Grim Reaper – “At The Gates” (Dissonance Productions)
Once famed thanks to hit songs like ‘See You In Hell’ and hot footing it after Maiden and Saxon as the next generation of the NWOBHM, Grim Reaper made their name across 3 albums until the mid 80s when label wrangles finally ended the band, despite it playing to crowds of 20,000 in the US. With vocalist Steve Grimmett singing in Onslaught and Lionsheart throughout the 90s and guitarist Nick Bowcott working for Marshall Amplification, it wasn’t until 2006 when announcements of the band returning (albeit without Bowcott) were heard. Since that time, Grimmett has worked with new axeman Ian Nash and along with various line ups, toured to an increasing number of European festival appearances and US tours, where the band’s popularity has remained. Now comes album number 5 and the duo have got it spot on, returning to perfection Grim Reaper’s original winning combination of catchy heavy metal with power melody. In fact, there’s a definite 80s sound and vibe to the 11 tracks here which is highly commendable given its authenticity rather than some retro cash in, but moreover, the composing is excellent in producing some truly memorable material that should continue to add to the band’s live repertoire. Opening with the title track, crunching but rocking riffs allow Grimmett’s soaring vocals of ‘…I’m at the gates..of hell..’ to excel thanks to the deep hooks and indeed, this continues brilliantly on ‘What Lies Beneath’ especially in its catchy but heavy main chorus line, complemented by Nash’s excellent fiery solo – straight out’ve the NWOBHM bible no less! Providing an excellent complement as did Bowcott back in the day, Nash works similarly in fine style and it’s no better exemplified than on ‘A Knock At The Door’, which has a slightly more commercial edge in those 80s chorus harmonies, but the passion and finesse exuding from his solo leaves no doubt in my mind what a great player he is. Indeed, his fiery, rocking riffs on the aptly titled ‘Rush’, coupled with the moving, epic tones of this song and Grimmett’s emotional delivery of being ‘…born of the same blood..forged from the same fire..’ makes this my favourite track here in encapsulating what Grim Reaper is all about, be it past or present. An excellent release, “At The Gates” goes a long way into making up for lost time and richly adding to this classic band’s legacy.