If we're being honest here, Grim Reaper were never really seen as an "influential" NWOBHM act in the literal sense of the word. The reason is simple too: At the time of their nine-year career between 1979 and 1988, the band only released three albums and toured less extensively than Maiden, Venom, Satan to name a few other more popular acts of the same metal scene. That's not to say that the band didn't cause ripples in the underground. Indeed, many old-school metal fans prefer to call Grim Reaper "cult legends" of the NWOBHM era rather than a fully popular act, and listening to all three of the band's records will safely confirm that.
From the very start Grim Reaper's sophomore effort, Fear No Evil
, is altogether much more memorable and confident than its predecessor, the debut record See You in Hell
. Whilst Grim Reaper's debut album had its perks, it simply wasn't consistent enough to keep up with the best of the NWOBHM era, and at times See You in Hell
gave you the impression the band were simply trying to write a good heavy metal song. Fear No Evil
takes that concept and injects more personality, force and menace into the songwriting so that what is left to hear for the listener is one hell of an enjoyable NWOBHM effort. Firstly, one of the stand-out perks of the record is Steve Grimmett's vocal performance. Whereas on See You in Hell
he displayed a considerably promising delivery, Grimmett demonstrates excellent vocal range and power on the band's sophomore effort, making the likes of the title track, "Never Coming Back" and "Matter of Time" seem all the more outstanding. The man could really hit the high notes when he needed to, but what's more fortunate about his performance is that he actually leaves space for the instrumentation to breathe, rather than attempting to be the focal point of each and every song. Because of this, most of the songs on Fear No Evil
are seemingly played without distraction.
Fear No Evil
also demonstrates a maturer level of songwriting and instrumentation for Grim Reaper, the quality of both aspects having made a leap from the band's debut effort. The guitar work is arguably the one focal point as far as instrumentation is concerned, but bass and drum work are both vamped to bring out the heavier side of the band's collaborative musicianship. Each and every song here is introduced via an instantly memorable main riff, and coupled with Grimmett's equally as strong vocal powerhouse, the majority of Fear No Evil
feels more like a group effort than a handful of musicians displaying their own talents. There's more of a hook-laden approach to the likes of "Lord of Darkness (Your Living Hell)" and "Let the Thunder Roar", though at times the results can end up proving a little tedious (namely in "Rock and Roll Tonight" and "Lay It On the Line"). The solo sections are the real gold nugget here though. Most of the solos here demonstrate a strong technical prowess which, although mostly brief, end up making the majority of the album's tracks outstanding. Despite the solo sections being brief for the most part, it's always hard to forget them hours after the album has played.
What Fear No Evil
demonstrates first and foremost is that Grim Reaper had matured both instrumentally and in terms of songwriting from their debut effort, resulting in a stronger, fiercer heavy metal monster. Although the band's sophomore effort still didn't get them noticed as an inspiring NWOBHM act in the first place, it has gone on to prove the band as one of more legendary groups of the scene's original era.