VARIOUS ARTISTS (GENERAL) — Speed Kills - The Very Best In Speed Metal (review)

VARIOUS ARTISTS (GENERAL) — Speed Kills - The Very Best In Speed Metal album cover Album · 1985 · Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Vim Fuego
No compilation is quite definitive of a genre.

Think about it. One of the most famous compilations in all of metal is the 1980 album “Metal For Muthas”. This album exemplified the essence and feel of the NWOBHM, a scene which combined an invigorating new take on metal combined with the DIY ethos of the punk scene. It was a great starting place for the scene, but definitive? The NW in the acronym stands for new wave. Nutz had been releasing albums for six years. The stands for British. E.F. Bands was Swedish. And the HM is, of course, heavy metal. Toad The Wet Sprocket and the aforementioned Nutz let the team down here. There was some excellent stuff on this album, like Iron Maiden, Praying Mantis, Samson, and Angelwitch, but Geoff Barton, he who coined the tongue twisting NWOBHM acronym, rated this album a lowly two out of five. He called the album an embarrassment, and “metal for masochists”, because it basically missed the point of the NWOBHM. Perhaps “Metal For Muthas” was too ambitious, or the whole scene too wide and amorphous to be covered by an album or two (the second inferior volume followed later the same year). Think of the names missing here – Def Leppard, Saxon, even Diamond Head.

However, compilations were a hugely important promotional tool for underground music scenes. Many punk scenes the world over did a great job of getting their sounds out there through the art of the compilation. There would be unexpected hits and inexplicable misses, but compilations were often the best way to get music to a wider audience when there was zero chance of radio play or mainstream media coverage.

As the NWOBHM faded, the winners departed on world tours, the losers went back to their day jobs, and another embryonic scene started to bud and blossom. It was more international than the NWOBHM, but was still a bottom-up groundswell, and borrowed a bit of the punk sound as well as the ethos. That was the speed metal movement, or as we know it in hindsight now, thrash metal. The first compilation to include this new style of music was volume 1 of Metal Blade’s long-running “Metal Massacre” series, released in 1982 and featuring a band called “Mettallica”. Yeah, Metal Blade’s forte was metal, not spelling.

By 1985, this scene was really starting to come into it’s own, and a handful of independent labels were starting to grow some impressive rosters. Through cross promotion and co-operation, British label Music For Nations managed to secure tracks from some of the more important independent metal labels and almost put together a genre defining compilation. Almost...

If you run through the roster of bands here, you find Venom, who along with Motörhead were really the grandads of thrash metal. You get three of the not-yet-labelled Big Four (it seems that label arose in 1986). There’s Celtic Frost and Possessed, without whom doom, death, and black metal would be very different beasts to what we know now. You get Exodus, who were a bit late out of the starting gate. There’s a track from Canadian space cowboys Voivod, before they went full cyberprog. The most obvious gap here is the German one. Yes, there’s Destruction at the top of their bestial game, but the rest of the German biggies are missing – no Kreator, no Sodom, no Helloween (Helloween belonged in that company in those days, and Tankard was still a year off releasing their debut album). So not a perfect definitive roster, but pretty fucking impressive in it’s own right. So what’s actually here?

First track “Metal Merchants” by Hallows Eve is probably the easiest to digest stepping stone for a traditional metal fan stumbling across this album. It’s a perfect cross between NWOBHM melody and the new-fangled speed metal tempo. The noodling riff and militaristic snare of the introduction (actually a separate track called “Valley of the Dolls”, but run together here as one song) pulls the listener in before the smack in the face of the main song bursts into full on thrash riffing overlaid with NWOBHM leads.

Hallows Eve really doesn’t prepare the listener for the next track. Exodus’ “A Lesson In Violence” is just what it says. This song is violent as fuck. Paul Baloff’s vocals are vicious and full of hate for the uneducated. There are a lot of ifs, buts, and maybes which have dogged Exodus’ career. Forget them and soak up the metallic fury here instead.

Destruction’s “Bestial Invasion” is a good choice here as it is a lot darker than the catchier “Mad Butcher”. There was an element of Venom worship in some of Destruction’s early material, but Schmier’s vocal style is quite different to Cronos, and this is far more technical than what Venom was famous for, and showed a band which had carved out it’s own evil little niche.

Bulldozer is the least known band here, having formed in 1980. If even recognised at all, these Italian thrashers are often remembered as second rate, but “Insurrection of the Living Damned” is the blackest song here (yes, even more so than Venom), and their evil sounds have attained a strong cult following in the black metal underground. Alberto Contini’s gruff vocals are particularly impressive, and this track showed a band confident enough not to have to play flat out all the time.

Metallica sounds streets ahead of everyone else here. “Fight Fire With Fire” is professional and clear sounding, and fast as fuck, sharp, and vital. If you don’t know this song, you probably shouldn’t be reading this review, so no use in describing it. Where did this band go? And how the hell do you follow the most intense song of Metallica’s career? Well, with Slayer, quite obviously. While it’s not stated here, and hasn’t ever really fully been clarified, this sounds like the in-studio-live version of “Evil Has No Boundaries” from the “Live Undead” EP. It’s barely controlled chaos. The lyrics and image are cheesy, but it’s executed so convincingly that listeners forgot to laugh at them. A young Tom Araya sounds particularly gleeful here.

Possessed kick off side 2 (This was 1985. CDs were ridiculously expensive to produce, and most metal labels couldn’t afford to press them, so you had vinyl or cassette) with “Pentagram”. It is Satanic and evil sounding enough to have caused a Christian panic, complete with backmasking and and an evil sounding riff.

Exciter was right there when it started, one of the first handful of thrash metal bands to release an album, not far behind Metallica and Slayer. Yet “Riders From Darkness” is the weakest track on this entire album. It’s earnest but silly speed metal, and really demonstrates why Exciter are a footnote in metal history and not remembered as a major player.

The version of “Black Metal” included here is not the same as the one from Venom’s classic second album of the same name. The production has been tightened and sharpened, which removes the blackened rough charm of the original. Fear not though, this makes up in power what it lacks in raw energy, and isn’t a disappointment.

Speaking of raw, Voivod’s “War and Pain” is bleeding edge, with lacerating guitars, weird, crashing riffs, and nasty, incomprehensible vocals. Voivod has never been an easy or comforting band to listen to, and fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

You can’t keep a good Dave down, and Megadeth’s “Rattlehead” is a storming track. Technical, sharp, and fast, nevertheless it’s not as heavy as Metallica. And this is the last time you’d see the two bands on the same bill for 25 years. Never mind, listening to Dave Mustaine trying to out-do his former bandmates is always a pleasure.

“Into The Crypts of Rays” is a bit faster than most Celtic Frost songs, but this is a speed metal compilation after all. The song perfectly displays the proto-death metal riffing and Tom G. Warrior’s signature death grunt, and is a strong finish to a classy collection.

The best thing a compilation can do is to whet the listener’s appetite to explore further. “Speed Kills” teases and titillates like a lingerie ad on a bus stop. You want more? Go get it. Just keep your state of arousal under control in public.
Share this review

Review Comments

Post a public comment below | Send private message to the reviewer
Please login to post a shout
No shouts posted yet. Be the first member to do so above!

Review Index

Member Zone

Stay signed in

Metal Subgenres

Artists Alpha-index


Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
Buy this album from our partners
Moving Pictures Hard Rock
Buy this album from our partners
Rust in Peace Thrash Metal
Buy this album from our partners
Powerslave NWoBHM
Buy this album from our partners
Are You Experienced? Proto-Metal
Buy this album from our partners

New Metal Artists

New Metal Releases

Descent Into Darkness Deathcore
Buy this album from MMA partners
Planetary Annihilation Deathcore
Buy this album from MMA partners
Viperous Death Metal
Buy this album from MMA partners
The Harrowing Of Hearts Black Metal
Buy this album from MMA partners
Fucking Relentless Stoner Metal
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Metal Online Videos

Saving Vice - The Ritual.
Bosh66· 3 days ago
More videos

New MMA Metal Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions


Latest Metal News


More in the forums

Social Media

Follow us

Buy Metal Music Online