It’s a welcome return for this legendary record label, in the late 80’s I used to religiously buy anything on this label (and sub-label Under One Flag) simply because the quality was pretty damn good, I mean they did have Metallica, Exodus, Agent Steel, WASP and Mercyful Fate on their roster at some point amongst many others.
The Speed Kills series itself was a series of compilations showcasing the best new talent around, long before the easy access to music via the internet. What went on these releases usually went into your collection or were banished in their entirety as was rarely the case. So the latest one has some well-known names from the underground, but goes beyond the original blueprint of thrash and speed metal and incorporates black metal and NWOBHM.
Starting with East Anglia’s The King is Blind, this is a furious and raucous take on some classic extreme thrash and black metal bands, however, when getting to the next track, you realise the production is very quiet here.
Formicarius from London delve into the blacker side of things with some personally undesirable keyboard parts, but the rest is simply immense, mixing the more melodic sense of the black metal genre, to me a lot like the ‘Nexus Polaris’ era of Norway’s Covenant pre-name and style change.
Then comes Acid Reign, no stranger to these releases and label. With a re-activated version of the band trotting around various venues in various locations of late, the slow burning start to this is cool. However, leading into the solo the momentum increases, this is very well received. Typical of British thrash, but the recording simply enhances the music, it’s a great sounding track and deadly serious.
The NWOBHM influenced trailblazers Amulet next appear with ‘Highwayman’. A great track with plenty of passion, but suffering a generally quiet mix if you are on a smaller sound system. The track itself comes from the forthcoming album, promising times ahead once again. There’s an air of excitement about this tune, with a little Budgie, Deep Purple and of course NWOBHM inspired energy.
The real kick in the balls is Divine Chaos, the power is absolutely amazing on this track from their last album. Starting very much like Testament’s choppy instrumentals, ‘Ignorance Everlasting’ quickly descends into a strong assault of very heavy, very hard hitting death/thrash and clearly goes to the top of the pedestal as a stand out for this compilation.
I have never really been a fan of Akercocke, but that’s changed here. Recently revitalised the energy of ‘Inner Sanctum’ is very good indeed. The evocative riffs and variation between clean and dirty vocal is a special hybrid of ideas. The production is powerful and the transition between the numerous musical stances is effortless providing another stand out track for this compilation. Did I mention the guitar riffs, well you’ve been told and they’re awesome!
London’s Dungeon play a brand of dirty speed metal, a mix of Venom, Sodom and Motorhead. Having caught these guys and girl a few times, it’s nice to have a digital version of their music. Look out for their previous two tape demos which are also well received around these parts and are expected to get to the next level in my thoughts very soon.
Many times have I heard of the band Voices but never actually got round to listening to them. Featuring ex-members of Akercocke, the musical direction is a real form of progressive nastiness. There’s a touch of doom, a touch of Voivod, all in all, another band who know a thing or two about creating expressive song arrangements. ‘Petrograph’ is an out of the box delight.
Southampton’s Desolator pick up the thrash pace once again, ‘Full Power’ is raw, energetic but still not as slick as their peers, but the spirit keeps the dream alive on this track.
Closing this compilation is Nine Covens, whilst being elusive, their track is far from that. ‘Through the Fires of Tyranny’ is a modern black metal experience, devout of any bullshit and through this Skyhammer mix, is presented well depending on your love for this style of music.
It’s good to have releases such as this back in circulation, it’s much more exciting that trawling through numerous streaming websites and you find some hidden gems you never thought would tickle your fancy. My only critique of this release would be the sound levels as a whole. They are not balanced on the mp3 files I have in my possession to review, with some bands having a great boosted sound whilst some are so quiet you can hardly hear some of the musicians. Hopefully the full physical release will address this marginal niggle. But other than that, the spirit of the underground is alive, especially the vibrant centre section of the release. Welcome back Speed Kills and more importantly Music for Nations, we’ve missed you!
(8/10 Paul Maddison)