Speed metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal music that originated in the late 1970s from New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) and hardcore punk roots. It is described by Allmusic as "extremely fast, abrasive, and technically demanding" music.

"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."[1]


 [hide*1 Origins



One of the key influences on the development of speed metal was the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, or NWOBHM /nˈwɒbm/, 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; acts such as the American metal band Metallica cite NWOBHM bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon, Motörhead and Diamond Head as a major influence on their musical style.

The NWOBHM came to dominate the heavy metal scene of the early-mid-1980s. NWOBHM 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.

Hardcore punk[edit]Edit

Another key influence on the development of speed metal was the genre of hardcore punk (usually referred to simply as hardcore), a punk rock music genre and subculture that originated in the late 1970s. Hardcore music is generally faster, heavier, and more abrasive than regular punk rock. Speed metal has less hardcore influence than thrash metal.

According to, the overall blueprint for hardcore was playing louder, harder and faster. Hardcore vocalists often shout, scream or chant along with the music, an approach that was taken up by thrash bands. Hardcore vocal lines are often based on minor scales. Hardcore songs may include shouted background vocals from the other band members. Guitar parts in hardcore can be complex, technically versatile and rhythmically challenging.

Other metal influences[edit]Edit

[1][2]Motorhead playing in 2005.

Motörhead is often credited as the first band to invent/play speed metal.[2] Some of speed metal's earlier influences include Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave", Deep Purple's "Fireball" andQueen's "Stone Cold Crazy" (which was eventually covered by the thrash metal band Metallica), from their 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack,[3] and Deep Purple's song "Highway Star", from their album Machine Head. The latter was called 'early speed metal' by Robb Reiner of speed metal band Anvil.[4]


Black Sabbath is a British heavy metal band from England, and are often cited as one of the grandfathers of the genre. Though usually known for playing a fairly slow, sludgy tempo, "After Forever" is a very up-tempo song with a much faster pace than other songs in their catalogue. Still in certain other songs such as "Electric Funeral", "Into the Void" and "Under the Sun (Every Day Comes and Goes)" there is a section in the middle of the song that shifts away from the core music and plays much faster pace than in the rest of the song, then returns to the original melody.

Exciter is a Canadian speed metal band from Ottawa, Ontario which was formed in 1978. They are widely considered to be one of the first speed metal bands and a seminal influence of the thrash metal genre. Anvil are a Canadian speed metal band from Toronto, Ontario, formed in 1978. To date, the band has released fifteen studio albums, and has been cited as having influenced many notable heavy metal groups, including Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and Metallica.

Accept is a German heavy metal which band played an important role in the development of speed and thrash metal, being part of the German heavy metal scene, which emerged in the early to mid-1980s.

Judas Priest are a British heavy metal band formed in Birmingham, England in 1969. They often played faster than most rock groups of the time and brought a more "metallic" sound to the guitars. Some songs, such as 1978's "Exciter", were groundbreaking for their sheer ferocity and speed; few, if any, bands excepting Motörhead, played with the same tempo.

Annihilator is a Canadian speed/thrash metal band founded in 1984 by vocalist, guitarist and bassist Jeff Waters. They are the highest selling heavy metal group in Canadian history, having sold 2 million records worldwide.

Speed metal eventually evolved into thrash metal.[5] Although many tend to equate the two subgenres, others argue that there is a distinct difference between them. In his book Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy MetalIan Christe states that "...thrash metal relies more on long, wrenching rhythmic breaks, while speed metal... is a cleaner and more musically intricate subcategory, still loyal to the dueling melodies of classic metal."

Regional differences[edit]Edit

Speed metal's sound varied between various regional scenes. European bands leaned towards the sound of bands like Venom and Motörhead. Japanese bands had a more melodic sound that resembled power metal. North American bands had a faster, more aggressive sound that would later influence the thrash metal movement.

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