Griffin

Flight of the Griffin

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Like the mythical beast that inspired their name and graced the cover of this 1984 debut album, Flight of the Griffin, San Francisco's Griffin was something of a rare, almost mystical creature within their native habitat. While the majority of their San Francisco Bay Area brethren were busy formulating the nascent thrash metal style (bands like Metallica, Exodus, Forbidden Evil, and the Legacy, among others), the members of Griffin clearly looked up to the more traditional heavy metal tenets and sword and sorcery themes handed down by British powers such as Black Sabbath, Rainbow, and Iron Maiden. That's not to say that Flight of the Griffin lacked for modern metal sounds, though, or even thrash's energy -- just its punk-based rawness -- and this is why it has since gone down as an American proto-power metal classic, chock-full of enthusiastic anthems like "Hawk the Slayer," "Judgment Day," "Traveling in Time," and the title track. Even the scant weaker songs on offer ("Fire in the Sky," "Hell Runneth Over") were eventually rescued by the reliably stunning fretwork of guitarists Mike Jastremski and Rick Cooper, who were probably also responsible for getting the album released through the shredder-loving Shrapnel Records. In any case, Griffin's "unique" style in their hometown unfortunately caused them to miss the proverbial thrash metal boat where fame and popularity were concerned, and after Jastremski defected to upstart thrashers Heathen the following year (to be their bassist, of all things!), the group never really recovered. The remaining members of Griffin still managed to cobble together one more LP, but 1986's Protectors of the Lair turned out terribly disjointed and disappointingly subpar when compared with Flight of the Griffin.