[A Metal centric post]
Ask any metal fan which is their favorite symphonic speed metal band and the reply you’re most likely to get is Helloween.
(err… by Metal fans, I mean those who are hardcore into all types of metal and not those who know just the popular bands like Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica etc. Sorry folks, you don’t count.)
Speed metal is one of my favorite genres of metal. And I was high on Helloween ever since high school. Hence in this post we shall talk only about speed metal (and also a little bit about "power metal" because of the close correlation). Hope you enjoy this post.
First of all, for the uninitiated, what is Speed Metal?
According to allmusic:
In the early '80s, speed metal became the most popular form of heavy metal in the American underground. Speed metal was extremely fast, abrasive, and technically demanding — the bands played fast, but their attack was precise and clean.
Characterized by fast paced guitar riffs, rapid double bass drums and riotous tempos, what I LOVE about speed metal is the clear crispy lyrics amidst such aggressive music. Hence the likes of thrash, death, doom and black metal differ from speed metal in terms of clarity and morbidity.
Taking this "clean" quality of speed metal one notch higher, we have symphonic speed metal. But in this post I will refer to this genre as just "speed metal" as there are many schools of thought that believe symphony is now an integral part of speed (and also because many of the original popular speed metal bands are now categorized differently or have changed their style).
Helloween are truly the GODS of speed metal. No doubt about that.
As for me, I came into the Helloween scene late (because of my generation, duh) and was into Helloween only from the early 90s because of my seniors and cousins’ influences.
The first Helloween album I bought was their 7th album "The time of Oath" after my cousin Atea recommended it (around 95-96), and hence that’s my favorite album. I remember the time because money was tight those days (and extremely valuable since I was just a kid) and I bought that album with my own pocket money!!! (That, and Slayer’s "Seasons in the Abyss". Ah, nostalgia!)
"The time of Oath" brought tears to my eyes, especially since it was dedicated to their drummer Ingo who committed suicide the previous year. Based on the prophesies of Nostradamus, this album has the most number of my favorite Helloween songs - "power", "forever and one", "steel tormentor", "the time of oath", "wake up the mountain" and many more.
Funny thing about Helloween though. In the 90s, I couldn’t find any of their albums anywhere in Kolkatta or Chennai (they were still Calcutta and Madras those days). But walk the narrow small winding streets of Aizawl barabazaar and you could see all the roadside vendors with copies and copies of bands like Helloween, Testament, Pantera, Motörhead etc!
In school (St.Thomas - Calcutta and Montfort - Tamilnadu) whenever I tell my non-Mizo friends about this amazing band Helloween, they would immediately correct me, "Kima, Halloween is pronounced HAL-O-WEEN. HAL. HAL. Not HEL. Say it slowly… HAL… O… WEEEEN. You have a slight Mizo accent."
And I would be like, “What the bloody @^$&%$#. The name of the band is HELL-O-WEEN. HELL!!! HELL! NOT HAL."
Yeah, those were difficult times!
Also do not miss "Keeper of the seven keys part 1", considered to be Helloween’s best album and harbinger of symphonic speed / power metal into mainstream rock. The Dark Ride (2000) was the last album I bought before I discovered napster, audiogalaxy and their successors.
But the world of Speed metal is not just Helloween. There are numerous amazing bands out there that follow the styles of Helloween. I’ll take you through two other favorite bands of mine.
Perpetual Twilight and The Final Requiem are my favorite albums. Fast paced guitar riffing and bass beat, the songs you MUST check out are perpetual twilight, king of tragedy, the cross we bear, blind leading the blind and the sands of time.
Like vocalist Andi Deris of Helloween, Axenstar’s vocalist Magnus Winterwild has a unique high pitch voice that you can easily distinguish – A voice that seems to transport you across interdimensional realms of psychedelic metal fusion. (RSJ, please hire me! )
Ok stop grinning. Yeah I find the name corny too!
Sounds like those anime on cartoon network with space ships that can transform into one giant dragon shaped robot right?
But they’re my second favorite speed metal band. "Valley of the damned" is a masterpiece, an example of their many fantasy based themes. And again, like the two bands mentioned above, ZP Theart, vocalist and frontman, has that really melodic and high pitch voice which makes their songs so soothing and pleasant to listen to.
If you haven’t listened to "Through the fire and flames", then you are missing something! It’s their most popular and acclaimed song, and probably the best speed metal song so far! (Just my opinion)
Youtube link of their music video here:
The song even featured in the Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock game, where it was proclaimed the most difficult stage!
[img src blog.wired and istyles ]
Herman Li, guitarist of DragonForce himself could complete just 2% in the HARD difficulty level! If you can complete it at EXPERT difficulty level, then you earn "The Inhuman Achievement" in XBOX 360!!!
And here is 9 years old Ben scoring a whopping 866K on this! I don’t know if he’s the same kid I saw on the Ellen DeGeneres show, but that kid in the show was also playing this same "Through the fire and flames" track.
Here’s the video of Ben in action:
And last but not the least, here is a BOT playing this same game to perfection, programmed by JefffN666.
Before you sign off, try to get hold of another DragonForce song called "Soldiers of a Wasteland" which is as awesome as the above too!
With that, I too will call it a day. Wish I could tell you about my other favorite speed metal bands like Blind Guardian, Running Wild, Accept, Rage, Grave Digger, Sinner etc but due to time and space constraint I’ll get back to my speed metal meditation for now.
Cheers and rock on!
Ps. A little help required from my Mizo visitors - While describing DragonForce, I wanted to say "Guitar zut an tlir kha, a phuh in an rawn phuh chhuak". How do I say this in English??? The closest I could come to was, "They spewed out rapid strumming in quick succession" but that is pathetic and doesn't make any sense. Help anyone?