Speed metal is..Speed metal is a genre of heavy metal borne of necessity, and one which helped shape and define metal as we know it today.
Why? Because the very essence of speed metal is the epitome of everything that metal music is ultimately all about; pushing things to the limit.
For as long as anyone can care to remember, metal musicians, whether consciously or subconsciously, have been trying to out-do each other and themselves, constantly pushing their work to the extreme in an attempt to be harder, heavier, louder and, of course, faster.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SPEED
It was for this reason that prominent seventies metal bands such as Judas Priest, Motorhead and Deep Purple (who's song Highway Star', with its quick and clever solos and high-speed one-note riffary is largely credited as the first speed metal song) upped the tempo of their tunes and essentially created the blueprint for what speed metal would become.
Over time, New Wave of British Heavy Metal (commonly referred to as NWOBHM), bands such as Iron Maiden, Raven and Venom (who themselves would go on to be regarded as the founders of black metal) would develop the genre further, lending their influence to a number of bands who would later be revered as the Big Four' of yet another genre of music; thrash metal.
Slayer's satanic debut Show No Mercy', Metallica's barnstorm of blood n' beer known as Kill Em All', Anthrax's furious debut Fistful of Metal' and Megadeth's Killing is My Business.And Business is Good' all contained elements of speed metal combined with punk's aggressive streak and visceral guitars which would ultimately be the genesis of thrash metal.
Speed metal's influence on the metal genre as a whole didn't end there though, and in 1988, German band Helloween would release their debut album Walls of Jericho', and both band and album are largely credited with forming the foundations of what would become known as power metal, a sound noted for it's speed, high-pitched vocals and a lyrical fondness for fantasy and mythology.
Whilst not as prominent today, speed metal still enjoys a large following, with bands such as Agent Steel and Primal Fear leading the way for the next genre of heavy metal music to develop from the foundations of speed metal.
SPEED METAL IN A NUTSHELL:
So that's the history of the genre, but what exactly is speed metal'?
Though the two are often used interchangeably, speed and thrash metal are two separate genres; speed metal characteristically employing the same break-neck riffs as thrash, yet forgoing the brutality of the latter to make way for a heavier emphasis on melody and technical excellence.
Written by Chris Skoyles