Speed metal

Speed metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that originated in the late 1970s from new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) roots. It is described by AllMusic as "extremely fast, abrasive, and technically demanding" music.[2]

"It is usually considered less abrasive and more melodic than thrash metal, showing less influence from hardcore punk. However, speed metal is usually faster and more aggressive than traditional heavy metal, also showing more inclination to virtuoso soloing and featuring short instrumental passages between couplets. Speed metal songs frequently make use of highly expressive vocals, but are usually less likely to employ 'harsh' vocals than thrash metal songs."[3]


New wave of British heavy metal

One of the key influences on the development of speed metal was the new wave of British heavy metal, or NWOBHM. This was a heavy metal movement that started in the late 1970s, in Britain, and achieved international attention by the early 1980s. NWOBHM bands toned down the blues influences of earlier acts, incorporated elements of punk, increased the tempo, and adopted a "tougher" sound, taking a harder approach to its music.

It was an era directed almost exclusively at heavy metal fans and is considered to be a major foundation stone for the extreme metal genres.

The NWOBHM came to dominate the heavy metal scene of the early-mid-1980s. It was musically characterized by fast upbeat tempo songs, power chords, fast guitar solos and melodic, soaring vocals. Groups such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Venom, Saxon and Motörhead as well as many lesser-known ones, became part of the canon that influenced American bands that formed in the early eighties.

Other metal influences

Motorhead playing in 2005

Motörhead is often credited as the first band to play speed metal.[4] Some of speed metal's earlier influences include Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave", Budgie's "Breadfan" and Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy" (the latter two were eventually covered by the thrash metal band Metallica),[5] as well as certain Deep Purple songs such as "Speed King", "Fireball" and "Highway Star". The latter was called "early speed metal" by Robb Reiner of speed metal band Anvil.[6]

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