- Here’s two articles I wrote which make sense pair together as one. If you ain’t into 80s metal or old speed metal even you might feel a bit like a cheap alloy but don’t fear the reaper as I have loads of contentious, irritating and opinionated a-hole pieces on politics, society and culture coming up….
- RATTLE YOUR GOD DAMN HEAD……..
What is the damn difference anyways between thrash and speed metal? I was discussing this very point with my good friend and satanic speed metal acolyte Rob from Vomitor only last weekend. We were playing ‘Obsessed by Cruelty’ and debating it as proto death metal? was it black metal or speed metal…black speed metal even? of course we are metal nerds just like all of you so it became pretty complicated and heated.
What speed metal is is implied in the name of course, it needs the speed, the manic intensity but the difference really is in the style of guitar playing and notation. If we take what is for example an archetypal speed metal record like ‘Killing is my business’ by Megadeth and let’s say a standard thrash metal album, Testament’s ‘The new order’ or ‘practise what you preach’ of course you will notice ‘rattlehead’ and ‘the mechanix’ are without a doubt faster then the mostly mid paced thrashings of Testament but in thrash you have this palm muting technique, which basically in simple terms is this staccato right hand wrist action while strumming, very tight but creates the thrash chunk…can we call it that? mix that with the typical power or bar chord structure, ala ‘Master of puppets’ and you can hear what i mean right?
Speed metal can have a more Iron Maiden approach, or rather Maiden and Priest on crack, more attention to open string strumming and single note harmonies. Raven for example are the perfect proto speed metal band but you could never really call them tonally ‘heavy’, it’s more a manic note based attack with the nasty amphetamine attack of Motorhead rock n roll . Early Bathory for example we could call satanic speed metal even, ‘Show no Mercy’ is a great example of the difference. The whole album owes even more to Priest and Maiden than anything else, ‘The Antichrist’ or ‘Crionics’ and even Raven then thrash metal, or what became thrash metal. This very fast picking movement through notes and more traditional metal harmonies. So…..’Show no mercy’ is speed metal…..but is ‘Reign in Blood’ thrash metal?……we could probably justifiably argue this point.
Heaviness is translated as this manic intensity, less distortion for the most part as the sensibilities of Maiden, Priest and Fate were not about about the heaviest tone, I mean we could probably still discuss ‘Rust in Peace’ as speed metal….in fact a part of me really doesn’t think of Megadeth as a thrash metal band whereas ‘Among the Living’ is full of this mid paced palm muted ‘chunk’ I mentioned earlier, ’I am the law’? this is thrash metal…..yet ‘Armed and Dangerous’ is more like speed metal. Confused yet?
When I think about it it’s always been the dirty speed metal that has attracted me more than the hefty chunk of thrash, despite considering myself a thrasher back in the day, it was always the filthy rasp of ‘Armageddon’ from the first Bathory that appealed to me more than the Bermuda short thrash metal of ‘State of Euphoria’ or where most of the Bay Area went after 88. The frenetic youthful burst of adrenalin was where my heart was at and still now on the cusp of middle age when I hear the scraped pick and bass intro to ‘Take this torch’ i feel the rush of speed metal power!!!! you don’t get that from ‘Practise what you preach’…..
Yet I would argue that the lines between speed and thrash are very fine and cross over of course all the time but if any style of metal is so hard to recreate in 2017 it seems to be speed/thrash, for me it so stylistically and culturally belongs in 1985, it exists riding on the wave of nwobhm and the naive yet beautiful energy of 80s metal in virgin territory, where the scene moved so fast and quickly. One month ‘Hell Awaits’ shifted the world and then without a moments pause we had ‘Morbid tales’ and then ‘Rrrooaarrr’…..month after month of genre altering and defining classics. We were part of a moment that was taking over the world on it’s own terms, pushing boundaries and despite the sound looking forward. Now we are compelled to look backwards and try to recreate what once was.
It can never quite be the same…..but take a moment to enjoy and worship at the altar of youthful impetuosity and abandon because at it’s heart that is what speed metal is. The energy and recklessness of naked aggression.
My speed metal 20 playlist
agent steel ‘mad locust rising’
at war ‘rapechase’
slayer ‘evil has no boundaries’
exciter ‘stand up and fight’
razor ‘take this torch’
destruction ‘total desaster’
holy terror ‘debt of pain’
metallica ‘no life til leather’
helloween ‘ride the sky’
raven ‘i dont need your money’
enforcer ‘live for the night’
sadus ‘certain death’
destroyer 666 ‘satanic speed metal’
rigor mortis ‘wizard of gore’
flotsam and jetsam ‘hammerhead’
hallows eve ‘plunging to megadeath’
Nightmare before the Storm
In the old Virgin Megastore in Dublin in the 80s they used to have a sale at the end of the year of vinyls and cassettes without covers for the princely sum of 50p. Me and a friend used to spend hours and hours going through huge buckets and boxes and then I would draw my own covers or copy the original as faithfully as I could when I should have been paying attention in school. I still have some of those hand painted cassette covers, a clear indicator of the artist I was born to be 🙂 Was about summer 1987 perhaps and my long suffering grandfather had been sent with me into town to buy new football boots but I had brought him to the Virgin Megastore to stand by as I rooted around looking for 50pence cassettes. The patience of a Saint that man had!
Note to you all that it was Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin Megastore who was the first to break the Irish republics law on selling contraceptives openly over the counter in that very shop in 1990! Yep 90! that was the country we lived in. Anyway….back to the cheap cassettes.
‘Nightmare’ by Venom was one of that days cheap finds, along with Exciter, Helstar and Omen all for the princely tithe of £2. I’d graduated from AC/DC to Maiden and Priest and by the end of 86 and start of 87 was descending quickly to speed metal hell via Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer. I’d just started buying Metal magazines and of course in 87 to a 12 or 13 year old 1983 seemed like a lifetime away, but 80 and 81 was another country entirely. by 87 Venom were more or less done and the early albums got mentioned in dispatches now and again in those mags but they were not easy to find, scenes moved fast and by 87, thrash metal was king and ‘Welcome to Hell’ was not what young teenagers were on the move for. Well except for me that is but back in those days you would only have found a copy in the second hand vinyl racks.
‘Nightmare’ on cassette was quite a find, little did I know it was something of an anomaly in the Venom cannon, their last stand so to speak. To say I wore out that cassette would be an understatement, even the answerphone message somehow seemed engaging…..
It started what was an utter and consuming love affair between Venom and myself, while most of my peers were waiting for ‘The new order’ or ‘and justice for all’ I was busy going around all the second hand shops scouring the bins for old Venom records. Very often you would find albums that had just been released second hand the following week as they sold so many copies back in the day in Dublin that the % game would bear fruit and X amount of copies would show up for half the price one week later. It was at this time my burgeoning Venom obsession was nearly derailed, standing in some old vinyl shop debating whether to buy ‘Welcome to Hell’ on the one hand and ‘Calm before the storm’ on the other…..well the newer album has to probably be the best one right? the heaviest? right…….but on the other hand these guys have axes on the back of the other album sleeve, much cooler right? In the end I was way to logical for my age and went with ‘Calm’, it was the same weekend that someone gave me a cassette of ‘Pleasure to Kill’ and ‘Obsessed by Cruelty’. I stared at ‘Calm’ going round on my turntable with indignation. This was Venom? At that time there was a cable TV show called ‘Monsters of Rock’ on SKY tv presented by a guy called Mick Wall, who is still writing about metal today as I recall, my still long suffering grandfather had brought a satellite disc back from NY so every Saturday me and my cousin watched Monsters of Rock and held up a little tape recorded to the speaker to catch songs we didn’t know…..’Seven Gates of Hell’ from Hammersmith came on one Saturday with the curtains drawn. This was not ‘Calm before the storm’, this was what I was expecting, still probably my favourite Venom track, despite what I wrote elsewhere 🙂 this sent me back out into the record shops with a mission to find pre Nightmare Venom!
For the record the title track of ‘Calm’ is f’kin awesome and it has a few great tracks but my heavier, faster nastier pre pubescent self wanted something entirely different. I saved up a few more 50ps, I think my allowance back then was £2 old Irish pounds per week, so what we used to do was get up for school earlier and get off the bus to school 3 stops early to save 20p on the bus fair, do that every day of the week and you had £1 more at the end of the week. Mow a few lawns, paint a few walls and you might have two second hand vinyls every Saturday. Thankfully one whole week later sitting at the back of the box in a dingy vinyl shop in Temple bar, (where you all go to Irish theme pubs claiming they all exist since 1778 when you visit Ireland and pay extortionate prices for Guinness) called Comet Records if I remember correctly and sure enough ‘Welcome to hell’ was still there for £2.95 second hand. This was my eureka moment. When the needle hit the vinyl it all became clear, the face that launched a thousand ships, ground zero…..whatever you want to call it. The rest as they say is history! and I never did buy ‘The New Order’……