Grim Reaper – At the Gates (Dissonance Productions)Sunday, 8th September 2019
The will to survive, thrive, and be productive reigns supreme in the life of vocalist Steve Grimmett. Even when losing a limb due to diabetes and having surgery in South America while on tour to support the last Grim Reaper album, he’s come back stronger and better than ever – still kicking tail worldwide. At the Gates is the latest Grim Reaper record and continues to keep the traditional metal style they established in the 80’s aligned for their songwriting/performances.
Steve’s bluesy register and multi-octave pipes are still in road-tested shape for a man this long in the game. He’s got the grace and class that intertwines Rob Halford and Ronnie James Dio, setting up the lyrics with proper personal inflections to emphasize key phrases and choruses – making “Venom” and the highway cruising “Line Them Up” immediate highlights, his delivery matching the music and atmosphere perfectly. The music straddles that melodic hard rock/metal avenue – the riffs mostly of a mid-tempo pacing but designed for maximum headbanging, continuing in the NWOBHM veneer as “What Lies Beneath” and “Under the Hammer” feature a juggernaut of catchy riffs and supplementary rhythm section work that exudes old school confidence and blue collar consistency. Drummer Paul White flexes his grooves with the proper power propulsion on “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” – as guitarist Ian Nash adds plenty of harmony lines to his crushing main chord duties. It’s very acceptable to throw fists to the sky, windmill about, and scream and shout to this material – “Rush” and the title track two favorites on initial listen and still relevant multiple playbacks later. It’s also cool to hear Steve doing some a cappella singing to start the mysterious closer “Shadow in the Dark”, the pacing and textures almost Accept-oriented from the Balls to the Wall days.
Five albums in, Grim Reaper fronted by Steve Grimmett is not coasting on their back catalog – they are adding a few more relevant chapters to their pedigree. At the Gates proves that traditional metal as the genre’s backbone isn’t going to wither away and die anytime soon as long as musicians invest in the craft to unleash more anthems.