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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.