stage. To be honest, I did not know much about the band, and had no idea what to expect. Although the first song was pretty much boring, do not judge a book by its cover! Aris Pirris showed he is a great vocalist, but somehow I have an impression that the guitar distracts him from singing. Maybe it is my subject feeling, but the songs he sang without playing the guitar sounded much better. George Marouless seems to give 200% on the stage musically, emotionally and energetically his performance gets the highest marks. Of course, interaction with fans goes in the final score.

I already mentioned the stage… With two drum kits and keyboards that Cellar Stone uses, it was a bit overcrowded so the bass guitar player, Akis Rooster, remained unsighted. Overall impression is that Cellar Stone is a great heavy rock band with a touch of progressive sound that specifically can be recognized in vocal performance. With the addition of keyboard (Manos Gavalas) the sub genre which usually doesn’t suit my temperament, Cellar Stone made me pay more attention to them in the future.

After a short break, a small drum kit was removed and the stage was prepared for the next one, Mystic Prophecy. Since I was in the front line, I took an opportunity to take a sneak peak at the set list. Judging by what I saw, the hardest worker in the band is of course woman. Joey Roxx very skillfully controlled the preparations for the concert, from placing the set list, microphone stand, picks… It wouldn’t be fair if I don’t mention Markus Pohl as Joey’s little helper. From the moment Mystic Circle hit the stage till the end of their show, everything was bursting with energy. Roberto Dimitri Liapakis was all over the stage. His energy equal to the energy of a hyperactive ten-year-old child leaves you speechless. Markus is close to him, and I will attribute that to rich experience with many bands, including Warkings. Of course Hanno Kerstan and Evan K were not far behind. After almost 23 years of career and eleven albums behind, I guess it is hard to make a set list, especially if you play as a support band. But Mystic Prophecy did a really great selection of eleven (does this number have any symbolism?) songs which could be witnessed by the reaction of the audience. They managed to motivate and move even the laziest ass in MusikZentrum to sing and headbang. I have to mention that Mystic Prophecy is one of those bands in which performance you can see they enjoy being on the stage and they leave their heart and soul for the music. And the last drop of sweat to make the show unforgettable. Joey Roxx left the strongest impression. That woman can play. That woman can growl. And her acrobatic skills… Foget David Lee Roth! We have a winner!

Mystic Prophecy set list:

1. Metal Division
2. Burning Out
3. Killhammer
4. Hail to the King
5. Savage Souls
6. War Panzer
7. Shadows on the Wall
8. Dracula
9. Eye to Eye
10. Metal Brigade
11. Ravenlord

The first associations on Grave Digger are kilts, bagpipes, at least for me. Last time I saw Grave Digger was in my hometown, Belgrade, Serbia, do not ask me about the year. Back then and now, no kilt or bagpipes. The scenery was modest. 

Right after Mystic Prophecy finished their set, the tension grew. After the intro, “The Siege of Akkon”, Grave Digger hit the stage. During the preparations we all could see Marcus Kniep, but officially first on the stage was Axel Ritt, then Marcus, Jens Becker and in the end Herr Boltendahl. “Lawbreaker” officially opened the set. The song from the album “Healed by Metal” warmed up the fans. “King of the Kings” which was the official second single from their last album “Symbol of Eternity” led us to “Tattooed Rider” and “Hell is my Purgatory”. Chris had great interaction with the fans, talking in between the songs, Axel, as expected, was demonstrating his virtuosity, while Jens was a bit distanced, in his own world, focused on playing. 

“Dia de los Muertos” brought us back in 2014 and to the album “The Return of the Reaper”. From “The Heart of Darkness” Grave Digger choose “Circle of Witches”. From my favorite album, “Grave Digger”, which was inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, “The House”. Unfortunately, I did not hear “The Grave Digger” this time, but after 40+ years and 22 albums, you cannot expect you will hear your favorite songs every single time. “The Dark of the Sun”, “Highland Farewell”, “Wedding Day”, and “Morgane Le Fay” followed. “Excalibur” made every single soul sing with Chris, at least chorus:

“ExcaliburSword of the kingsTake me on your wingsBack where I belongExcalibur.”

“Rebellion” officially closed the show. Every single soul now was singing:

“The clans are marching ‘gainst the lawBagpipers play the tunes of warDeath or glory I will findRebellion on my mind.”

And on the face of the Diggers, you could see nothing but the joy. 

But if you thought that is all, no way. “Yesterday” calmed down the boiling atmosphere. Although I was never fan of ballads, this one somehow reached my stone cold heart and from that moment on I just remember the last song and still after five days I am still singing:

“Heavy metal breakdownShake your legs and bang your headsHeavy metal breakdown…”

The only complaint I have is the bad sound at the beginning of the Grave Digger’s concert, which is resolved quickly with effort of their team. Ok, I know I have written they deserve a stadium or arena after 40 years of career, maybe some special guests on the stage, but that is just my imagination, or wish.

I came to Germany on January 3rd, with, as they say eine Erkältung. Sneezing, nose leak and headache were part of my life for 10 days. On the 11th day, I was healed by metal! On the 13th day I left home with a unique souvenir, Marcus Kniep’s drumstick and Grave Digger set list. 

In the end, if I could have a little New Year’s wish… Grave Digger has been referred to as one of the so-called “big four” of German power metal. So far I have seen them twice, as well as Helloween. If it is not possible to hear all four bands on the stage, I wish to at least hear Rage and Running Wild.