The beginnings of Grave Digger date back to 1980. After various appearances at small festivals, the band, comprising Chris Boltendahl, Peter Masson, Willi Lackmann and Albert Eckardt, recorded a song for the compilation album “Rock from Hell” in 1983. A year later, Grave Digger released their debut album “Heavy Metal Breakdown”.
They released their second album “Witch Hunter” in 1985. After this album was completed, Eckardt left the band; he was replaced by C.F. Brank. Further festival appearances, a tour as the supporting act for Helloween, and a triple headlining tour with Celtic Frost and Helloween, followed before the release of the third album “War Games” in January 1986. 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 readily accepted by fans nor the mainstream. As a result, Chris Boltendahl declared the break up of the band at the end of 1987.
However, the band partially reformed in 1991. Chris Boltendahl and Uwe Lulis, along with two newcomers, Tomi Göttlich and Jörg Michael, who had been the drummers for Rage and Running Wild, released a comeback record, “The Reaper”. The title song returned to the true roots of Grave Digger. In the same year, the album “Best of the Eighties” was released and comprised a quasi Best-of-Album of their earlier songs.
The album “Symphony of Death” followed in 1994. In the meantime, Grave Digger, now with a new drummer, Frank Ullrich, toured Germany, playing as the supporting act for Manowar. In 1995, the album “Heart of Darkness” was released—a very dark album influenced by 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 early history of Scotland. The album was part one of the Middle Ages Trilogy. The second album, “Knights of the Cross”, with Jens Becker on bass, was completed in 1997 and was about the rise and fall of the Knights Templar. The third and final part of the trilogy, “Excalibur”, completed in 1999, explored the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Shortly after the release of “Excalibur”, the band embarked on a world tour and was joined by keyboardist Hans-Peter Katzenburg, who later became a permanent bandmember.
In 2000, Grave Digger celebrated their 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, they performed a sold-out concert at the Zeche in Bochum. This concert marked a defining chapter in the band's history, as Uwe Lulis left the band shortly before the show due to both personal and business-related differences.
A replacement was found in ex-Rage guitarist Manni Schmidt, who first appears on the 2001 Nuclear Blast release “The Grave Digger”. The works of Edgar Allan Poe served as an inspiration for the lyrics of the album. Their first live album, “Tunes of Wacken”, was released in 2002. It was coupled with the release of their first DVD, “Wacken Open Air”. About a year later, the next concept album followed. “Rheingold” centered on the opera “Der Ring der Nibelungen” by Richard Wagner.
After the successful Rheingold-Tour the band recorded a new album, “The Last Supper”. Journalists hailed it as the best since “Tunes of War” or “Heavy Metal Breakdown”. For the cover artwork, the band turned to artist Gyula Havanscak. The album was released in January 2005. Less than a month later, the band embarked on a tour with Stormhammer and Astral Doors.
October 2005 saw the release of a live DVD recording of the Last Supper Tour and the Sao Paulo concert. The title, “25 to Live”, commemorates the band's 25th anniversary.
In early 2006, Grave Digger signed a deal with the Spanish label Locomotive Records. The single “Yesterday” was released on 29 September including a re-recorded version of the title track. As a special bonus, a live DVD was also included.
January 12, 2007 saw the release of “Liberty or Death” and later that year, Grave Digger performed at the legendary Wacken Open Air. In October, a new member joined the Grave Digger family. Thilo Hermann (ex-Running Wild) became the second guitarist.
After finishing the songwriting process for the band’s latest album, Grave Digger entered Principal Studio in Munster to record the new songs under the powerful guidance of the Resetti brothers. Grave Digger also split with Locomotive, making way for a worldwide record deal with Napalm Records.
“Ballads of a Hangman” was released in the summer of 2009 and took the charts by storm. Besides entering the charts in Austria and Switzerland, it reached number 31 in the German Media Control Charts—a testament to Grave Digger welcoming new headbangers to their clan of dedicated fans. The press was more than impressed by the new album, showering the band with outstanding reviews and a many feature articles. Fueled by the tremendous feedback, they embarked on an extensive tour, also playing selected shows at numerous European festivals. Upon their return, Grave Digger took a short break, before starting to write new songs for their next album.
Due to personal and musical differences, both guitarists Thilo Hermann and Manni Schmidt left the band, prior to entering the studio. Axel Ritt took over all guitar duties and brought a newfound energy and enthusiasm to the band. With a new member in their ranks, Grave Digger entered Principal Studio in Senden to record “The Clans Will Rise Again”.
With the mere first notes of the introduction, fans of Grave Digger knew that their favorite band has returned to the Scottish Highlands! The majestic sound of bagpipes stylistically established the direction of the German power metal institution's latest album. "The Clans Will Rise Again" is a formidable and compact work, in which no one song outdoes another. Yet tracks like "Paid in Blood", "Hammer of the Scots", or "Rebels" undoubtedly grabbed on to the most discerning metalhead with their unstoppable mix of heavy metal riffs, driving double bass and catchy choruses. Kilt-wearing fans found "Highland Farewell" their personal favorite, as the bagpipe took on a leading role and gave the track its unique flair. Grave Digger's newest addition, guitarist Axel Ritt, rejuvenated the band revolving around legendary frontman and scene grandee Chris Boltendahl, and provided them with a fresh and energy-laden springboard from which they launched this Power Metal attack. Scotland provided Grave Digger with plenty of lyrical inspiration, ranging from its sheer mystique to its proud people. It also allowed them to once again return to the glory days of "Tunes of War", an album that previously visited Scotland's colorful history. "The Clans Will Rise Again" presented a band that had managed to mark their 30th anniversary with yet another musical milestone.
After the release of “The Clans Will Rise Again”, the band prepared for their upcoming Wacken concert und celebrated the numerous chart entries of their latest album. The Wacken Open Air was approaching fast and the fans felt that something magical would happen. Their hope was not let down by any account.
To mark their 30th anniversary, Grave Digger invited many guests onto their stage at the Wacken Open Air 2010 to join in the celebration. The amazing reaction of the fans and the outstanding chemistry of those involved led to the fantastic double package “The Ballad of Mary” MCD and the “The Clans Are Still Marching” DVD. The DVD "The Clans Are Still Marching" captures the energy of this unique evening and delivers it to living rooms everywhere. The DVD contains the full show and also comprises backstage footage, interviews, the video of "Highland Farewell" and its respective "Making of...", as well as all the live tracks on CD. The MCD welcomed Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) and Metal Queen Doro as special guests who helped to elevate classic songs to a completely new level.
The band did not rest on its laurels and embarked on an extensive tour through Europe and presented their fans new songs and classics. After the end of the tour, Grave Digger started songwriting for their new album. As an appetizer, the band released the MCD “Home at Last”.
The highly acclaimed predecessor "The Clans Will Rise Again" was dedicated to the sheer mystique and the proud people of Scotland, but on their latest album, GRAVE DIGGER enters the legendary realm of Ancient Greek and its gods and creatures. The lyrics of "Clash of the Gods" pay tribute to the legendary Medusa, Odysseus, Hades and Kerberos amongst others. These tales are clad in sweeping Power Metal compositions filled with powerful riffing and catchy choruses. The songs range from fast and driving double bass tracks, anthemic mid tempo compositions up to rousing and simply beautiful Power Metal ballads. Crowned by Chris Boltdendahl’s charismatic vocals, the new album offers everything a true Metal heart desires! The magnificent artwork provides the finishing touches and together with the compositions, brings the legendary figures of Ancient Greek to life. "Clash of the Gods" is an unbelievable compact and energy driven opus and will grant GRAVE DIGGER themselves a warm welcome into the pantheon of the gods!