Grim Reaper – Live Review – Ragnarokkr @ Reggie’s Chicago

It may seem strange to some, but the legend that is the heavy metal band “Grim Reaper” appears, to me at least, far greater now in 2014, than it did back in the midst of the NWOBHM hey-day itself. As a Brit, that experienced the peak of the NWOBHM first hand, I certainly was well aware of Grim Reaper, but to be honest, they were one of many fighting for my hard earned cash when it came to the end of the week and time to pick the next LP to join the collection. For all the coverage Kerrang! and Sounds may have given them, I think they were focused more on MTV and the USA, than back home in the UK.

Fast forward to about 2010, and something reignited that dormant seed – it might have been an appearance by Steve Grimmett as a guest vocalist on some other record, but holy cow, discovering the original three albums by GR was a bit like realizing there’s actually another couple of 6-packs in the back of the fridge – awesome! If you know Grim Reaper at all then you don’t need me to tell you what a superb combination of heavy riffage and melodic stuck-in-your-head tunes are contained on those records. Personally my favorite is the last album “Rock You To Hell”, but it’s very hard to pick. It’s actually getting somewhat tricky to find these on CD or vinyl, so my advice if you see a copy of any of the catalog and have any interest at all, don’t quibble, just buy them.

If you add the slightly strange and coincidental twist that Charles Grimaldi (GR bass player since 2008) happens to be a good friend of a friend, hailing from not so far away in Maryland… yes, the world is a lot smaller place than it seems. We happened to meet Chaz last year at a Lizzy Borden show when he popped back to the USA for a visit (he currently lives in the UK) – what a great chap he is indeed!

Enough preamble, as soon as the line-up for Ragnarokkr was announced a trip up to Chicago was almost a dead certainty; Grim Reaper headlining the Saturday, with Riot V (the remains of the mighty Riot following the passing of Mark Reale) headlining the Friday night. I’ll cover Riot V in another review to follow… haha, promise! This trip became a dead-certainty when it was announced that original guitarist Nick Bowcott would join the band for a special one-night reunion after 27 years away from the band. Ah, metal history in the making.

Reggie’s is a great venue to see a metal band – it’s not so big that you get lost in the place, but the sound is great and the stage high with a sloping floor that means no matter where you are in the crowd you will probably have a pretty decent view. Since this weekend was a bit of festival (I think something close to 20 bands played over the two days), the place was completely packed (I believe it was sold out and had to turn away over 100 people at the door).

It was about 11.30 when Grim Reaper hit the opening cords to “Rock You To Hell” and it was clear the crowd was 100% behind the band, and from that moment on every chorus was a sing-along. It’s always an experience when you’re at a show where the audience knows every word of pretty much every song. Despite the fact that Nick and the rest of the band had only limited time to rehearse everything just seemed to fall into place. Below you will see a picture of the set list from the night and yes, every song you might expect to see is there. What was a very nice surprise were the two new songs from the forthcoming album, which I believe is called “From Hell” (tracks were “From Hell” and “Blue Murder”). Also in the set was a very nicely executed version of the Dio classic “Don’t Talk To Strangers”.

A few comments – it seems that Ian Nash is a pretty tasty guitarist in his own right and despite taking the backseat to Nick (as might be expected). I can imagine if there was any chance of more dates as a five piece the twin guitar attack of both Nick and Ian would be a thing of beauty. Chaz Grimaldi totally locked down the bass parts and looked like he was having a veritable party on stage, and Mark Rumble, well he did exactly what his surname (real or otherwise…?) implies. Steve Grimmett of course carries a lot of the spotlight, as he well should, and vocally he’s still delivering fireworks, and deluxe helpings too. It’s always hard to fly in, do one date and leave, and I’d say that is perhaps even harder for a vocalist, but we got “grade A” prime Grim Reaper.

Currently there is a bit of an on-off chance of a US tour in June – the band desperately want to come back, and judging by the audience this past week there is a good demand to see the band, but promoters and all the other backroom stuff needs to fall into place. Hopefully this will happen. If it does, my advice is definitely go see them.

And yes, the show itself was just like realizing there’s actually another couple of 6-packs in the back of the fridge – awesome! My score for the Ragnarokkr show was a solid 9.5/10.

Signed LP - thanks you lot!

Nick Bowcott

Reaper in action

Set list from Ragnarokkr

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