01. Reborn In Flames 02. Fire Angel 03. Beyond The Black Souls 04. Gods Of Steel 05. Die For Your Sins 06. Let The Evil Rise 07. Out Of The Ruins 08. I Am Metal 09. The Hammer That Kills 10. Iron Christ 11. Beds Are Burning
When it comes to heavy metal credentials, Chris Boltendahl has more than most. As vocalist with GRAVE DIGGER, the German veteran has spent four decades propagating an ethos of unashamed blood 'n' thunder. From seminal debut "Heavy Metal Breakdown" (1984) to last year's excellent "Symbol Of Eternity", the band's catalogue is extraordinarily consistent and Boltendahl's unmistakable and utterly distinctive baritone growl has been omnipresent throughout. The man simply oozes metal from every pore, and so it makes sense that he is unable to rest and recuperate in rare gaps in GRAVE DIGGER's dogged schedule.
A solo venture that looks and sounds like a band, CHRIS BOLTENDAHL'S STEELHAMMER are destined to appeal to the exact same fan base that has sustained his day job since the early '80s. Admittedly, nobody was expecting the man behind anthems like "Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching)" and "Witch Hunter" to make an electro-pop or free jazz album, and so it comes as no surprise that "Reborn In Flames" is a balls-out metal record with giant choruses, blistering guitar solos and jaw-shattering kick-drum flurries in plentiful supply. At times, it does bear a slender resemblance to GRAVE DIGGER, but aside from Boltendahl's instantly recognizable voice, these songs are more aggressive and less melodramatic than anything he has done prior to this new endeavor. Divested of the conceptual trappings and moody imagery that has defined his career to date, he has simply done the sensible thing and made an album full of ferocious, anthemic and melodic metal face-rippers.
Co-written with guitarist Tobias Kersting (ex-ORDEN OGAN),  "Reborn In Flames" offers few real surprises, but plenty of unapologetic old-school thrills. The opening title track lays down the template: classy power metal with a filthy speed metal underbelly, with Chris Boltendahl's scabrous proclamations front and center. "Fire Angel" and "Beyond The Black Souls" maintain the aggression and keep the hooks coming, while "Gods Of Steel" is slower, heavier and blessed with the darkest of melodic cores and a brooding, malevolent vibe that suits the singer's grizzled persona perfectly. "Die For Your Sins" is another breathless neck-wrecker, while "Let The Evil Rise" and "Out Of The Ruins" are epic and gnarly enough to resemble METAL CHURCH in their mid-'80s pomp, albeit with a modern production adding even more power and punch.
Elsewhere, Boltendahl states the obvious on the frenetic, speed metal devilry of "I Am Metal", gets edgy and cinematic on "The Hammer That Kills" and goes for the old-school jugular on "Iron Christ", wherein Kersting's solos reach an apex of dizzying brilliance. Even a closing cover of MIDNIGHT OIL's "Beds Are Burning" rocks indecently hard.
GRAVE DIGGER fans will need no encouragement to embrace "Reborn In Flames", not least because it's so unabashedly metal, in intent and execution. For everyone else, this could be a particularly enjoyable entry point into the musical world of a certified legend.
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