Formed in 1979 in Droitwich, England, Grim Reaper's introduction to the metal scene is found on the classic 1981 compilation "Heavy Metal Heroes" with their dark, very NWOBHM-sounding "The Reaper". Eventually they signed to tiny Ebony Records, by which time they had recruited a new vocalist in Steve Grimmett and had adopted a more mainstream heavy metal style. Eventually their debut was picked up by RCA and the rest is histoyr. Vocalist Steve Grimmett later went to Onslaught and then on to a band called Lionsheart.
Grim Reaper - See You In Hell/Fear No Evil (Collectables/BMG) 1983/1985
I was in high school when "See You in Hell" came out. A metalhead friend purchased the record and we all thought it was the greatest thing since Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. It was 1984 and the NWOBHM movement was in full swing. Grim Reaper featured a vocalist who could sing so high only Rob Halford's dogs could hear it. The lyrics, song titles, repetitious anthems, cover art, and image were so campy and cheesy it was cool, at least in those early days of 1980's metal. The sad thing is, these metal clichés that we all thought were cool in '84 are the same things that people complain and mock the band for. The riffs are galloping and simplistic but they had a style that were slightly different from the typical NWOBHM band. Simplicity and uncomplicated song structures are certainly not bad things when done properly. Together with Steve Grimmett's gruff howl, Grim Reaper knew how to write catchy, hook-laden metal filled with attitude. That's all we were looking for in those early days of metal. Of course this was before the days of "we are heavier than thou, we are more technical than thou" superiority.
This two-on-one disc also features the band second album "Fear No Evil". Musically and lyrically it is much of the same as "See You in Hell". However, proving that nostalgia plays a huge part in taste, I much prefer the "See You in Hell" tracks despite the fact that "Fear No Evil" isn't any better or worse than the debut. Grim Reaper may have been filled with heavy metal clichés and cheesy b-grade horror lyrics, but they were certainly a competant band with some catchy songs.
Grim Reaper are another of those bands that I get tons of requests for on NoLifetilMetal.com. For some reason, despite owning their albums on vinyl back in the 80's, I never had the incling to pick them up on CD until I got a little surprise package in the mail from a fellow metalhead. Inside that package was a Spitfire Records repressing of "Rock You To Hell". This CD refueled my interest in this band. Not unlike Armored Saint or Anvil, Grim Reaper are one of those bands that can only be described as heavy metal. Depending on who you ask, this CD is either a fan's favorite or least favorite for several reasons. The production is certainly a lot cleaner here than on the band's first two albums. Max Norman, who was known for his work on the early Ozzy Osbourne albums, turns the knobs in the studio here. With that, Grim Reaper sound a tad more commercial than their legendary debut, which is many fans reasoning for listing this as their least favorite. However, some fans actually prefer the fatter production. Recording aside, Steve Grimmet's vocals sounds amazing and Nick Bowcott shreds out some amazing axework. Tracks like "Night of the Vampire", "When Heaven Comes Down", and "Rock You to Hell" and "Rock Me 'till I Die" are all blazing, heavy numbers. "Lost For Freedom" is a bit more commercial with the anthemic like chants "Lost! For! Freedom!" However, even this song isn't the pop metal crap that many L.A. bands were dishing out, but rather just an attempt at writing a memorable hook. "Suck it and See" is the obligatory, stupid, sexual song. Seems like every band in '85 had to have one of these songs. Probably the lowest point on an otherwise excellent, classic, heavy metal platter. OK, everyone knows that Grim Reaper's lyrics were the equivelant of a b-grade horror movie, but that was part of the fun back then. Cheesy? Perhaps, but even cheese can be good if used properly. So screw Beavis and Butthead, crank this one up and bang your head. Heavy metal thunder!