“Don’t fear the reaper, baby.”

“From 1976 to 1981, we were about as big as you could get,” says Blue Oyster Cult guitarist-vocalist Eric Bloom. “I was very uptight back then; I wouldn’t even mow my grass because I was afraid somebody would go driving by.” Things are a little less tense for BOC in 2001. “I don’t give a shit these days at all,” says Bloom, from his home in New York.

Although best known for their two Top-40 hits “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” (somehow this haunting tune about suicide actually made it into the Top 10 in ’76) and 1981’s “Burnin’ For You,” BOC are responsible for some of the most intriguing rock ‘n’ roll produced in the last 30 years. Peruse their back catalog–former label Columbia recently reissued the band’s first four studio albums with many bonus tracks–and you’ll hear everything from heavy rock (“Godzilla”), to folk (“Redeemed”), to, gulp, synth-pop (“Shooting Shark,” co-written by Patti Smith).

“We’ve definitely had some impact over the years,” says Bloom. In the early ’80s, the fledgling Minutemen cut their teeth playing BOC songs. Lead singer-guitarist Dennis Boon shortened his name to “D. Boon” in homage to Bloom, whose name appeared as “E. Bloom” on songwriting credits. Metallica recently paid BOC a major tribute by covering one of their songs, “Astronomy,” on their Garage Days Inc. album. And the band was even the subject of a recent Saturday Night Live sketch involving the recording session for “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.”

In June, Blue Oyster Cult, featuring original members Bloom, Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Allen Lanier, released Curse Of The Hidden Mirror, their 12th studio album. The disc, issued by N.C./NYC-based CMC International, finds the band in fine fighting form. Look for BOC to showcase several songs from Curse, as well as what Bloom refers to as “the best of the old stuff” Friday, Sept. 14, at the Lincoln Theater in Raleigh. Call 821-4111 for details.