Grim Reaper live in Toronto, October 2018

Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper / Ammo @ The Mod Club, Toronto on 4th October 2018

Steve Grimmett is the absolute face of perseverance. Early last year, he developed a ravenous infection while touring in Ecuador. Frighteningly, doctors had to amputate his leg and he spent several weeks in hospital, far away from his England home. Nonetheless, it really didn’t take Grimmett long to recover and hit the road again. This is his first live show in Toronto since, as part of a North American tour, and Toronto’s heavy metal faithful fill out the Mod Club.

Unfortunately, vocalizing valkyrie Leather Leone (most known for singing for ‘80s heavy metallers Chastain) dropped off this tour. Her place is taken by Toronto metal militia Ammo. Formed in Toronto in 2014, this four-piece follows in this city’s retro heavy metal appreciation, alongside similar acts Skullfist, Midnight Malice, Manacle and Axxion. Like their peers, these spirited youths pay homage ‘80s heavy metal, energetic and clearly authentic fans of the genre, but they contribute nothing new to it. Duel guitar harmonies, amateur higher range vocals and some power metal peppering are the order of the day. The music is punchy with a tinge of thrashing vigour, but ultimately it lacks sharpened teeth. Fortunately, they possess a lot of energy, psyching up those gathered in the Mob Club tonight, successfully getting a grand portion of the crowd to sing the chorus of their final anthem “Too Metal For Metal”.

Leaning on a crutch, Steve Grimmett leads his Grim Reaper formation to the stage to a herald of cheers. His prosthetic leg greets the audience from beneath a subtly studded black kilt. Understandably, he utilizes an earphone microphone and wastes no time belting out his Ronnie James Dio-inspired vocals to some classic New Wave of British Heavy Metal tunes. Grim Reaper produced three full-lengths in the ‘80s and all of them are regarded as ‘80s heavy metal classics. Grim Reaper’s heavy metal is more muscular than the usual NWoBHM fare, wielding the grit that thrash metal without any obvious nods to this subgenre. Alongside this coarse sensibility is an Iron Maiden’s rich guitar work, forging highly memorable songs of steel. On record, Grimmett’s singing is something like a cross between these two qualities – rough and ready yet able to cleanly glide into falsettos. He avoids the glass-shattering falsettos live now but given that he’s almost sixty, this is forgivable and his voice remains capable.

Throughout the show, the fans’ response is one so enthusiastic that it is rarely seen at Toronto heavy metal shows. Mosh pits keep sparking up – and quite sizeable ones too. It’s not hard to find fanatics who know most if not all of the words and do not hesitate to vocally accompany Grimmett. Most of these songs were constructed to rock out and revel in. The likes of “Rock You To Hell”, “Dead on Arrival”, “All Hell Let Loose” and “Fear No Evil” illustrate this point tonight. “Suck It and See” (which Grimmett leads into by saying he lost his virginity at the tender age of 12 years old to his very busty babysitter) exhibits the band’s playful side and “Call Me In the Morning” represents a post-reunion taste of their music. A cover of the Dio classic “Don’t Talk To Strangers” sounds fantastic and is dedicated to the metal legend who left the planet too soon.

Grimmett and his bandmates dabble in a lot of quintessentially British banter, calling each other humorous names. At one point, the crowd is convinced to call Grimmett a twat. The instrumentalists are particularly energetic on stage, while Grimmett understandably sits down for most of the second part of the set. Speaking of his leg, Grimmett lifts up his kilt at one stage to show the audience his prosthetic leg.

The old adage ‘save the best until last’ is followed through and “Waysted Love” impacts the Mod Club with excellent results. This is stalked by their most popular song, of course the title track from the See You In Hell debut, with what feels like everyone in the club singing along. There is no better way to finish the night. How many approaching sixty years old would stop intercontinental tours after having their leg amputated? It’s not easy getting around the world in sucha condition yet here is Mr. Grimmett, entertaining Toronto delightfully. It’s understandable why he is playing a venue larger than the Coalition.