Speed metal: the choice of royals

by Brett Stevens
February 3, 2014 –

Prince Harry Visits Nottingham

Many of those who are involved with music have spoken praise for the 1980s speed metal explosion, which offered a form of music with both intensity and integrity. Until the great wave of commercialization, it simply refused to join the social impulse to all get along and behave like everyone else.

But a recent interview with Dominic West, who accompanied the UK’s Prince Harry to the North Pole, confirms that speed metal may have more going for it than simply being aloof to the great herding instinct. It is the music not only of Royals, but of soldiers:

The royal is addicted to the music of bands including Megadeth, Slayer, Metallica and Anthrax, according to actor Dominic West.

Dominic, 44, said it was the only music that Harry, 29, would listen to on their recent Walking With The Wounded expedition to the South Pole.

He said: “Harry has a terrible selection on his iPod. It is the sort of thing soldiers listen to. Hardcore thrash metal.”

While none of us want to be stuck in the 1980s, and retro-nostalgia is both embarrassing and makes us hate the future, perhaps it is time for metal to look back at what made speed metal so popular.

First, it did not behave. When the teacher said, “Everyone sit down,” it ran around its desk. When the teacher wanted everyone to play nice with each other, it did not. When someone said “Give peace a chance,” speed metal gave them the finger. It was disobedient, lawless, wild and uncontrolled.

Second, it had musical integrity. Please just say no to either (a) droning three-chord “trve kvlt” retro-metal and (b) droning three-chord “innovative and open-minded” post-metal. It’s musical simplisticism. No one seems against minimalism per se, but when it becomes an excuse to dumb it down, it’s time to leave the hall.

Third, it had a sense of imagination and vision — and abandoning those things crushed it. When Metallica were writing songs about Cthulhu, they were interesting; when they turned to social topics, they got less so. Similarly Slayer was awesome when writing about Satan and vampires but faded out when they started writing about serial killers and politics. (All of Anthrax’s best material is about comic books, and Megadeth is best when either full-on into drugs or full-on into Christ.)

Death metal and black metal at least initially carried on these values but over time got closer to the punk rock that had sold-out, standardized itself and caved in before them. When death metal was 300 intricate but occult nihilist riffs per song, it piqued our attention; when it became three riffs in verse-chorus form it made itself into a parody.

Perhaps our new watchword in metal should be to make music that belongs on Prince Harry’s iPod. As a cultural barometer, he provides a better sense of how metal is doing than most other sources we could consult.

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8 comments

  • neidan

    Haha! Well he certainly does have a habit of not playing by the rules and even his grandfather’s a latent misanthrope. What could be more metal than that!

  • SwallowedInBlack

    Though death and black metal arguably had more potential and rose to greater heights, speed metal is still important. Despite that the songwriting and technique may have fallen short of later developments, the attitude, spirit, and sheer unashamed metalocity are all valuable. Even if much of the appeal is in aesthetics, speed metal will always be one of my favorite things in the world.

  • Lord Mosher

    Hey Brett. We all know you dislike Speed Metal except for that Metallica song and Rust in Peace, oh yeah, and you’ve a soft spot for Prong and Powermad; so, why not make a post about those bands that weren’t as important as the big names? Speed metal is a lot of fun. Some suggestions:
    Vio-lence
    Cyclone
    Napalm
    Forbidden
    Evildead
    Atrophy
    Intruder
    Hexenhaus

    1. SwallowedInBlack

      Cyclone is fun, but rather unremarkable. Otherwise I agree with this idea, the rest are some of my personal favorites.

    2. trystero

      Forbidden has been brought up before on the previous iteration of this website. The article should still be there. I do agree with you that it would be a good topic to cover. In fact the same could probably be done for other subgenres outside death/black metal. The scope of this website obviously extends beyond just extreme metal, and in these times of artistic drought a reminder of what was good in all metal would be appreciated.

      1. tiny hobbit

        i guess we all agree but brett stevens is a hard headed fellow. he hears nothing, sees nothing, says nothing.
        lord mosher always makes neat suggestions and yet brett high up on horse finds him undeserving of even a meager reply.

    3. Brett Stevens Post author

      I will turn to this once I’m caught up with underground metal. Good suggestions. Forbidden and Anacrusis need more coverage, so does Sacrifice (a parallel to Sadus).