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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:
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Demo · 1980 ·
The beginning of all things extreme metal can be traced back to this single demo released by VENOM in 1980 appropriately titled DEMON. While the early classic lineup consisted of Cronos (Conrad Lant) on vocals and bass, Mantas (Jeff Dunn) on guitars and Abaddon (Tony Bray) on drums, this three track cassette-only demo is the only VENOM release to feature Clive Archer aka Jesus Christ on vocals. Yep, JC dropped down from heaven to lend a hand at creating the big bang of everything thrash, death and black in the metal universe to follow! Saviors have their work cut out for them, ya know.
Despite what seems like a rather generic black metal album cover from the future with the inverted pentagram complete with a blurred goat depiction and black background with white font, DEMON is much more in the NWOBHM realms but don’t expect Angel Witch or Iron Maiden here. VENOM started out with an interest in Satanic shock value lyrics from the beginning. While very much rooted in the 70s blues oriented heavy rock scene, VENOM does turn up the steam a bit more than their contemporaries with heavier distortion on guitars and bass along with more pummeling rhythmic and percussive attacks. Also JC delivers some decent growly vocals at this early year sounding somewhat like a more talented Lemmy from Motorhead.
While “Angel Dust” and “Red Light Fever” would end up on the debut release “Welcome To Hell,” “Raise The Dead” would end up on the second release “Black Metal.” Of course all of these would be re-recorded with Chronos picking up JC’s savior torch. Despite this being rare and never re-released and ground zero for an entire sub-universe of the metal kingdom, it is hardly an essential release for listening purposes as the differences between the second versions are of much higher quality and Chronos’ vocals sound pretty much exactly the same as JC. This demo is merely of historical importance for its opening up the Pandora’s Box of extreme metal. Worth a listen on YouTube, for sure.
Album · 1989 ·
'Follow the Blind', the follow-up to 1988's debut 'Battalions of Fear', more-or-less follows in the footprints left by its predecessor in being nothing more than a generic, run-of-the-mill late 80's power/speed metal album.
While there are some very subtle orchestral elements dotted around here and there, a sign of where Blind Guardian would go with future releases, it's still a long way off from what would go on to become the bands defining sound. The songwriting never strays far from the speed metal clichés, and Hansi Kursch's vocals, normally a pleasure to listen to, have yet to reach their full maturity here.
The true gem of this record is no doubt 'Banished from Sanctuary', a song which remains a staple of any live set to this day. Otherwise, most of the songs sound pretty similar and it's hard to really pick out any specific highlights. The production sounds exactly how you would expect it to, giving the music a raw, harshness that it needs, and a guest appearance from Kai Hansen (of Helloween/Gamma Ray fame), is a welcome addition, though only further distinguishes this album as nothing more than a standard power metal affair.
Overall, it's not a terrible record, and I love Blind Guardian, it's just that this is a band still trying to find themselves. They'd certainly develop a sound to call their own over the next few albums, but otherwise, 'Follow the Blind' is one I'd recommend solely to the collectors.
Album · 1984 ·
"City's Gonna Burn" is the debut full-length studio album by US, San Francisco, California based thrash/heavy metal act Lääz Rockit. The album was released through Target Entertainment in 1984. Lääz Rockit was formed in 1982 and while they are not often mentioned when speaking of the most prolific Bay Area thrash metal acts of the 80s, they were a big part of the development of that scene.
Just like the case are on many other early 80s albums by US thrash metal artists (I could mention early releases by Anthrax and Overkill among others), "City's Gonna Burn" really isn´t that thrashy. The music on the album is instead an attitude filled type of heavy metal with the occasional more speed metal oriented outburst. The tracks are relatively short, to the point and very catchy with anthemic choruses that you can sing along to. Lead vocalist Michael Coons is a great asset to the band´s sound. He has a raw delivery but is also able to sing more clean notes and his performance here is both passionate and convincing. The riffs are memorable (but nothing too much out of the ordinary for the style), the guitar solos well played, and the rhythm section solid.
"City's Gonna Burn" also features an organic, and for the time, very well sounding and powerful sound production. Lääz Rockit actually have a lot of great things going for them on this album and had their material been slightly more original sounding, "City's Gonna Burn" could have been a killer thrash/heavy metal album. As it is there are quite a few other albums in this style I´d pick up before this one, but isolated seen it´s a great listen and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.