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
EXCITER
4.50 | 15 ratings
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ANGEL DUST Into the Dark Past Album Cover Into the Dark Past
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4.32 | 12 ratings
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ANGEL DUST To Dust You Will Decay Album Cover To Dust You Will Decay
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4.35 | 8 ratings
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HELLOWEEN Helloween Album Cover Helloween
HELLOWEEN
4.05 | 26 ratings
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WARRANT The Enforcer Album Cover The Enforcer
WARRANT
4.20 | 5 ratings
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STRIKER City Of Gold Album Cover City Of Gold
STRIKER
4.09 | 7 ratings
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AGENT STEEL Unstoppable Force Album Cover Unstoppable Force
AGENT STEEL
4.00 | 15 ratings
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HELLOWEEN Walls of Jericho Album Cover Walls of Jericho
HELLOWEEN
3.93 | 74 ratings
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VENOM Welcome to Hell Album Cover Welcome to Hell
VENOM
3.94 | 43 ratings
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ENFORCER From Beyond Album Cover From Beyond
ENFORCER
4.11 | 5 ratings
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STRIKER Stand in the Fire Album Cover Stand in the Fire
STRIKER
4.00 | 5 ratings
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RUNNING WILD Gates to Purgatory Album Cover Gates to Purgatory
RUNNING WILD
3.87 | 30 ratings
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speed metal Music Reviews

AGENT STEEL Unstoppable Force

Album · 1987 · Speed Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
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.

AGENT STEEL Skeptics Apocalypse

Album · 1985 · Speed Metal
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Time Signature
CoVinyl Part 3

I was lucky enough to find a reasonably priced 1985 Roadrunner pressing of this album in fairly good condition so I figured I might as well grab it.

And I'm glad I did, because - despite all the UFO and conspiracy theory cheese associated with Agent Steel - this is actually a very good speed metal release which offers a mix of high tempo speed metal bangers and mid-tempo traditional metal tunes. After a theatrical spoken intro in the form of 'The Calling', 'Agents of Steel' kicks in. This track was a bit of a hit back in the day, and it's easy to hear why. It's short, simple, aggressive and catchy. It's probably the most conventional track on the album which progresses from more traditionally structured tracks towards more innovative ones with a track like 'Children of the Sun' having an almost Mercyful Fate quality to it and 'Back to Reign' blending Maiden-style metal with a more aggressive approach.

The production is fairly typical of a mid 80s release, which means that you will have to live with the reverb that people overused back then. Fortunately, some restraint has been shown, so the reverb - while there - is not really too bad. Overall, the album actually has a quite rich production. The wongwriting is not quite consistent with some tracks being simplistic and others being more complex, but that just makes for some welcome variation overall. John Cyriis' vocals fall somewhere between a young Geoff Tate and King Diamond; some listeners might find his style too cheesy, but I quite like it. The listener is treated to some pretty good dual guitar lead sections as well as blistering fast thrash metal style guitar solos, and there are actually a lot of pretty cool riffs on this album too, in particular in the midtempo tracks.

I quite like the cover artwork which, with its picture of part of Earth's surface seen from space, combines simplicity with a sense of almost Lovecraftian dread. You know, what could be out there watching... waiting... that sort of stuff. It's not the kind of artwork that you can spend hours looking at of course (unlike, say, "Somewhere in Time" or "Powerslave"), but it fits the lyrical themes of the album pretty well. Also, I mean, the Agent Steel logo is fucking awesome in all its 80s glory, and placing the album title smack in the middle is a bold move as well.

Overall, this is a great speed metal release which should appeal to fans of not only speed metal but also traditional heavy metal and thrash metal as well as early power metal. Younger fans of contemporary retro speed metal should definitely go back and check this one out to. If you find a copy - be it an original one or one of the rereleases (or even a digital copy) - do yourself a favor and grab it.

AGENT STEEL Mad Locust Rising

EP · 1986 · Speed Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Time Signature
CoVinyl Part 1

Okay, so I'm one of those people who took up a bunch of new hobbies dirung the covid lockdowns. These include things as diverse as weight lifting, kombucha brewing, and vinyl collecting. One of the first vinyls I bought was Agent Steel's 1986 EP "Mad Locust rising", and I was lucky enough to get an original Music For Nations pressing from 1986 in pretty good condition (that's the European version; in the States, the EP was released on Combat Records). I figured that it would be fun to write a series of reviews of some the albums I amassed during the lockdowns, and this is going to be the first one.

So, this is a short and sweet 12-minute EP containing four tracks, one of which is a cover version of Judas Priest's classic 'The Ripper'; the remaining four are Agent Steel compositions. The opening track 'The Swarm Is Upon Us" is just a very short atmospheric introduction to set the mood for the title track 'Mad Locust Rising', and I gotta say this song is a speed metal banger. It's fast-paced throughout and features some fierce riffing and pretty good vocals by John Cyriis which are reminiscent of a young Geoff Tate. Agent Steel's version of 'The Ripper' is pretty cool too. It's very faithful to the original, but there are Agent Steel elements sprinkled on top. The closing track 'Let It Be Done/The Day At Guyana' is another fierce speed metal attack which, in my opinion, is even better than the title track.

The production is typical of an 80s metal release - in other words, it's pretty well produced, but there is the obligatory reverb on pretty much all instruments and the vocals that haunted many releases back in the day. Fortunately, it's not as bad as with some other 80s releases so it definitely doesnt detract from the overall listening experience. I think the production will spark nostalgia in people who were around in the 80s and curiosity in younger folk who might be more used to more polished releases. The musicianship and the songwriting are both top notch with great riffing and a solid rhythm section, and I particularly like the dynamic structure and the variation that characterizes the closing track.

Overall, this is a pretty sweet EP. Fans of speed metal and old school thrash metal should definitely check it out. This is good stuff.

LÄÄZ ROCKIT City's Gonna Burn

Album · 1984 · Speed Metal
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siLLy puPPy
One of the lesser known Bay Area metal bands to emerge out of the 80s, LÄÄZ ROCKIT formed in Berkeley in 1982 by the teenage duo of vocalist Michael Coons and guitarist Aaron Jellum who had become smitten with the developing heavy metal trends emerging. The two quickly recruited a second guitarist in the form of Phil Kettner along with drummer Victor Angelo but it would take another year to find the right bassist which finally filled the band once Willy Lange joined the band.

LÄÄZ ROCKIT quickly released the “Prelude to Death” demo which caught the attention of Target Records and in 1984 released this debut album CITY’S GONNA BURN which featured eight punchy period speed metal tracks that found the band in the same camp as bands like Metal Church, early Overkill and Running Wild. At this point mmLÄÄZ ROCKIT didn’t conquer the world with its by the books speed metal but the band would soon play with many of the much more successful bands like Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Exodus, Ratt, W.A.S.P. and many others.

CITY’S GONNA BURN is a fairly typical release from the mid-80s with thundering heavy metal twin guitar attacks, bantering bass and drum rhythmic bombast and those classic 80s vocal styles which in the case of Michael Coons alternates between a grittier proto-thrash style that would prognosticate the band’s later direction along with the lean and mean more operatic style of US power metal bands like Queensryche. The compositions are direct and to the point with no time wasted with intros or other bells and whistles. This is heavy metal thunder with no messing around.

The album is actually quite short and just misses the 30 minute mark but the tracks are all well constructed with instantly accessible melodic hooks and fiery performances with the biggest drawback resulting from the rather by the books approach which feels like the tracks could have used a bit more variety. The album is notorious for its awful production and for the original release that is quite true however the album was remastered and reissued in 2007 on the OSM which improved the production quality.

LÄÄZ ROCKIT was always one of those bands playing keep up with the big boyz and never really set the world on fire itself but in retrospect, this band was excellent at what it did even if originality wasn’t its strong point. CITY’S GONNA BURN is one of those albums that would’ve probably been buried beneath the more successful bands to emerge during this period but this debut is actually a decent slice of early speed metal with all those scrumptious classic 80s attributes without sounding like a derivative of any ban in particular. Coon’s excellent control of his vocal style prevents this from becoming cheesy and the musicians all deliver excellent performances. A very good if not downright spectacular speed metal album from metal’s early years.

AGENT STEEL Unstoppable Force

Album · 1987 · Speed Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
Unstoppable Force is the classification-defying Speed/Thrash/Heavy/US Power Metal band Agent Steel’s second full-length album, following up the exciting 1985 debut album Skeptic’s Apocalypse and the 1986 stop-gap EP Mad Locust Rising. The previous record was a blistering Priest, Maiden and NWOBHM influenced explosion of energy, that was reminiscent of a lot of the best early Thrash albums of the time and with a few Queensryche influences sprinkled on top. This 1987 sophomore effort carries on that sound (and UFO obsessed lyrical bent), but sees the LA band lean even more heavily on the early Queensryche sound. Singer John Cryiss definitely has been listening to more Geoff Tate since the last record, and even on the speedier tracks, like the appropriately named opener “Unstoppable Force,” and the catchy “Nothin Left” you can still pick up hints of Tate in his performance. However sometimes the whole band just goes for it and full-on writes a Queensryche song, such as on the moody mid-temp “Still Searching” which comes across as the missing link between The Warning and Rage For Order, or the atmospheric album closer “Traveller” which has some delicious Metallica Fade To Black sounding lead guitar to start off with, but quickly ends up being their equivalent of Roads To Madness; derivative – maybe, delightful – unarguably! The real album highlight however is the six-and-a-half minute instrumental workout “The Day At Guyana” (which is not a Manowar cover, in case you were wondering, but obviously named for the same Jonestown Cool Aid massacre). Like the previous album, clocking in at just over half an hour, this record is filler-free, to the point and great from start to finish. The playing, performance and production are all tighter and more professional than the debut, and this is a damn fine follow up and must have addition to your collection. If you like your Thrash and are also a big fan of Crimson Glory, Metal Church or especially early Queensryche, then this is essential listening.

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