Faster, tighter and more abrasive than standard heavy metal, speed metal was propelled by the new wave of British heavy metal bands and the likes of Metallica and Anthrax in the US.
Speed metal maintained the volume and distortion from 70s heavy metal but took on the emphatic rhythms of hardcore and punk. Key to the speed metal sound is high-level technical skill, allowing seriously punishing riffage – speed metal guitar riffs regularly clock in at 230bpm but you won’t hear a bum note.
This hugely popular sub-genre rapidly transformed into thrash, which saw a (slight) softening of the rules on tempo and swing, but no such let-up when it came to volume and precision.
Key band: Metallica
Metallica pushed the upper limits of speed and volume but kept technical ability and musicianship at the heart of their complex songs.
Key album:Anthrax: Among The Living
Socially aware, dark and ferociously fast, Among The Living is everything speed metal should be.
Key song: Metallica: Fight fire With Fire
A killer example of precision guitar-work from James Hetfield.
Further reading: Thrash and speed metal blog, here.
Silver Dragon Records, here.