New Wave of British Heavy Metal

The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal

After the punk wave had reigned over the music scene for a decade, heavy metal was somewhat reborn in Great Britain in the late 70’s and early 80’s. A movement of young musicians who played a mix of metal and punk emerged. The big difference from contemporary metal band such as Black Sabbath,was the pace. This was really fast music!

The music journalist Geoff Barton, who worked at the magazine Sounds (and later founded the famous Kerrang! magazine) was the first person to ever use the term New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, NWOBHM. He wrote this after a visit to the rock venue The Bandwagon Heavy Metal Soundhouse in London. This club was managed by Neal Kay at the time and along with music magazines such as Sounds and Melody Maker, he created a haven for new unsigned heavy metal bands and their fans.

Why a new wave was necessary

Besides bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, the genre of Heavy Metal had somewhat come to a standstill in the late 70’s and needed a reawakening. The upcoming bands created a more brutal and fast type of heavy metal by excluding blues riffs and increasing the pace significantly. At first, it was a rather underground movement who never had the aim to make it big. It was fast and raw music, created by metal heads for metal heads.

On May 9, 1979, the club owner Neal Kay invited the three bands Angel Witch, Iron Maiden and Samson to play at The Bandwagon Heavy Metal Soundhouse. Geoff Barton was there as a music journalist and in the next issue of the magazine Sounds he coined the concept of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. He used this term to describe the new music scene and the sound, but also the accompanying look of denim, studded belts, leather and patches.

Although the older and already known bands were a bit skeptical at first, you can not say the same about the fans. A new generation of metal fans embraced the genre and although it was a relatively short-lived era, it resulted in many extremely influential and long-lasting bands, such as Iron Maiden.

Important bands and classic releases

The British band Iron Maiden was founded in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris. They are one of the most successful heavy metal bands through all time and have sold over 90 million albums. In late 1979, they released a single EP called The Soundhouse Tapes, which resulted in a record deal with EMI. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1980 and this album is a great example of how the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal sounded like.

The British band Saxon was founded in 1976 and they were really successful throughout the 80’s. Their second album Wheels of Steel, released in 1980, ended up as number 5 on the UK Albums Chart, which is a list of the best-selling music albums in Britain. The album contains two hit singles; the title track Wheels of Steel and 747 (Strangers in the Night).

Another promising band at the time was Angel Witch, founded in 1979, who also released their self-titled debut album in 1980 and became an important band of the era.