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Griffin (1983)

From the San Francisco Bay Area comes yet another metal band to claim its place among the ranks of the heavy. Griffin is a five-piece outfit: Billy McKay (vocals), Mike ‘Yaz’ Jastremski (guitar), Rick Cooper (guitar), Tom Sprayberry (bass) and Rick Wagner (drums). The group’s major influences range from classical to metal by Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Angelwitch. They describe themselves as the “heaviest sellable band” although nowhere near commercialistic. Griffin has progressed along the more traditional lines of heavy metal (ala ‘Hell Bent For Leather’).

The band began in 1980 with Cooper and McKay and minor changes were made until the final line-up was conceived. In February ’82, they recorded their first demo featuring ‘Hell Runneth Over’. It was good but the group knew they could do better, heavier material.

Griffin’s new demo is a 100% improvement over their previous, which is still quite an achievement. It contains ten songs of metal ecstasy with noteworthy musicianship from all members. Guitar work from Cooper and Yaz is comparable to that of Kevin Heybourne and Glenn Tipton. Sprayberry and Wagner do not simply exist to provide a backbeat, but supply a bit of ingenuity to the music. McKay’s vocals are hard to describe; to say he sounds like a cross between Rob Halford and Raven’s John Gallagher would be safely ambiguous.

Although all the cuts are good, there are several standouts. ‘Flight Of The Griffin’ is a tremendous anthem / ballad which starts with a melodic intro and ends with full speed at high level. ‘Hawk The Slayer’ is reminiscent of Raven’s ‘Lambs To The Slaughter’. The best track, however, is ‘Heavy Metal Attack’, which as the title suggests, is a soaring metal piece for the headbanging masses.

Although Griffin has been plagued with problems from booking agents, clubs, etc., they have remained together and are currently negotiating with companies for a decent album contract.

Gene Jun

Review taken from Metal Forces, Issue 4 (1984)

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