Hammering down the finer details of what separates mid-80’s NWOBHM, thrash metal and speed metal ultimately comes down to a balance of relative extremity, reverb/production, guitar technique, and I’d say pacing is almost vitally important for delineation in terms of authenticity. The pure speed metal blood that ‘The Beast in the Mist’ sprays in the face of the listener is no happy coincidence and it manages to be a monumentally successful study of influences that yanks the sharpest bangers of the 80’s by the bullet belt right into 2018. These NWOBHM loving Croatian speed metal addicts have made a grand leap above and beyond their 2017 debut EP ‘Iron Speed’ with the cleaner, meaner ‘Beast in the Mist’ and in turn highlighted an already incredible year for speed metal.
Upon first impression Speedclaw‘s ‘Iron Claw’ felt primitive and jocular in their 80’s heavy metal standards, amounting to what felt like a less-than-serious one-off EP. Yet as soon as the dual guitar solos wailed in, and their influences were made a bit more clear, I could hear the intent enough to be impressed with the pure heavy metal leaning EP. Speedclaw‘s early melodic sensibilities and taste for high energy riffing came largely from NWOBHM influences as the movement bled into a shift towards speed metal with bands like Raven, Overkill and Exciter. They crafted something noteworthy on what was essentially a proof of concept for the project, and ‘Beast in the Mist’ is a better realized and performed vision of that era.
Though not as noisy as Raven‘s ‘Wiped Out’ a lot of the drum patterns and attitude bursting from Speedclaw on ‘Beast in the Mist’ seem to emanate from that same life force, while I’d say the style and guitar work echo the rhythmic fury of Abbatoir‘s ‘Vicious Attack’ and occasionally the panache of Axel Rudi Pell on the self-titled Steeler debut. They haven’t lost the classic heavy metal feeling of their music but the overall sound has been sped up appropriately and only slows down for a great solo or smart riff change. The inspired sound of ‘Beast in the Mist’ gives the overall youth energy inherent to early thrashers like ‘Feel the Fire’ or ‘Kill ‘Em All’ nearly as much as it resembles more typical speed metal records ‘Heavy Metal Maniac’ or ‘Fistful of Metal’.
Each track on ‘Beast in the Mist’ is allowed to breathe with a confidence seen less often since 1986 and the traditional rock song structures make room for the speed metal riffs to fully develop and vary. Most tracks center around memorable chorus and soloing alike illustrating what is most likely the greatest gift that retro-inspiration brings to modern bands. I was truly hooked by the bridge of “Beast in the Mist” and the way the song shifts into gear halfway is a smart study of the type of dynamics that made bands stand out in the mid-80’s. The rhythm guitars on “Rising of the Claw” ring just slightly east of Angel Dust‘s first album in the best way, and the dual guitar leads are at their best throughout the song. With more extensive listening, I didn’t find myself so obsessed with Speedclaw‘s classic sound and style so much as the memorable hooks of each track and the fantastic and relatively simple guitar performances throughout.
With ‘Beast in the Mist’ Speedclaw have whipped out a ripping old school metal spin that stands strong in a vast sea of classic speed metal influenced thrashers thanks to capable songwriting, a knack for high-energy riffing and an incredibly authentic and well-balanced sound. I’d highly recommend the titular track as the place to start, and there is a music video for it as well, and if you’re into that the rest of the LP will be a great time.
|Type||Album | 12″ LP|
|Released||April 20, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!||Follow Speedclaw on Facebook|
Satan will laugh at your screams. 4.25/5.0
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