Be it an impenetrably niche distro team or a commercially driven enterprise, baring witness to the demise of an independently governed record label is tough. So when Britain’s self-appointed ‘home’ for heavy metal, Music For Nations, announced its impending closure back in 2004, communities let out an international wail of grievance. The label, a subsidiary for Zomba Records, was highly regarded as an operation at the forefront of metal’s early maturation from hard rock to something far more barbaric and imposing.

Launched in 1983 by Martin Hooker during a period where the foundations of thrash and speed metal were in their most primitive state, Music For Nations was quickly cited as the leading European distributor for acts including Exciter, Megadeath and Slayer. The imprint was the puppet master behind some of the most prototypically heavy records released throughout the eighties and nineties from Metallica’s Kill Em All to Mercyful Fate’s Melissa to Candlemass’ Tales of Creation. It was a time of great fruition for the label, which, akin to the calibre of metal being produced at the time, is reflective in their commodious back-catalogue.

In fact, so fertile was their cyclical roster of acts that it called for Music For Nations to sporadically take stock and publish varying compilation series to showcase upcoming releases. Appetite whetting anthologies such as 1983’s Hell On Earth and 1984’s Metal Hammer were paramount in forging metal’s burgeoning public identity. Yet no other series of comps during this time paralleled in respect and creativity to Speed Kills; a zeitgeist defining collation of the genre’s most illustrious bands. Its first instalment, compiled by Dave Constable and Mark Palmer in 1985, introduced the world to the likes of Venom, Voivod, Celtic Frost and Exodus. Its successors boasted offerings from Death, Bathory, Acid Reign, and Nuclear Assault. Ending in 1992 with its sixth edition, Speed Kills (Violence Of The Slams), the series has since been eulogised as one metal’s most extensive reference points in the historical evolution of its sound.

Upon Music For Nations’ relaunch in 2015 through Sony’s commercial department, skittish discussions of a seventh Speed Kills instalment were already rife amongst metal enthusiasts. Now, almost 25 years after Violence of the Slams, the series returns with original artwork from Rock Show presenter Daniel P. Carter and liner notes by music journalist Malcolm Dome.

Speed Kills VII‘s theme concentrates on the best of British extreme music with contributions from The King Is Blind, Amulet, Divine Chaos, Desolator and Nine Covens. In line with its predecessors, there’s a nihilistic ingenuity to this compilation; one that humbly bows to thrash and death metal’s heritage but with aim to drive the genres into new and voraciously dynamic realms. In the run up to Music For Nations latest collection, we asked some of metal’s most time-honoured figureheads to expound on the series and what Speed Kills signified both in its past and present form.

Joel De’aTh

Music for Nations

Why did you originally decide to do Speed Kills?

When I resurrected Music for Nation in 2014 I meticulously went through the archive to see what we could play around with, Speed Kills was one of those legendary compilations which I thought I could do something with. Although I previously worked at Music for Nations in the late 90s, this was some time after the Speed Kills, but I was certainly aware of the releases and the impact they had on the scene. What an honour is has been to bring it back with number 7 in the series.

Why have you decided to resurrect the series now?

I would not have done this if there wasn’t some genuinely brilliant metal bands around at the moment. The King Is Blind, Amulet and the return of Akercocke… it just felt right. And along with Acid Reign contributing a track bridging the gap between some of the previous releases to this one. It couldn’t have happened at a better time!

Do you have a favourite edition and why?

Difficult to not see the first as such an vital contribution to the development of metal and thus holds a special place in not just my heart, but the gilded halls of metal history.

What was the response like from your callout to bands for this edition?

I had a clear idea of who I wanted, but there was a few spaces. I wanted brand new bands that not even I had heard of. Desolator and Divine Chaos came from that search and I’m so happy. Some acts were recommended, for example Malcolm Dome suggested Dungeon. He’s still got fantastic ears!

How did you feel about the response?

I couldn’t be happier. The bands are excited and that makes a lot of difference.  

Which tracks are you most excited by on this edition?

I love them all equally.

Daniel P Carter

Radio 1 / Speed Kills artwork designer

How did you first discover Speed Kills?

When I was a kid, I remember my mate getting the first Speed Kills on vinyl. We used to trade albums for a few days all the time and that one had Metallica, Slayer, Celtic Frost, Possessed… So good. Those early days of thrash were awesome, properly exciting.

What does Speed Kills mean to you?

They make me think of a certain period when I was discovering new bands that went on to change my entire musical taste. So it means a lot. Some of those bands remain my favourites to this day. Some of them not so much. Haha. When I told my mate Jay that there was going to be another Speed Kills and I was doing the artwork, we both started laughing about Living Death screaming ‘Hellpike Hellpiiiiiiiiike!’ That blew our minds when we were kids and its been a thing ever since.

Do you have a favourite edition and why?

Probably the first one to be honest. I think that’s where I first heard Celtic Frost and I went and got Emperors Return after that so, you know, thats a blessing. Haha.

Which tracks are you most excited by on this edition?

I think The King Is Blind, Akecocke and Voices are the three that come to mind immediately, but like all the other Speed Kills, there are bands I know and bands I don’t know. Thats what always made them great compilations.

Steve Tovey

The King is Blind

How did you first discover Speed Kills?

Speed Kills was part of our metal heritage growing up. Being teens in the 90s, it meant thrash and, particularly, death metal were very much ripe for discovery and finding new, heavy and neck-snapping metal was a regular past-time for myself and Lee (TKIB guitars), who trawled our local independent record store for heavy metal vinyl most weekends. Seventh Angel and Acid Reign being on it drew me to Speed Kills 6, and this was the first one of the series I picked up, on vinyl, so it’s pretty fucking awesome from that perspective to now be sharing vinyl space with Acid Reign this time around!

What does Speed Kills mean to you?

It was a means of discovery, you know? Speed Kills 5 introduced me to Nuclear Assault, and it was a legendary thing and great way to pick up on new bands. I borrowed the first Speed Kills from a kid at school’s older brother, and, boom, Voivod and Celtic Frost…

How does it feel to be featured on a Speed Kills compilation?

It’s surreal and humbling experience. We’ve never shied away from our “Heavy Metal” side, even though it can be seen as “uncool”. Well, fuck that… Speed Kills IS Heavy Metal, and we’re a heavy metal band. To kick the compilation off and set the tone with the first track is such a brilliant feeling. Our track, Throne of Skulls, was written specifically for the compilation with the legacy and heritage of everything Speed Kills in mind, but also helps us link the concept of our first album, to our upcoming second album, so it is a great thing for us on a multitude of levels.

Dave Sherwood

Amulet

How did you first discover Speed Kills?

I was going through my dads records one day aged about 15 – first getting into vinyl. I picked out the original Speed Kills compilation because of the killer logo and the blurry, fast-motion photo on the front cover. Totally savage. My dad then gave me the compilation a couple of weeks later. My actual first record!

What does Speed Kills mean to you?

Death. Die by the sword!

Do you have a favourite edition and why?

Definitely the first one. Of course it has the classics such as Metallica, Exodus and Slayer, however for me it introduced me to more of the underground bands such as Bulldozer, Exciter and in particular Hallows Eve. My passion for heavy metal really came from Speed Kills 1.

How does it feel to be featured on a Speed Kills compilation?

It feels great. Not only to be apart of a legendary compilation, but to be on the comeback edition. Thanks very much from Amulet.

Which tracks are you most excited by on this edition?

We’re looking forward to hearing the latest track from our drinking buddies, Dungeon. Also great to have Acid Reign back on the scene.

Jamie Brooks

Desolator

How did you first discover Speed Kills?

Whilst searching through a pile of random records at a shop I found a volume of Speed Kills. Can’t remember which one but I was impressed with the track listing!

What does Speed Kills mean to you?

I can imagine before the age of the internet this was one of the few ways to discover new bands, but as to look back on it after all these years it seems like it really captured the sound of that time.

How does it feel to be featured on a Speed Kills compilation?

It’s a real big deal for us. As an independent band with no label support or PR it’s difficult to get our music out there, and to be given this opportunity on such a prestigious platform means so much.

Alle

Formicarius

How did you discover Speed Kills?

I am old enough to remember the first wave of the Speed Kills compilations coming out and collecting the editions, but like everyone else, to find out these compilations are starting back up again was a truly awesome moment. Even the younger members of the band already knew of the Speed Kills legacy and when our management company told us not only that it was returning but that we had a track featured on it, that was obviously massive news for us.

Favourite edition and why?

I hate choosing one because they are all great but if I am forced It would probably be Speed Kills 4 – so many killer tracks on that edition.

What tracks excite you on Speed Kills VII?

Well, there are first the obvious ones – Acid Reign and Akercocke – both are amazing bands. The King Is Blind and Voices are both excellent, but you know what? I’m gonna end up saying all the bands on the album are awesome in their own uniquely different ways. It’s a true honour to be part of it and to be alongside all these bands!

Howard Smith

Acid Reign

How did you first discover Speed Kills?

An advert in Kerrang for Speed Kills 2. With a title like that it was a no brainer.

Do you have a favourite edition and why?

Number 4: Speed Kills But Who’s Dying? It featured us and our friends Nuclear Assault, Dark Angel, Exodus, Re-Animator and Death! I mean that’s a festival line up to die for.

How does it feel to be featured on a Speed Kills compilation again?

It’s great to see and be part of this trusted old series being re-booted. These albums were a key element in thrash in the early days, almost like an official tape trading service. Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Possessed, Exodus and Celtic Frost were all on Speed Kills II. That’s is thrash royalty right there.

Which tracks are you most excited by on this edition?

I have to say I am particularly fond of the track Plan Of The Damned by a bunch of old tossers called Acid Reign. This is not a test.

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