Everyone loves an underdog. And in the mid-eighties world of heavy metal, it didn’t get any more “underdog” than a band full of black guys! (Note: although Sound Barrier started off as a truly all-black heavy metal band, by the time Speed Of Light came out in 1986, Sound Barrier consisted of three black guys and a white guy. Close enough. Still underdogs in my book.)
After having literally zero commercial success with their major label debut, 1983’s Total Control on MCA Records, Sound Barrier was dropped from the label. In 1984, Sound Barrier self-released an EP called Born To Rock. Then, Brian Slagel of Metal Blade Records (and a fan of the band) took a chance on Sound Barrier and signed them to his label. Speed Of Light was the resultant Metal Blade release. It was to be Sound Barrier’s final album.
In many ways, Speed Of Light has all the trappings of the typical lower rung Metal Blade release. The sound is tinny and thin, and the singer ain’t so great. Is this just another cheap and forgettable scrap metal release from the mid-eighties junkyard? Not exactly. After just one or two listens, I started to pick up on something special with Speed Of Light. Maybe my love of the underdog has swayed my objectivity here? Could be. Nevertheless, I have to say I really enjoy this speed metal relic. Featuring a loose garage sound, lots of frenetic bass playing, and a touch of the progressive, Sound Barrier delivered a winner. Speed Of Light is an unassuming record with simple but inspiring lyrics (about fighting to reach the top), and a memorable hook in every song. Faves include Aim For The Top, Gladiator, On The Level (Head Banger), and a cover of Thin Lizzy’s Hollywood (Down On Your Luck) from the oft-forgotten Renegade album. My score: A-