Here’s our first Essential Series Volume aimed at the NWOBHM genre (New Wave of British Heavy Metal).
Written by: gdmonline
ARTICLE: The Essential Series – NWOBHM Vol 1
This was the movement which effectively kickstarted the heavy metal industry as we know it today. Most of the GDM readership grew up around this era, loosely timeframed between 1979 and 1982. Of course, the heavy metal scene did exist at the time, especially in Britain, where bands like Motorhead, Uriah Heep, UFO, Nazareth, Budgie, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath were the forebears of the younger generation to follow.
Added into this was the imagery associated with the heavy metal genre. This probably can be laid squarely at the feet of Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford, who introduced crowds to black leather, studs, chains, whips, hand-cuffs and all sorts of other paraphernalia around about the time of their 1978 album ‘Killing Machine’ (or ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ as its other name). This would make tassled attire (made popular by Ozzy Osbourne) virtually redundant overnight, and with a clean broom, black leather, studs and chains would become the clothing gear of choice for all metal fans thereafter.
So what of NWOBHM? An abbreviation of ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’, this sub-genre would introduce the world to bands who would go on to eventual greatness. The obvious ones are: Iron Maiden, Saxon, Def Leppard, Diamond Head, Samson and Raven. There are heaps more, but these are the ones off the top of my head.
In this Essential Series volume, what we have listed below are a selection of albums that stood out for me back in this timeframe. I’ll look mostly at long-playing albums (LP’s) rather than singles and EP’s of which there were many. Post your comments below. Have fun.
Def Leppard – 1980 On Through The Night
Of course these guys went on to become megastars in the mid-late 80’s. At the beginning though, these Sheffield lads were raw, but melodic. Prior to ‘On Through The Night’, the Leps released the ‘Def Leppard’ EP in 1979, plus the two track single ‘Wasted’ (with ‘Hello America’ as the b-side) for their new home Vertigo. The full-length LP would follow in 1980, and I remember buying it at the time and falling in love with most of the songs. ‘Rock Brigade’, ‘Rocks Off’, plus the previously mentioned ‘Hello America’ and ‘Wasted’ provided an insight into what the Lepps were all about. The following two albums ‘High And Dry’ and ‘Pyromania’ were both great, but the band had moved into the big leagues by this stage. Joe and the lads were quite proud of their NWOBHM roots, and so they should be.
Def Leppard – Rock Brigade
Diamondhead – 1980 The White Album/Lightning To The Nations
Any mention of the NWOBHM would have to include Birmingham rockers Diamondhead. A discussion without them would be incomplete. Their circumstances were quite unusual around 1980. They had released a bunch of 7-inch singles during this timeframe, and even then, ‘The White Album’, their first full-length LP containing 7 tracks was self-released. It did get subsequent releases between 1980 and 1981 (and a name change to ‘Lightning For The Nations’), and even the 1982 MCA issue ‘Borrowed Time’ was in fact another rebadged version of the album. Of course, this LP spawns the original ‘Am I Evil’, made famous by Metallica, and has seen numerous reissues by different labels over the decades.
Diamondhead – Am I Evil
Raven – 1981 Rock Until You Drop
The Newcastle based trio Raven were as over the top as could be back in the early 80’s. They styled their sound and image as ‘athletic rock’, and for the Gallagher brothers Mark and John, plus drummer Rob Hunter, speed was the name of their game. This album was Neat Records very first release, and despite the less than stellar production, ‘Rock Until You Drop’ is a product of its time, and I’ve enjoyed listening to this on the odd occasion. A few bands tried to emulate their style, but there could only be one Raven. The next album ‘Wiped Out’ was also pretty manic.
Raven – Hell Patrol
Saxon – 1980 Wheels Of Steel
I too got caught up in the Saxon hubba-baloo during their early days. As we all know, they released quite a few albums during the 1979-1982 period, but for me this was the pick of the bunch. If Raven were into athletic rock, then Saxon were into biker rock, as confirmed by their stand-out song ‘Motorcycle Man’, an anthem for all the need-for-speed two-wheeler brigade. Coupled with other gems such as ‘747 Strangers In The Night’, Freeway Mad’ and ‘Street Fighting Man’, this album sits right in the NWOBHM zone. The other 1980 album ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’ which followed, was also pretty good, featuring ‘Dallas 1PM’, ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’ and the title track, but probably not quite as exciting as this one. Time to get out the helmet.
Saxon – Motorcycle Man
White Spirit – 1980 White Spirit
Another band from Tyneside, and though they landed this LP right in the middle of the NWOBHM era, this was not blood and guts metal. White Spirit focused on a melodic and pomp oriented direction, with contemporaries such as Grand Prix and Uriah Heep used as a comparison. They were signed to MCA but had their origins alongside Neat Records. I’ve always given this LP a bit of love, and it gets its place in this Essential Series Volume 1.
White Spirit – Red Skies
Iron Maiden – 1980 Iron Maiden
This album is heavily identified as a critical release for the NWOBHM. Along with the follow-up ‘Killers’, these are both raw affairs, featuring Paul DiAnno whose punk styled image was a point of difference. The band were very active during this era, and EMI eventually came calling. Before that though, the Irons released ‘The Soundhouse Tapes’ in 1979 on their own Rock Hard Records. For me personally, I didn’t quite get into these first two albums like many others did. I joined the fray in 1982 upon the release of ‘The Number Of The Beast’, which by this stage, saw Bruce Dickinson join the Irons from fellow NWOBHM’ers Samson. The rock world would never quite be the same again.
Iron Maiden – Charlotte The Harlot
Praying Mantis – 1981 Time Tells No Lies
This was an album I enjoyed at the time. The band were highly melodic, but it seemed they couldn’t find a niche acceptable to the black leather nation of NWOBHM fans. Along with Iron Maiden, Mantis were joined at the hip, being London bands and all, and over the years there would be some cross-pollination of membership too. After releasing a bunch of demos, and playing the 1980 Reading Festival, Arista Records signed them up, ‘Time Tells No Lies’ released the following year. PM are still in active service, and sound better than ever if 2015’s ‘Legacy’ was anything to go by.
Praying Mantis – Running From Tomorrow
Saracen – 1981 Heroes Saints And Fools
Derbyshire’s only entrant in this volume are Saracen. Previously known as Lammergier, these guys played a heavier brand of pomp rock, which resulted in an underrated debut in 1981 called ‘Heroes Saints And Fools’. It was released on an indie label at the time (Nucleus), but eventually got a larger distribution through Polygram. There’s lots of keyboards here, and a direction not unlike Magnum and White Spirit. The band made a comeback in 2000, and have released a few CD’s via Escape Music since then.
Saracen – Crusader
Venom – 1981 Welcome To Hell
I remember buying this back in the day, and not really sure of what I was getting into. To put it mildly, Venom were the creators of the heavier versions of HM that was to follow. Black, extreme, death, all has it origins with ‘Welcome To Hell’. And in that regard, Venom were definitely one of the leading lights of NWOBHM due to them starting a series of musical genres all on their own. They might sound outdated and blown away by all the modern metal bands that now exist, but many of them will truly acknowledge the influence of Venom as one of the true pioneers of the black metal genre.
Venom – Welcome To Hell
Tygers Of Pan Tang – 1980 Wild Cat
There must have been something in the water up on the Tyneside with so many bands contributing and impacting the NWOBHM scene. Already we see at least three others on this list from the Northeast, and here’s our fourth: Whitley Bay’s Tygers Of Pan Tang. It was interesting to see how MCA Records was picking up on some of these bands to joining their roster. A good band, who surfed the metal scene like a bow wave. Some highs, and definitely some lows. Their recording career kicked off in 1979 with a three-track 7 inch single for Neat Records called ‘Don’t Touch Me There’, before hooking up with MCA, and a debut LP called ‘Wild Cat’. It set the stage for the Tygers assault on the fledgling NWOBHM scene. I remember seeing all the adverts in Melody Maker, Sounds etc, so MCA were definitely pumping out the PR for the band. They too toyed around with AOR and melodic rock, and with lineup changes, came different sounding albums, like 1982’s radio-friendly ‘The Cage’. Of course, the band was best remembered for supplying John Sykes to the rock world, but this is where it started for them.
Tygers Of Pan Tang – Don’t Touch Me There
There were many other releases, which we’ll cover off in future Essential Series volumes. Some suggestions can be advised to us in the Comments section below.
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