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

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EXCITER Heavy Metal Maniac Album Cover Heavy Metal Maniac
EXCITER
4.58 | 12 ratings
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AGENT STEEL Unstoppable Force Album Cover Unstoppable Force
AGENT STEEL
4.31 | 12 ratings
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ANGEL DUST Into the Dark Past Album Cover Into the Dark Past
ANGEL DUST
4.31 | 11 ratings
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ANGEL DUST To Dust You Will Decay Album Cover To Dust You Will Decay
ANGEL DUST
4.38 | 7 ratings
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HELLOWEEN Helloween Album Cover Helloween
HELLOWEEN
4.07 | 24 ratings
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HELLOWEEN Walls of Jericho Album Cover Walls of Jericho
HELLOWEEN
3.97 | 70 ratings
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STRIKER City Of Gold Album Cover City Of Gold
STRIKER
4.09 | 7 ratings
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EXCITER Long Live the Loud Album Cover Long Live the Loud
EXCITER
4.08 | 6 ratings
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ENFORCER From Beyond Album Cover From Beyond
ENFORCER
4.11 | 5 ratings
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VENOM Welcome to Hell Album Cover Welcome to Hell
VENOM
3.93 | 39 ratings
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RUNNING WILD Gates to Purgatory Album Cover Gates to Purgatory
RUNNING WILD
3.90 | 28 ratings
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STRIKER Stand in the Fire Album Cover Stand in the Fire
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BÜTCHER 666 Goats Carry My Chariot

Album · 2020 · Speed Metal
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Nightfly
Until a few weeks ago I’d never even heard of Butcher. After hearing a couple of advance tracks off 666 Goats Carry My Chariot, their second album, I immediately went in search of their first, Bestial Fukkin Warmachine and was so impressed I ordered the pair of them straight away.

Butcher come from Belgium, a country I don’t have too many metal albums from with only Bathsheba, Saille, Aborted and Enthroned coming to mind. Butcher doesn’t sound like any of them. What we have here is a very retro 80’s sounding blend of speed and thrash metal with a bit of black metal borrowed from Darkthrone thrown in here and there. This stuff is manic from the histrionic often high pitched vocals of R Hellshrieker to the music which is very busy and fast most of the times. Guitarist KK Ripper unleashes an impressive barrage of riffs, licks and solos, the kind that drew me into this kind of extreme metal back in the 80’s.The rhythm section of bassist AH Wrathchylde and drummer LV Speedhammer tie it all down, though their playing is equally busy and at times this frantic melee sounds on the verge of all falling apart, which is not a criticism and is a measure of their skill in holding it all together. It all adds to the retro vibe aided by an analogue (I presume, it certainly sounds it) production. You can imagine this is how the band sound on stage as it has very live feel without loads of overdubs in the guitar department.

I liked the first album very much, which I’d played a few times before getting this, but on 666 Goats Carry My Chariot they have raised the bar with an even stronger collection of songs. I don’t suppose you’ll hear much new music like this this year so lap it up, you won’t regret it.

ENFORCER Zenith

Album · 2019 · Speed Metal
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Kev Rowland
I’m not too sure what Enforcer were trying to achieve with this album, but probably not this. Here is a band who have toured with the likes of Destruction, Flotsam and Jetsam, Nervosa, Warbringer, and Cauldron and have built a reputation on heavy/speed metal. Although they have attempted to keep to their speed roots, they have also over-commercialised it, slowed it down, and filled it full if Eighties clichés. The result is something which is listened to as a duty as opposed to something which is completed out of any desire to hear what is coming next. This is music which has attempted to hit a formula, but the band have been unable to decipher the equation have come up with something which misses on nearly all levels. That the production is strong (although it needs more bottom end) is never in doubt, nor that the guys can play and that Olof Wikstrand has a strong traditional HM voice, but the songs are weak and the arrangements worse.

This really is for fans only, and it will be interesting to see how they come back from this. They took a long time to record this and perhaps when they get back out into the real world and hit the stages again then they will revisit the passion they have displayed prior to this. This is not an album anyone new to the band should be investing in.

FIRESTRÖM And the Candle Burns​.​.​.

EP · 2015 · Speed Metal
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siLLy puPPy
FIRESTRÖM is a band from Yuba City, CA that consists of just two members. D.S. is the guitarist and bassist and J.G. is the drummer and vocalist. The band hasn’t yet released any full length albums but this debut demo is now considered an EP since it was made available digitally on Bandcamp.

I’m not sure what to make of this band. While this is a 2015 release it sounds like a long lost demo from the mid-80s at the time when speed metal was infused with crust punk and slowly but surely creeping into thrash metal territory. This release AND THE CANDLE BURNS… showcases five tracks that find speed metal riffing teased into punk rock compositions. The album has a lo-fi production job which gives it a black metal feel as well.

To my ears this sounds like something that was recorded over 30 years ago and only made available today but it could be that the band simply wanted to emulate that era but if so they did a convincing job of it. Overall there is nothing to get excited about here. This is decent crusty punk infused speed metal and some proto-thrash / black leanings but doesn’t measure up to early Celtic Frost, Venom or G.I.S.M, however if you just can’t get enough of that early era of metal where all the extreme varieties were still infused into one then this isn’t bad.

The EP starts off with a noisy ghoulish intro “Tongue Of The Dead” before erupting into the more standard punk speed metal with “Deathly Night.” While the tracks are punk in style, there are galloping speed metal riffs and traditional classic metal guitar licks that give it all a more melodic feel than plain crust punk. There are many similarities to classic Motorhead as well. Overall not bad but the production is really as bad as it gets. Great as a lo-fi underground type of listening experience but not one to go out of your way to find either.

VENOM Welcome to Hell

Album · 1981 · Speed Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Whether it’s true or not, i have always seen the satire movie Spinal Tap as a parody of the early years of VENOM. Just one look at a photo of VENOM circa 1981 with the release of their debut album WELCOME TO HELL and i can’t help but think of Spinal Tap since at this early stage was down to three members after Clive Archer aka Jesus Christ left the band and Cronos took over that role. The trio looked very much like David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls but the fictional band was tamed down to a mere rock band status for mass consumption. The reason i have always made this comparison is because when it came to VENOM’s landmark and revolutionary debut album WELCOME TO HELL, the band made one of the most laughable music industry bungles in all of metal history. The band thought they were recording a demo when in fact they were recording an entire album. Every time i think of this tale, for some reason i flash back to that scene in “This Is Spinal Tap” where a miniature version of Stonehenge ends up on stage after the measurements were bungled!

Well, sometimes the biggest bungles lead to unforeseen notoriety and in the case of VENOM it couldn’t have been more of enigmatic coincidence as WELCOME TO HELL not only exposed the world to a new grittier style of heavy metal that would become known as speed metal but also proved to be the nascent birth pangs of all the extreme forms of metal such as thrash, death and black metal sub-genres that would emerge several years down the road. Not bad for one of metal’s biggest Homer Simpson award moments! 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, the three track cassette-only demo is the only VENOM release to feature Clive Archer aka Jesus Christ on vocals. By the time VENOM got around to this full-length album they were a mere trio of Cronos (vocals, bass), Mantas (guitars) and Abaddon (drums.)

VENOM were a rowdy bunch and took as much inspiration from punk inspired bands like Motorhead as they did from the NWOBHM that was finding traction with bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. This mixing it up of styles and a desire to take things to ever more extreme arenas earned WELCOME TO HELL the honor as ground zero for the extreme metal universe to follow and add to that the unforeseen lo-fi production that truly gives this album the ultimate underground DIY aesthetics only proved to be a plus. While the musical style is more rooted in the NWOBHM that was popular at the time, VENOM took headbangers into the world of the dark side of the occult and while the black metal world that followed would take on a completely musical approach, this release provided enough lyrical and darkened imagery to inspire for generations to come. With an opening track titled “Sons of Satan” and the closer “In League With Satan,” VENOM created one of the most vile sounding recordings of the era.

WELCOME TO HELL was aptly named as it sounds exactly like an 11 track romp through the underworld with Luciferian sermons mixed with buzzsaw fueled musical ceremonies. The metal world was just getting used to the sounds of the NWOBM and then this blasphemous noise emerged from nowhere. The censors were not pleased but VENOM let the genie out of the bottle and the snowball effect with bands getting more extreme and in every direction. Soon speed metal would evolve into the early thrash metal of Slayer and Metallica while Hellhammer and Bathory would emulate the evil aspects of WELCOME TO HELL and create more sinister refined musical terror to accompany its hitherto unthinkable content. This album was a noisy cacophonous mess to the ears of most (and still is) but underneath its lo-fi orotundity lurked a menacing parade of subject matter that could wake Aleister Crowley from the dead.

VENOM’s approach here is fairly primitive compared to the crazy complex black metal that would evolve but yet for all it’s school boy garage band simplicity, it struck pay dirt with its gleeful celebratory stance of unbridled Satanism and no fucks given, an approach not experienced in heavier music since Black Widow’s famous 1970 album “Sacrifice.” Personally it took me a while for this one to grow on me. VENOM has never been synonymous with sophistication. This band was all about blood, guts and glory and of course praising the most taboo subjects that offended the religious prudish values that had a stranglehold on both sides of the Atlantic. While not quite black metal and not quite thrash, WELCOME TO HELL nevertheless contains the seeds of both and the blueprints laid out here were quickly put to good use. Even Motley Crue took it to heart and created one of the first mainstream albums to implement the sacrilegious subject matter on their album “Shout At The Devil” just a couple years later.

While not the most consistent ride as some tracks tend to rely too much on the NWOBHM template, WELCOME TO HELL nonetheless remains an intriguing listen not only as a historical artifact but as an early proto-extremity of the a much heavier metal paradigm that would emerge. Tracks like “Red Light Fever” are primed and ready to destroy eardrums all across the globe with buzzsaw guitar distortion and tribally inspired drums running on fully fueled high octane. Even Cronos’ vocal style signifies a depraved and deranged nature that would become the staple of psychotic growly vocal styles to come. While VENOM couldn’t stay relevant for much longer after they dropped this extreme metal bomb upon an unsuspecting world as an army of new talent would quickly eclipse their efforts, VENOM nevertheless delivered two stellar albums that redefined the possibilities of just how extreme music can get and for that i’m eternally grateful!

EXCITER Heavy Metal Maniac

Album · 1983 · Speed Metal
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Warthur
Staaaaaaaaand by for Exciiiiiteeeeer! It's a ballsy move for a band to name themselves after a Judas Priest song - especially a Priest song which makes it sound like Halford is acting as a hype man for the band in question. But if anyone's earned the right to the name, it's drummer-vocalist Dan Beehler's crew of Canadian speed metal pioneers.

Taking the fastest and most brutal Priest and Motorhead offer as their starting point, Exciter offer on their debut album a selection of songs which turn the brutality and speed of their influences up to 11, and helped to blaze a trail both for speed metal and early thrash. With Priest eventually turning to speed metal for an injection of extra power on Painkiller, the feedback loop eventually came full circle, but Priest never went quite this darkly chaotic in their production as Exciter do here.

In heavy metal's 1980s arms race, it's hard to pick apart who was at the front of the pack at any time - but it feels like any chronicle which skips over Exciter is missing a beat. Set it against any other album from 1983 and it more than holds its own - listen to it by itself and it still makes you want to get out there and break stuff.

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