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 (shared with Thrash Metal and Groove Metal):
  • Vim Fuego (leader)
  • Nightfly

speed metal top albums

Showing only albums and EPs | Based on members ratings & MMA custom algorithm | 24 hours caching

EXCITER Heavy Metal Maniac Album Cover Heavy Metal Maniac
4.50 | 16 ratings
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ANGEL DUST Into the Dark Past Album Cover Into the Dark Past
4.31 | 13 ratings
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ENFORCER Death By Fire Album Cover Death By Fire
4.50 | 5 ratings
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ANGEL DUST To Dust You Will Decay Album Cover To Dust You Will Decay
4.22 | 9 ratings
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ENFORCER From Beyond Album Cover From Beyond
4.25 | 6 ratings
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HELLOWEEN Helloween Album Cover Helloween
4.06 | 27 ratings
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WARRANT The Enforcer Album Cover The Enforcer
4.20 | 5 ratings
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STRIKER City Of Gold Album Cover City Of Gold
4.09 | 7 ratings
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AGENT STEEL Unstoppable Force Album Cover Unstoppable Force
4.00 | 17 ratings
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HELLOWEEN Walls of Jericho Album Cover Walls of Jericho
3.94 | 75 ratings
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VENOM Welcome to Hell Album Cover Welcome to Hell
3.95 | 44 ratings
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ENFORCER Into the Night Album Cover Into the Night
4.10 | 5 ratings
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RUNNING WILD Branded and Exiled

Album · 1985 · Speed Metal
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"Branded and Exiled" is the 2nd full-length studio album by German speed/power metal act Running Wild. The album was recorded in August 1985 and released later that same year through Noise International. It´s the successor to "Gates to Purgatory" from 1984 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as guitarist Preacher (real name: Gerald Warnecke) has been replaced by Majk Moti. The former´s stage name was actually pretty suiting as he left to study theology and later became an evangelical priest. The remaining part of the four-piece lineup are intact: Rock 'n' Rolf (real name: Rolf Kasparek) on vocals and guitars, Stephan Boriss on bass, and Hasche (real name: Wolfgang Hagemann) on drums.

Stylistically the music on the 8 track, 35:49 minutes long album continues the raw and hard pounding speed/heavy metal style of "Gates to Purgatory (1984)", but it´s overall a little less savage and speed metal infused than the predecessor. Featuring song titles like "God of Iron", "Marching to Die", and "Chains and Leather", it´s pretty easy to imagine the lyrical content, and you´d be exactly right if you thought the songs evolved around subjects like evil, Tolkien fantasy tales, praise of heavy metal culture, and fighting the establisment. So this is pretty much the epitome of heavy metal from those days.

Running Wild are a well playing act, and you´ll find plenty of powerful guitar riffs, blazing solos, and hard pounding rhythm section, on the album, as well as Rock 'n' Rolf´s raw vocals in front (and the occasional high pitched scream). The album features a powerful and well sounding production too, so upon conclusion "Branded and Exiled" is a quality sophomore studio album by Running Wild. The only thing which is a slight negative about this album, is the lack of an original sound. There´s little here which says to the listener that you´re listening to a Running Wild album. At this point they did what they did well, but they lacked an original sound. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

VIPER Coma Rage

Album · 1995 · Speed Metal
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Vim Fuego
A&R man logic 101: If Band A comes from Country X, then Band B from Country X equals Band A. And just in case, grab Band C, Band D, and Band E before anyone else does!

Just so this makes more sense to those who don't work as music label A&R people, I'll explain. Band A is Sepultura, a band who gave thrash metal the biggest kick in the ass since Slayer's "Reign In Blood". Country X is Brazil. Bands B, C, D and E are the likes of Overdose, Ratos De Porao, Korzus, or this lot, Viper.

To be brutally honest right from the start, this album simply is not very good. It is the type of album critics of thrash metal would use as an example of why thrash is crap. It is simplistic, a little moronic in the lyrical department, and was several years out of date when released. The album sounds like it is full of songs and ideas Metal Church rejected for their debut album. It would have been a solid enough album in the early days of thrash in 1985, but for 1995, it's anachronistic and really a bit of a joke.

The essence of thrash was originally taking a hardcore influence and adding it to metal. While Sepultura were listening to Discharge and the Dead Kennedys and were taking it all in, Viper were listening to Bad Religion and The Ramones. The songs are bouncy, cheerful and vapid. In places, it sounds like early Helloween on happy pills, but with worse vocals.

A few allowances need to be made in the lyric department for these guys, naturally being Portuguese speakers, but the lyrics are like something out of a Motley Crue record, or a 13 year old attempting to write songs for the first time– "Makin' Love", "Somebody Told Me You're Dead", "Far And Near".

There are some positives though. There's the odd unusual percussive flourish, like the instrumental "405 South", and the songs are toe–tappingly catchy. Vocalist Pit Passarell has an excellent sense of vocal melody, and would do well fronting a pop–punk band.

While Brazil's underground scene undoubtedly produced some excellent bands, Viper is not one of them. The A&R man from Roadrunner who picked these guys up managed to find another filler for bargain bins the world over.

ANGEL DUST To Dust You Will Decay

Album · 1988 · Speed Metal
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It’s only in the last year or two that I actually heard Angel Dust for the first time. After starting life as a speed metal band in the 80’s, they split up after two albums and reformed in 1997, re-inventing themselves as a power metal band, releasing a further four albums. It was on these later releases that were my first taste of the band. I’m quite selective with power metal, generally preferring the heavier USPM, but German PM bands can often be heavier than many of their other European counterparts as well. Such is the case with Angel Dust and I was impressed with their strong hooks and melodies that didn’t sacrifice heaviness.

To Dust You Will Decay, released in 1988, is the second of their original incarnation albums. It’s not surprisingly as slick as their later work but still has a powerful , full and professional sounding production, especially for the time when lesser known bands often released albums with a less than perfect sound to put it kindly. The band are tight and the nine songs are well played speed metal , occasionally verging on thrash, with no shortage of compelling riffs on not surprisingly, mainly up-tempo numbers. It’s on these songs where the band is at their best, the few mid-paced songs like Wings Of An Angel being less memorable though lesser bands would be glad of them. The songs often contain melodic elements making a bridge to their later power metal style. The increase in melody is more noticeable from their debut which was at the thrashier end of speed metal, which nevertheless was an equally fine album. Pick of the bunch? The King and the title track and The Duel are as good a choice as any, as I prefer my metal fast but there’s plenty of similar quality to pick from here.

I wish I’d been aware of this band in the 80’s as this is certainly an album I would have bought at the time but in those pre-internet days it wasn’t as easy to hear new albums as it is now. Still better late than never and I can recommend this along with Angel Dust’s other five albums very highly.

BLIND GUARDIAN Battalions of Fear

Album · 1988 · Speed Metal
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"Battalions of Fear" is the debut full-length studio album by Germam speed/power metal act Blind Guardian. The album was released through No Remorse Records in May 1988. Blind Guardian formed in 1984 under the Lucifer's Heritage monicker, but after being signed by No Remorse Records in 1988 they changed their name to the current one. The early years of the band saw several lineup changes and produced two demos.

Stylistically the material on "Battalions of Fear" is speed metal with melodic power metal leanings and even the occasional nod towards thrash metal. It´s strongly influenced by the early recordings of fellow countrymen Helloween and also contemporary releases by an artist like Running Wild, and you´ll find very little here to seperate Blind Guardian from other German speed/power artists of the era. The material on "Battalions of Fear" are however well written, relatively memorable, and very well performed. Already this early on Blind Guardian were an incredibly tight playing and skilled unit. They have considerable compositional skills too, and incorporate neo-classical elements and intriguing lead guitar work with ease. Lead vocalist/bassist Hansi Kürsch has a powerful and relatively raw voice, although he isn´t quite as rough sounding here as he would be on subsequent releases by Blind Guardian. Quite a few lyrics on the album are based on J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" (something they would of course explore much further on subsequent releases), but the band also touch other subjects, which are typically fantasy themed.

"Battalions of Fear" was recorded at Karo Studios, Münster, Germany in October–November 1987, with producer Kalle Trap. Considering the time of release and the fact that "Battalions of Fear" is a debut album, it´s relatively well produced. The album lacks a bit of bottom end and is a little thin sounding, but all details and instruments are clearly audible.

Upon conclusion "Battalions of Fear" is a pretty time typical German speed metal album and while the foundation of Blind Guardian´s great career was laid here, it´s not exactly obvious from listening to this album, how great that career would turn out to be. This is a decent but not excellent quality release and a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

AGENT STEEL Unstoppable Force

Album · 1987 · Speed Metal
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Time Signature
CoVinyl Part 4

So I came across an 1987 Music for Nations pressing of the classic album that is Agent Steel's "Unstoppable Force". I figured I might as well pick it up and I'm glad I did.

"Unstoppable Force" is the band's scond full-length effort following up on the debut "Skeptics Apocalypse" and the EP "Mad Locust Rising". While definitely similar in style and sound to the preceding releases in blending traditional metal and speed metal and combining more conventional song structures with more innovative ones, it seems to me that "Unstoppable Force" leans more towards traditional heavy metal than speed metal. Moreover, the song structures also strike me as a tad less innovative.

That said, this is still a magnificent album showcasing great musicianship - in particular on the part of the guitarists Juan Garcia and Bernie Versailles who treat the listener to both great riffing and awesome guitar solos as well as the occasional twin lead melody. In comparison to the debut album, the solos strike me as a bit more melodic with less focus on speed. The drums are also a bit more varied than on the debut. All of this probably owes to the fact that there are more midtempo songs than speed metal songs on this album. John Cyriis' vocals are still in the vein of Geoff Tate on this album, and the lyrics are still in the realm of sci-fi, UFOs and conspiracy theories, so there's not much new here. While all the songs are great on this album, the highlight to me is the instrumental "The Day at Guyana" (which is also found on "Mad Locust Rising"). With its dynamic borderline progressive structure, it's a real musical journey.

The production is very similar to that on the debut and on the preceding EP. So it's very 80s but there is less reverb than on your standard 80s metal release and a bit more richness. Thus, it should appeal to both old school 80s metal fans and younger fans of more contemporary metal.

The cover artwork is kind of weird, depicting what seems to be a bunch of laser beams blasting through rocks. It looks like something out of a sci-fi B-movie, so I suppose it does fit the overall lyrical themes of the album. So, yeah, a bit cheesy looking, but I also kind of like it. The logo still looks awesome in all its 80s glory. I can't decide whether I prefer this gold version or the silver version on the debut album.

In any case, if you are a fan of old school heavy metal and don't mind high-pitched pseudo-operatic vocals, then you should grab this album if you come across a version of it.

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