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Armored Saint North - 85%

Dunstan, March 25th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1998, CD, Old Metal Records

The title of this review is a supreme compliment. Griffin plays a classy and serious brand of traditional metal that one can’t help but respect. The bands share a similar sound and songwriting style. The Saint comparison is most obvious on Heavy Metal Attack and Creeper, which happen to be the strongest songs on the album. The former anthem has a great chorus that may cause you to frighten the unaware while you wait at a stoplight.

William McKay’s vocals are similar in phasing to John Bush but his voice has a sharper edge. The rhythm section is solid and lays a good foundation for the guitars, which are not flashy but serve the songs well. This band is clearly not a vehicle for a particular member, but a band unit whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Traditional metal is best when it comes across as epic, but not overlong. Griffin practice that art quite well. The sound of the album is heavy in the low and midrange, but just like with the vocals, the guitars also have a slightly sharper edge than their counterparts in Saint. I would not put them on quite the same level as Armored Saint because their melodies and riffs are not as memorable. Griffin's music is very satisfying to listen to, but won't haunt the listener after the first listen in the same way that a song like March of the Saint does, with the exception of Heavy Metal Attack. Lyrically, the album could be called fantasy-themed, but in a personal way. Emotions like fear and pride are central themes.

The difficulty of finding this CD for a reasonable price may contribute to the legend of Griffin, but they are not over-hyped in any way. This CD will be put in this reviewer’s regular rotation. A diligent and patient metal fan can find it without breaking the bank, as some become available from time to time. It’s worth the wait.

Killer Power Metal From The Old Days - 85%

brocashelm, December 31st, 2008

A curious signing for Shrapnel, what with their overt lack of emphasis on shred power, California’s Griffin were sword and sorcery metal dudes armed with a tough sound and cool indie vibes. There’s nothing here that Iron Maiden hasn’t done better, but like early Liege Lord, Cirith Ungol or perhaps even Brocas Helm, Griffin have a dedication to orthodox metal in a wonderfully naive dungeons & dragons motif. But what Griffin did have is lot of ballsy guitar thunder and some pretty damn good songs. They also had a damn good singer in William Rodrick McKay, who belts out these horror filled dungeon rock tunes with vigor and a touch of shrieking venom. But the pile-driving tunes here are the real story, the best being the classically anthemic “Heavy Metal Attack,” “Fire In The Sky” and “Hell Runneth Over.” The sound job is pedestrian, not really capturing the potential power of a band with two good guitarists, but there’s enough gritty bile in the band’s performance to compensate for that. A damn good effort not only for it’s day, it stands up well to modern power metal muffins as well. A thrashier and harder to find second album titled Protectors Of The Lair was issued, but it has evaded my grasp (and most people’s) thus far. Courageously sworn to the black!

Pioneering classic US metal - 97%

Xeogred, January 9th, 2008

When one thinks of classic US power metal in terms of full length releases, I doubt a lot of us can name off a bunch of albums from 1984. Omen's infamous Battle Cry should surely come to mind, but what else? Probably not a lot and if Omen themselves weren't already somewhat obscure enough themselves, who's even heard of Griffin? This is one classic band that definitely shouldn't have been locked up in the crypt. Considering the majority of the material here appeared on their 83' demo, it's safe to say Griffin were ahead of their time.

While Omen's debut bled a powerful majestic atmosphere with battles and warfare, Griffin were a bit more on the mystical / fantasy side of things and had more of an emphasis on the guitars with the technicality. Both axemen Rick Cooper and Mike "Yaz`" Jastremski display a tremendous amount of skill with their weapon of choice, especially when it comes to the extremely graceful hooks and leads. They are by far some of the catchiest and swiftest leads I've come across, riddled around the corner of nearly every riff. It should then be obvious that the solo's are not a problem for them either and you can expect multiple solo's on several of the tracks here, something that was somewhat rare to hear in early 80's metal. While Cooper and "Yaz" completely dominate away with their catchy work, both the drums and bass are spot on as well. Never does the timing sound out of place or anything and the bass gets its sole exposure quite a bit on tracks like Flight of the Griffin (especially during the intro). This was a band in their top form.

That leaves me with vocalist William McKay whom is incredibly hard to really describe. I always look at the first track title Hawk the Slayer and wonder if that was meant to define his style, like he's a hawk striking down to scream at your face. At times it sounds like he had just chugged several bottles of water to send out some clear high-pitched shrieks, then there's times where it seems like he just drank a few cups of coffee to unleash some rough gritty yells. One thing is for certain though, all the screams are razor sharp, aggressive, and downright awesome. The vocals are truly diverse and all over the place perfectly delivered by his skill and energetic performance. He truly is one of Griffin's absolute signature marks.

Once you've heard the first track Hawk the Slayer you will know you're in for something special here (by far the catchiest track)! The quality is always leaps beyond average stuff and every track is incredibly memorable. There are a few simpler numbers here, like Fire in the Sky and Hell Runneth Over but they're still flawless and perfectly executed; reminders of why one loves heavy metal. A lot of the songs here have very catchy choruses and even anthems you'll never forget, Heavy Metal Attack! The classic Flight of the Griffin is pure epic mastery along with the final track Travelling In Time (one of the greatest finishers ever!) both filled with an out-of-this-world atmosphere; you didn't get much better than those. My favorite picks? This is just another one of those rare releases where it's probably best to say "the entire album".

This should be absolutely mandatory to fans of just heavy metal in general, with genre's aside. But I'm assuming those who really enjoy 80's US metal would be more than blown away by this than anyone else, especially those interested in obscure classic US power metal (Attacker, Tyrant, Liege Lord, etc). It should be stressed that the production on this album is actually extremely good but only up until recently a very low-grade rip was available, a newer one was put out there not too long ago and really displays the production in its full glory. An actual copy of this album will surely not be easy to find however, so good luck on that one. Their follow up release proved to be worthy but surely didn't quite rank up to the level of this one, it's still recommended if you enjoy this though. Until then, if you think you've seen it all think again. And spread the word will ya, hardly anyone knows about this band and that's an utter shame.

Nice fucking power metal - 77%

UltraBoris, August 21st, 2002

This is probably the only 80s power metal album that can compare with Jag Panzer's "Ample Destruction". The technical similarity isn't overwhelming, as this album is much thrashier, but the general feel is just about the same. Screaming vocalist giving 110 per cent effort, great riff construction, and memorable solos.

We start with the opener, "Hawk the Slayer", with a little spoken intro, and then we get right into thrashing... there are a few really cool tempo changes in this song, especially before the chorus, and then during the main solo. There's actually an extra solo at the end, in gratuitous "Painkiller" fashion, but it works well.

Other highlights include "Creeper", which is just so completely over the top in its vocal approach - almost grating if you don't like shriekers, but nonetheless a well-executed song. The title track, "Flight of the Griffin" is quite interesting, as it starts off slow, and then has a very nice middle section with a really great guitar solo that comes out of nowhere. It's mixed in pretty loud compared to the other instruments, which is definitely a feature of the production here - if they want you to notice something (a lot of the time, the vocals) they will make it stand out very overtly.

"Fire in the Sky" has some great riffs, as does "Judgement Day", but it is the album closer that is really the best song on here. That one also starts off slowly, but then out of nowhere they throw in an Overkill styled mosh riff, and also a guitar solo that's total Deep Purple "Highway Star" worship. Lots of stuff crammed into not much time here, which kind of is the theme for the whole album - very abrupt time changes come out of nowhere, riffs that just grab you by the throat, smash your face in, and then are gone without even bothering to wipe up the blood.

Yes, completely over the top, but it all works brilliantly.