Speed Metal

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Speed Metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal music. As the name implies the genre is characterised by its focus on fast playing style and because of this it is often considered to be the progenitor of both thrash metal and power metal. In actuality thrash metal was emerging around the same time as speed metal (and had overtaken it within a couple of years), however much of early thrash metal bears trademarks of speed metal as well, including the Big Four thrash metal bands, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax. This has led to some to use the two terms interchangeably, however speed metal is considered to allow for more melody and less aggressive playing than thrash metal, containing more influence from the music's roots in traditional heavy metal and less from hardcore punk (though speed metal/punk hybrid artists are not unheard of). Additionally speed metal bands are less likely to use growled or shouted vocals than thrash metal. Speed metal's influence on European style power metal, which emerged in the late eighties, was much greater, with many early Euro power metal bands, including Helloween, Blind Guardian and Rage, starting their careers with more speed metal based sounds before becoming power metal acts.

While the roots of speed metal may be traced back even further with tracks such as Deep Purple's Highway Star or Queen's Stone Cold Crazy often credited as being proto-speed metal, it was traditional heavy metal bands such as Motörhead, Accept and Judas Priest that are considered to have had the most influence on the speed metal sound and can be said to have produced individual speed metal songs (such as Accept's Fast as a Shark) before there were any actual speed metal bands or albums.

Some of the first artists to really kick-start speed metal as a genre were Venom, Running Wild and Atomkraft, with Venom releasing the Welcome to Hell album in 1981, which could be considered the first speed metal album. Though as is common for speed metal, all these bands had elements of other genres in their sound as artists that exclusively or even primarily play speed metal are comparatively rare next to other metal sub-genres, though there are many thrash/speed, power/speed and heavy/speed metal bands in existence, who each may or may not have made some speed metal dominated albums. An early notable band to play a primarily speed metal based music was Exciter, who released their debut album Heavy Metal Maniac in 1983 and have mostly stuck with their speed metal dominant sound ever since, though they have also released speed/heavy and speed/thrash releases. Venom later turned to making more heavy and thrash metal based albums while Running Wild become an early example of Euro style power metal and later a more straight heavy metal based act.

Most well known examples of speed metal, which along with the aforementioned also includes Agent Steel, Angel Dust (early) and Savage Grace, are from the eighties. There has however been something of a speed metal renaissance starting in the late 2000's with examples of newer speed metal bands including Ranger, Demona, Speedwolf and Evil Invaders.

In addition to classic speed metal sounds, the genre has had a notable merger with black metal to create a blackened speed metal sound, typically consisting of speed metal guitar riffs with black metal vocals styles and an altogether dirtier atmosphere compared to straight speed metal bands or other hybrid styles, taking their cues from the early template laid down by Venom. Examples of blackened speed metal bands include Joel Grind, Bulldozing Bastard, Occult Burial and Midnight.

Certain neoclassical metal artists such as Joe Stump and Marty Friedman have also used speed metal to form the basis of their music on certain releases, such as Stump's 2004 album Speed Metal Messiah or Friedman's 1988 album Dragon's Kiss.

On MMA, speed/thrash and speed/power metal releases will typically be placed under thrash and power metal respectively, while speed/heavy releases will be placed under speed metal. Blackened speed metal will usually be included under speed metal with the work of neoclassical based artists will be included under neoclassical metal.

- Genre definition written by 666sharon666.

Sub-genre collaborators:
  • 666sharon666 [Leader]

speed metal top albums

Showing only albums and EPs | Based on members ratings & MMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

EXCITER Long Live the Loud Album Cover Long Live the Loud
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4.70 | 5 ratings
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EXCITER Violence & Force Album Cover Violence & Force
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ANGEL DUST Into the Dark Past Album Cover Into the Dark Past
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4.48 | 9 ratings
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4.14 | 28 ratings
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speed metal Music Reviews

HELLOWEEN Walls of Jericho

Album · 1985 · Speed Metal
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Unitron
"Give me wings to fly, ride the sky!"

When people think of classic power metal, Helloween is usually the first band to come to mind. After all, they did release the legendary Keeper of the Seven Keys Parts 1 and 2, which have since became known as two of the greatest metal albums of the 80's. However, before leading the way of the German power metal scene, Helloween released one of the most melodic yet at the same time heaviest thrash/speed metal albums at the time of 1985.

After a short orchestral intro title track, you're thrown right into a storm of riffs and cannonball drums that rain down upon the listener that is called "Ride the Sky". This might simply be the greatest and heaviest song Helloween ever wrote. It really sets a mood, conjuring up images of dogfights in the sky with bullets flying at top speed. It's followed up with "Reptile" which pounds itself into your head, with a real marching stomp of a main riff. That's what you'll get on this album, it will either shred at blinding speeds or pound a stomping groove through your skull. "Heavy Metal (Is the Law)" could not be titled better, as this is a speeding masterpiece that continuously throws catchy guitar and bass riffs and crazy solos. This is a song made for the stage.

While it's hard to beat "Ride the Sky", "Gorgar" may actually take it's place. Talk about a headbanging anthem! It instantly reels you in with a groovy hook, and it becomes impossible to not headbang and scream along. Add in the fantastic metal rendition of Edvard Grieg's classic Hall of the Mountain King as the bridge, and you've got a masterpiece.

This is the only Helloween album that features Kai Hansen on vocals, so this sounds more like what would end up being Gamma Ray then the Helloween most people know. He has a unique and distinct voice that really suits everything that the music does, whether it be thrash, power, or speed. Markus Grosskopf really gets plenty of time to shine on the bass end, you can almost always hear the rumbling, clicking, and shredding basslines. In particular, the closing epic "How Many Tears" highlights this best. "Heavy Metal (Is the Law)" gives some time for some showing off with bass riffs a plenty.

As much as I love the classic Keeper of the Seven Keys albums, Walls of Jericho has always been my favorite Helloween album. It's got the edge of thrash, with the melody of power metal. It's a match made in heaven, and never worked better. If you want to get the definitive version, be sure to get the one that includes their amazing self-titled EP and the blazing classic "Judas". Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

LÄÄZ ROCKIT No Stranger To Danger

Album · 1985 · Speed Metal
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UMUR
"No Stranger To Danger" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, San Francisco, California based heavy/thrash metal act Lääz Rockit. The album was released through Target Records in 1985 and it´s the successor to "City's Gonna Burn" from 1984. Lääz Rockit was formed in 1982 ans was an active part of the early Bay Area scene, although the early part of their discography only feature very few thrash metal elements...

...and the same applies to "No Stranger To Danger", which features a hard edged heavy metal sound with only a few thrash metal leanings. The tracks are vers/chorus structured with anthemic chorus lines, and almost always featuring a well played guitar solo after the second chorus. So that part of the music is very basic and there´s definitely not the most adventurous approach to songwriting on display here.

It´s of very little importance though, as the band fully make it up with a fiercely convincing performance. The instrumental part of the music is played with raw passion but also features quite a few more sophisticated tricks. Pounding drums, hard rocking bass lines, heavy rocking riffs, and great melodic guitar solos, are the main ingredients of the band´s sound. It´s lead vocalist Michael Coons, who takes the prize though, with his strong voice and commanding attitude filled delivery.

The 9 track, 37:54 minutes long album, is pretty consistent in style and in quality, so while not all tracks stand out equally much, I don´t hear any filler material. Honorable mentions go to the opening trio of tracks "Dreams Die Hard", "I´ve Got Time", and "Town to Town", but the fast paced heavy rocker "Backbreaker" also has its moments.

Overall "No Stranger To Danger" is well worth the price of admission if you´re fan of raw and hard rocking traditional heavy metal, played/sung by skilled musicians, and packed in a powerful and organic sounding production, and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is well deserved.

HELLOWEEN Walls of Jericho

Album · 1985 · Speed Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Tucked in amongst the diversifying sounds that were emerging in the 80s, the metal world found one German band in particular finding a way to carve out a new niche now called power metal by taking the melodic influences of bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and marrying them with a ferocity emerging in the fledgling thrash metal movement as was gestating by the likes of Metallica and Slayer. HELLOWEEN, while most notable for their “Keeper Of The Seven Keys” power combo which pretty much raised the bar high from the very beginning actually had dabbled in the more raw and primeval world of speed metal on their debut album WALLS OF JERICHO. Released in 1985, HELLOWEEN was a new breed of band that was quickly taking the traditional sounds heard in the NWOBHM, emphasizing the melodies, deemphasizing the punk influences and adding more aggressiveness, virtuosity in guitar solos as well as the speed, which have earned this particular transition period as being tagged speed metal.

WALLS OF JERICHO, released in October 1985, can be seen as a mere extension of their debut eponymous EP which was released in April 1985 and were only separated for limitations of time length on vinyl LP records at the time. The album has two significant track listings. The original vinyl contained a mere nine tracks beginning with the title track but as soon as CD technology became common place the album was reformatted in 1987 to include the eponymous EP to provide the first five tracks as well as the bonus track titled “Judas” which very much takes a cue from the great “Judas Priest” not in style and compositional methodology but equally shows how the band had diverged from the sound as much as it shows the similarities at this point. So intertwined are the combo effect of the debut EP with the debut LP that most newer releases don’t even bother to distinguish how the tracks were really separate releases in the beginning.

HELLOWEEN was a different band at this point. Before Michael Kiske would join the band as the vibrant poster child vocalist for the entire power metal scene that the band launched with their “Keeper Of The Seven Keys” fantasy albums, vocals were performed by Kai Hansen who offered a more gritty raw 80s metal sound to the band. His style was very similar to Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson without the distinguished operatic perfections. Like many an 80s metal band, lyrics were based in fantasy, morbidity and just plain fun as well (“Gorgar” is about a pinball game whereas “Heavy Metal (Is The Law)” provided a mindless anthem for fans to sing along about how great it was to bang their heads to metal music! How innocent were those days! Musically WALLS OF JERICHO shows a great deal of derivative tracks such as “Phantoms Of Death” which shows a “2 Minutes 2 Midnight” Iron Maiden type of riffing at first only to become a Judas Priest type of track reminding me a bit “The Sentinel.” Many other tracks are clearly linked to the NWOBHM heroes of the days but tracks like “Guardian” already show a clear deviation from the pack with pure power metal attributes and a prognosticator of exactly where the band was steering their sound.

The debut album by HELLOWEEN is hardly a perfect one for it does have a rather inconsistent selection of tracks that sometimes ring too close to their influences and sometimes surprise as to how far the band had already developed their sound at this point. From the production side of things, WALLS OF JERICHO is much less polished than the albums that immediately followed. This one is a filthy raw metal affair, one that serves it well for a debut as it gave HELLOWEEN the proper street creds to build their sound upon. When push comes to shove, i have to admit that WALLS OF JERICHO is hardly the most sophisticated album of the era dwarfed by the greats of the day as well as by the band's own following masterpieces but there is truly something special about WALLS OF JERICHO. It has an energy and feel unlike anything else of the era. True that bands like Omen were in the same camp, but no one else pulled it off quite like HELLOWEEN. When it comes down to it this is simply an enjoyable album to listen to even if one can intellectually find flaws in the analysis, at least it is quite the enjoyable album for me.

BLIND GUARDIAN Follow the Blind

Album · 1989 · Speed Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
Follow The Blind is the second full-length studio album by the legendary German Power Metal band, Blind Guardian. It was released in 1989 and sees the band in a bit of a transition period, much more advanced than their debut but not yet fully developed into the full on Power Metal style they would become famous for on the next half-dozen albums.

It also sees the band leaning more into a Thrash Metal direction than at any point in their career, with notable Bay Area Thrash influences in particular. If you like Exodus, Testament and Forbidden’s debuts, and you also like Power Metal then this album is a delightful middle ground. Its harder and more aggressive than future Blind Guardian records, and has also yet to develop the more progressive tendencies of their later period. What it lacks in scope however, it makes up for in sheer fury. I think this album would be a great introduction to the band and indeed to the subgenre for fans of Thrash who are maybe afraid of Power Metal due to its reputation as being a bit flowery and wimpy compared to other Metal styles.

On the downside however, for Power Metal fans especially, all that Thrash influence leaves less room for catchiness, melodies and variety as compared to their other work. That is not to say it is devoid of those qualities, just that it is a smaller percentage of the music than usual. Listen to ‘Fast To Madness’ for example… a brilliant Metal song, but you wouldn’t generate as big a sing-along as say ‘Time Stands Still at the Iron Hill.’ The title track does experiment with different tempos and balancing heavy and clean styles, but more in a …And Justice For All/The Years Of Decay way than in an Imaginations From The Other Side way. Both fine ways to be sure, just depends what mood you are in and what expectations you had when you bought the album in the first place.

In terms of songwriting quality, I think Blind Guardian’s albums sort of just got better and better up until about Nightfall In Middle Earth, and so I think this album is better than their debut but not yet as good as Tales From The Twilight World, or the classic Somewhere Far Beyond. That is of course not to say its poor, just that it isn’t as good as the really good stuff. In terms of production, its a bit noisy and harsh on the ears, and works better in small chunks than as a whole. Not unlike fellow Power Metal Pioneers Helloween’s Thrashy Walls Of Jericho album in that regard.

Speaking of Helloween, Kai Hansen makes some guest appearances on this album, both on guitar on ‘Hall Of The King’ and on Guitar and Vocals on ‘Valhalla.’ These for me are two of the best songs on the album anyway, and are made even better by Kai’s presence. The other main highlight is the excellent instrumental ‘Beyond The Ice’ which is one of the best songs on the album for me, very pummeling, quite diverse and with astounding guitar work… it really shows off what a force the band are musically with its bouncy toms and double kicks and the excellent range of riffs and solos.

Overall; Follow The Blind is an experimental album that sees the band trying to find their sound. It is arguably the hardest, fastest and heaviest of their records and arguably the least melodic and catchy. It is however a very decent album that no Blind Guardian fan should miss out on (how could you be a fan and deprive yourself of ‘Banished From Sanctuary’ or ‘Valhalla’?) and that would be a good starting point for fans of heavier music trying Blind Guardian out.

*Ps. The Remastered edition has two cover songs and four early demos to add some value for money. None worth upgrading over in and of themselves, but very welcome if you are getting em for free anyway. *

ANGEL DUST To Dust You Will Decay

Album · 1988 · Speed Metal
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Warthur
Angel Dust's second album only really shares its rhythm section with the Into the Dark Past lineup, and consequently it sees a bit of a shift in the band's sound. The thrashier aspects of the previous album are toned down, and the sound of the band drifts further towards the power metal end of the speed metal territory. (Lyrically, too, the songs shift more towards fantastical subject and focus less on more down-to-earth concerns than the debut.) S.L. Coe's vocals are a big improvement over Romme Keymer's vocals on the original, mind you, and on the whole the shift in sound manages to refresh the Angel Dust approach nicely.

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