Much like the United States, Germany saw an explosion in new bands as a result of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The Germans also took cues from fellow countrymen and metal paragons Accept who helped popularize speed metal with their hit “Fast as a Shark”. The end result of this was an incredibly rich and vast speed metal scene in Germany starting in the mid 80s. Whetstone were one of the many bands that formed in this time period and were eventually lost in the shuffle.
Whetstone formed in 1984 and released just two demos before fading into obscurity in 1988. There’s no shortage of excellent releases from the German speed metal scene and Whetstone’s second demo in particular, Ancient Metal, is no exception to this. Just one look at the cover of the demo tape tells us everything we need to know. Scanning the artwork, you see an all black and blood-red aesthetic featuring a medieval warrior sitting upon a throne. Your eyes are drawn to the words “WHETSTONE” and “ANCIENT METAL”. Now I see something like this and it immediately gives me a certain expectation of the band’s sound and luckily, Ancient Metal sounds exactly like it looks.
This is take no prisoners, sword-swinging heavy metal at its finest. Ancient Metal clocks in at 17 minutes and the band wastes absolutely no time getting into it. The opening track “The Message” is less than 2.5 minutes long and immediately greets us with a strong guitar riff. About 20 seconds into the song and we hear the sound of a cannon being fired before a second guitar joins and kicks off an epic melody and Stefan Neuser’s gritty vocals soon join the mix. This epic speed metal style and quality persists for the entirety of Ancient Metal. Songwriting of this caliber is absolutely incredible for a demo, but that’s exactly what this is – a demo. That needs to be kept in mind as the production is rough to say the least.
Whetstone are more than worth your time despite their short tenure and lack of success as a band. Ancient Metal is a fantastic demo that fans of early Blind Guardian, Helloween, and Running Wild should absolutely listen to.
Favorite track: The Message
The two Whetstone demos were comped and eventually released by the amazing Sonic Age Records label. Take a look here if you’re interested in owning a copy of this on vinyl – I certainly love mine!