At one stage it looked like a genuine chance that Grim Reaper frontman Steve Grimmett might not make another album; gravely ill after contracting an infection whilst on tour in Ecuador, Grimmett had to endure a life-saving operation which resulted in the removal of his right leg to the knee. So it’s remarkable to relate that, a mere thirty-odd months later, Grimmett is releasing his latest album under the Grim Reaper banner.
Actually, what’s even more remarkable is that Grimmett sounds as strong as ever on At The Gates. I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but the physical trauma seems to have changed the tone of Grimmett’s voice a little, forcing him to keep to a slightly lower register for the most part of album. Whatever the reason, it’s added a new lease of life to the man’s vocals, which boom out of the speakers on tracks like Shadow In The Dark with a new-found richness and colour.
My esteemed colleague Gavin Strickmann noted in his review of SGGR’s last album, Walking In The Shadows, that there seemed to be a paucity of ideas kicking around the studio during the recording of that album; and whilst you could level some of those accusations again at At The Gates – sometimes choruses are too repetitive, and some of the song-titles and lyrics show no real progression from the band’s early eighties heyday – it has to be said that, in almost every way this album is a marked improvement on it’s predecessor. Much of the credit for this has to go not only to Grimmett but his guitar-playing foil Ian Nash, who delivers an accomplished, sometimes dazzling performance throughout. Some of his soloing would give Wolf Hoffmann a run for his neoclassical money, but Nash is equally at some simply adding heft in the riff department wherever required. And there are some great riffs on this album, let there be no doubt!
So whilst it’s great to have the man back, certainly, it’s an added bonus to be able to state in all honestly that some of the material he delivers on At The Gates is amongst the best he’s ever put his name to. Welcome back, big man!
At the Gates is out on September 13th.