REVIEW: GRIM REAPER – “Walking In The Shadows”
Ah, Grim Reaper. One of the most legendary (and better) acts of the NWOBHM movement and heavy metal in general. Founded in 1979 by guitarist and main songwriter Nick Bowcott, the band released three albums in the 1980’s that are considered absolutely classics and are, in my opinion, mandatory in any headbanger’s collection: ‘See You in Hell’ (1983), ‘Fear No Evil’ (1985) and ‘Rock You to Hell’ (1987). It was not until after the group disbanded in 1988, though – when video clips for “See You in Hell” and “Fear no Evil” were featured in MTV with a certain frequency -, that Grim Reaper gained some sort of notoriety.
So, with just three albums released, Steve Grimmett and company became stalwarts for the cult underground metal scene and are, until today, highly praised and respected (by me included). When Grimmett announced the return of the band in 2006, revamped in the form of Steve Grimett’s Grim Reaper, to play in some gigs across the world, a legion of fans were eagerly excited to see if that was going to be just a reunion or if we would be graced with another full length album to continue the band’s legacy. Finally, 10 years after Grim Reaper’s resurrection, the highly anticipated ‘Walking in the Shadows’ will come out of the oven in September 23rd via Dissonance Productions; sadly, without the magnificent Nick Bowcott.
Rapidly exterminating any second thoughts we could have about this return being a bad choice, comes “Wings of Angels”, a perfect opener filled with groovy and heavy riffs and powerful drumming. Despite the simplistic chorus, the song manages to catch your attention and doesn’t lose steam. Immediately after that come the weakest songs in the album with “Walking in the Shadows”, “Reach Out” and “I’m Coming for You”. These are decent tracks and each has their own special and unique bits, but after a few listens I got the feeling that the band was playing too safe for their own good. Mainly mid-paced tunes with rock ‘n’ roll-like guitar lines and catchy but rather empty choruses, they hold the album with good amount of quality, but are quickly forgettable. The powerful “From Hell” raises the bar with an excellent performance by Grimmett – whose voice stood beautifully through the test of time – and a great Saxon-esque vibe in the form of heavy riffs and good attitude.
If there was a trio of songs that dropped the ball a bit, the next three hit the jackpot and are definitely the high points of the endeavor: “Call Me in the Morning”, along with “Rock Will Never Die” are the closest to the classic Grim Reaper as you can get, with really catchy choruses, great turns and cool solos that combine perfectly with each tune. In fact, “Rock Will Never Die” is sort of a mix between Grimmett’s other band (which was his main for a long time) Lionsheart, with more hard rock oriented verses and bridge, and old Grim Reaper in the chorus. Last in this part, but definitely not least, is “Temptation”, one of the fastest tracks of the experience with yet another great performance by Grimmett and competent support by the other musicians; easily one of the best songs here.
From here on there are decent tracks but nothing that stands out. “Thunder” slows down the pace and delivers a song very characteristic of the NWOBHM movement in a lead-driven atmosphere with yet another catchy – simple – chorus. In fact, all the choruses featured in the album are really simple and easy to sing along to, which is at the same time a good thing, making in enjoy the whole experience more at ease, and bad because of the lack of a more profound and elaborated songwriting. “Now You See Me” has a melodic atmosphere and could appear in one of Lionsheart’s albums, while “Blue Murder” and “Come Hell or High Water” are straight-to-the-heart heavy metal anthems, with the latter being the superior of them, featuring a bad-ass chorus and an awesome prolific solo.
The last time Grim Reaper released an album, I wasn’t even born. It’s been 29 years of wait, but finally ‘Walking in the Shadows’ is among us and it’s a very refreshing album; of course, it’s not nearly as good as the transcendental trilogy that came before it, but is very well made and will make fans of the band satisfied with the final product. Don’t expect another classic, though, because if you do you will be disappointed, so approach this as a normal heavy metal release for the year instead of a triumphant return, and you should have a lot of fun with it. Let’s hope that Grimmett continues to make good music and maybe, in the future, we will be able to say with confidence that Grim Reaper has returned to top form.