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Rightly receiving most of his recognition as the voice of NWOBHM cult heroes Grim Reaper, Steve Grimmett has in fact kept an active career from the dawn of the 80s through to the present day. Following the collapse of Grim Reaper and an ill-fated period fronting thrashers-in-transition Onslaught, he remained on the go throughout the 90s in the more melodic act Lionsheart before a period of touring Grim Reaper material led to the decision to return to more metallic climes.
We've seen it all before – ageing metal frontman struggles to stay relevant and ends up touring an unwanted solo CD in front of crowds there only for the classic songs. Happily, this debut under the Steve Grimmett heading is an unexpectedly strong mix of old and new, proving that there is plenty of life left in the old dog yet.
A crucial difference between 'Personal crisis' and other failed attempts to stay on the map is the quality of the band that Grimmett has assembled. So often veterans in this situation choose to surround themselves with faceless, affordable no-marks – see Joey Belladonna or any of the recent touring incarnations of Blaze Bayley's band – but the crew backing Grimmett on his solo debut are a talented bunch that fully compliment the frontman rather than merely hiding behind the obvious focal point of the band. Particular credit must go to guitarist Ian Nash, a cohort of Grimmett's from the Lionsheart days, who puts in a scintillating display from start to finish, on occasion upstaging the little vocalist with his stylish lead playing.
The songs are a bit of a mix-up of styles that offer sufficient variety while managing to mostly stay together as a flowing, cohesive whole. Melodic traditional metal and more sleek power metal elements meet with the occasional bit of rock (classic and modern), and while the CD isn't a bump-free ride it is definitely a more than worthwhile listen. The opening and closing songs, "Karma" and "Fallen", display the most overt power metal influence – certainly the fastest cuts on the CD, with powerful, soaring choruses and featuring some of Nash's most impressive lead playing, along with pounding drum displays from former Paul Di'Anno skin beater Pete Newdeck.
But on the whole, "Personal Crisis" gears more towards moderate-tempo melodic metal with some occasional hard rock elements that are more prevalent in some songs than others. After the only serious stumble on the CD – a double-header of the confused, groovy "Freedom" and the uninspired ballad "Lonely" - "Afterglow" picks up the pace again. A nippy little 3-minute number, it breaks suddenly between a speedy melodic metal set-up and a chorus that bizarrely calls to mind Velvet Revolver – this is something as strange to listen to as it is to read, but somehow the song works rather well. More atmospheric tracks such as "Promises", a miniature anthem in the vein of 'Grand illusion'-era Nocturnal Rites, are kept on their toes by the likes of "Enemy" (what is it with all these one-word song titles?), which features, it has to be said, a fairly redundant duet with someone called Joanna Ruiz that neither helps nor hinders the final product.
A mention must also go to the decision to cover Grim Reaper's "Wrath of the ripper" – it is likely to be a divisive issue among old time fans, but the end result is an interesting one at least. It's nice to hear a vintage NWOBHM song polished up with a modern production job and drum performance, and it also shows that while time may have taken a few notches out of Grimmett's voice (the trademark banshee wail is mostly absent across the CD), he can certainly still do his reputation justice.
This also seems an appropriate note to end the review on – reputation is quite an important thing, and it is always a little painful to see highly regarded veterans embarrassing themselves rather than displaying some dignity and throwing in the towel. Steve Grimmett has done more than keep his credibility intact, but in fact has compiled a CD that he and his associates can be very proud of. 'Personal crisis' is one of the biggest, and definitely most pleasant, surprises I've had the pleasure to listen to in some time.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)