Tape Wyrm LIV: German Speed Tape Wyrm LIV: German Speed

TWlogo3One of the more confusing tasks of heavy metal is separating thrash from speed from early power metal. This is difficult because all three styles sound similar and were happening at the same time. Where thrash was heavily influenced by punk and retains an aggressive and chaotic disposition, speed metal is more collected from past heavy metal and early power metal is a further offshoot of that. Aligned through the lineage of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) and traditional metal, speed metal continued the bloodline of fast, melodic metal into the 80’s. Where the style can be considered a torchbearer for previous styles, it also played an integral part in the development of power metal. Europe had its own brand of manly battle driven speed/power, apart from the US. I am always driven to investigate genres that have a lot of ambiguity. European power/thrash/speed is damn near heart stopping. Let us then just focus on one country. How about Germany?

Germany is interesting because of its placement within the history of European power metal. Scandinavia and greater Europe have been known for their output of what would become fast melodic power metal, which usually leans heavily on synth. Right before Helloween, and Gamma Ray however there were a handful of speed and thrash metal bands from Germany that were working their way up. Additionally, some of these bands even shared latent qualities that would later become the style we have all come to tolerate. Ha, joking…Just like I did with US Power Metal (USPM), German speed can be thought of as the night before power metal really took hold. I am sure I can do this with England or other countries to add a more complete view of 80’s speed metal, thrash, and proto power, but for now it is time to rock the Rheine. The Rheine is in Germany right? Don’t make me look this up.

Exumer – Possessed by Fire

And we start here. Actually, we start here because Exumer, out of all of these bands, is the most popular. Not reaching the level of success of Gamma Ray and Helloween but Possessed by Fire has enjoyed a comfortable legacy as a second tier masterpiece. Much in the same way as Dark Angel, Annihilator, and Flotsam and Jetsam, Exumer is pretty high on the list for albums you are required to listen to if searching for fast riffs and unbridled aggression. I have no idea what is going on in the cover. I am going to assume that it started out as Jason Voorhees and ended up as a metal mascot that is only recognized by people with an advanced knowledge of thrash.

Warrant – The Enforcer

If you were expecting 80’s speed metal to go any different than any other style of 80’s metal then you are in for a disappointment. Where long careers are usually the hallmark of successful bands, many just have one album that everyone pretty much loves. Warrant. No, not that Warrant. The German one. Warrant released their debut in 1985 followed by a the First Strike EP. The following year and until pretty much for the rest of time, Warrant just sort of faded into nothingness. The Enforcer, however, leaves behind more than enough to be glad about. Dominate riffs, well constructed choruses, and a big muscle bound executioner on the cover. The 1980’s was really the time when what I just said could come off as incredibly badass, not hilarious.

Chainsaw – Hell’s Burnin Up

Holy fucking shit. Is that bat carrying a chainsaw? How in the world is he holding a chainsaw? Chainsaw sadly did not see much action after their debut, aside from a follow up release in 2011. Something tells me they couldn’t repeat the success of a bat demon holding a chainsaw. Aside from the Motorhead worship, Chainsaw is filled to the leather-clad brim with entertaining moments. Steady rhythmic drums, great guitar leads, and, yes, the raspy Frank Von Scheidt, who does his best to hit the high notes, combine to make one entertaining album. Chainsaw has charm and that charm lies in an album which isn’t the best but it sure is fun as hell to listen to. Also, bat carrying chainsaw. Bat carrying fucking chainsaw.

Sweet Cheater – Immortal Instant

Man, what a terrible band name. Man, what a great album full of energetic hooks and unchained vocals. I’ll even give the album cover points for being silly. Is that Jesus with lasers coming out of his eyes? Is that one of the better guitar solos of recent memory? Oh man, Sweet Cheater ran into a brick wall following the release of Immortal Instant. Some of the band members tried to form a progressive metal band, which didn’t last long despite the latter having a better promo picture than the first. Who dressed these guys? Why is their music so good?

Paradox – Hersey

By now you should know me as a lover of all things slightly dorky. Take the cover for Paradox’s Hersey. Holy shit. This goes into the top 10 of all time best album art. Look at that stonework texture on the name. This looks like an adventure design for advanced dungeons and dragons. Paradox is different than a lot of bands in this article. For one, they share many traits of thrash and power metal, to the point where selections from Hersey sound like Master of Puppets era Metallica. This album would be lacking if it weren’t so well crafted and held together by a unique style. If you enjoy this album then the band also has a previous record that is just as good, if not as fast. The album cover isn’t as cool but I can understand that there can only be one amazing cover with a skeleton.

Vectom- Speed Revolution

A round of applause for one of the best album covers in the history of music. Speed metal comes in many varieties. If you remember the introduction of this article, I mentioned speed has more to do with traditional metal than punk. Well, this doesn’t mean punk never had a hand. Example: Vectom. The album’s pace is fast, as well as chaotic as a sofa burning in your living room. I would call this album thrash if the speed had any sort of rhythm, but it doesn’t. It just rolls off the conveyer belt at a comically fast speed forgoing any thought of consonance and order.

Grave Digger – Heavy Metal Breakdown

Just like Heresy, Grave Digger’s first album remains in the nebulous bubble between speed and power metal. The fact is that it is more allied towards the beginning of power metal. But before power metal would sound like Keeper of the Seven Keys, it would be filled with raw underpinnings of steam powered aggression. Actually, it would sound like it was covered in beer and then sprinkled with bar pretzels and cigarette ash. Grave Digger is carcinogenic. With songs like “Head Banging Man” and “Back From the War,” there is enough raw emotion in this record to last you until next year. What in the hell is coming from the head of that earth skull?

Minotaur – Power of Darkness

Oh god my neck is going to break. Minotaur is interesting because, for one record in the late 80’s, this German trio spilled out their insides all over Power of Darkness. I mean, this record sounds like it is going to skip off the turntable at any moment and if it does it is going to fly at me with deadly force. There is not much to say about Minotaur other than falling in line with the other bands in terms of eventual obscurity. In fact, I think the strength of 80’s metal is built upon the amount of good music coming from so many bands. Minotaur may not be at the front of the line in terms of thrash, but as a roleplayer in a large thrash/speed/power deck, it is a safe bet.

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