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German power metal band Grave Digger was formed in late 1980 by frontman Chris Boltendahl, guitarist Peter Masson, bassist Willi Lackmann, and drummer Albert Eckardt. Debuting three years later on the Rock from Hell compilation, Grave Digger returned in 1984 with the full-length Heavy Metal Breakdown; after the following year's Witch Hunter, Lackmann left the lineup and was replaced by bassist C.F. Brank for 1986's War Games. The group then shortened their name to simply Digger for 1987's Stronger Than Ever, which saw guitarist Uwe Lulis substituting for Masson; Boltendahl then dissolved the project, finally reuniting with Lulis in 1991 and recruiting new bassist Tomi Gottlich and drummer Jörg Michael for The Reaper, credited once again to Grave Digger. Drummer Frank Ullrich replaced Michael for 1995's Heart of Darkness, with percussion duties handled by Stefan Arnold on Tunes of War; with the departure of Gottlich, Jens Becker assumed the bass for 1998's Knights of the Cross. Keyboardist H.P. Katzenburg expanded the Grave Digger lineup to a five-piece for Excalibur, issued a year later.