The early to mid 1980’s was a glorious time for heavy music with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) unleashing ground-breaking new bands at an astonishing rate.
Taking their cues from the progressive nature of 70’s hard rock and punk’s steel-toe-capped belligerence, the band’s of the NWOBHM increased the speed, embraced the power chord and riffed harder and faster than ever before.
Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard took the genre to new heights and celebrated arena level success but many bands, who also deserved to celebrate similar victories, were lost amongst the crowd, left to jostle for attention without ever truly being heard.
With that in mind, Worship Metal have dug deep into the NWOBHM vaults to unearth some underrated treasures that deserve reappraisal. Whether these albums were ignored, forgotten over time or simply found themselves buried beneath a mountain of seminal releases, we hope to give them a chance to live and breathe once more.
If we’ve forgotten one of your favourites, pop it in the comments section below and we’ll have a nice chat about it…..
10. Demon – The Unexpected Guest (1982)
Channeling Black Sabbath’s eerie, morbid soundscapes but updating them for an 80’s audience (something Sabbath themselves often struggled to do), Demon’s 2nd album is a heavy metal treat wrapped up in a big blood-red bow.
Taken at face value, The Unexpected Guest‘s demonically twisted artwork initially sends mixed messages and you’d be forgiven for thinking an occult obsessed, doom-laden ride to the bowels of hell awaits.
But you’d be very, very wrong.
Demon may have lyrically embraced ritual, dark magic and demonic possession but their music was still indebted to the legends of 70’s heavy metal and The Unexpected Guest is laced with enough blues-tinted melody to have you tripping your hard rock tits off.
Demon were truly accomplished songwriters and The Unexpected Guest is home to songs that are confident, robust and unbelievably catchy; check out “Don’t Break The Circle”, “The Spell” and “Deliver Us From Evil” if you need convincing.
Like a knock on the door in the middle of the night, Demon’s sophomore album may take you by surprise but this is one unexpected guest that never outstays it’s welcome.
9. Cloven Hoof – Cloven Hoof (1984)
Many NWOBHM bands dabbled with heavy metal’s penchant for witchcraft and the dark arts but Cloven Hoof were the true occult-rockers of the scene and their debut is a Satan-summoning classic.
Alternating between AC/DC-esque hard-rock stompers and lengthy odes to Devil-worship it is the progressive and epic “The Gates Of Gehenna”, “Return Of The Passover” and the self-titled opening track that hit the hardest, each one of these songs unleashing merry hell as Cloven Hoof tingle-the-spine and shred-the-nerves in the name of deliciously blasphemous heavy metal.
These black candles should have burned much brighter but as it transpired Cloven Hoof became a somewhat forgotten, second-tier NWOBHM album and it’s high time this was corrected.
This is one malevolent monster that demands to be resurrected.
8. Tokyo Blade – Tokyo Blade (1983)
Ignore the confusingly retitled Midnight Rendezvous version of Tokyo Blade‘s debut album (retitled for U.S. release for reasons unknown) and set your sights on the 8 sickle-sharp tracks found on the original self-titled release.
Lean, sharp and precise, Tokyo Blade’s debut was primed for the big-time and should have carved a direct route to the heart of the genre.
Very much in the same vein as Iron Maiden, Tokyo Blade’s lifeblood still pumped to it’s own tune with choice cuts “Break The Chains” and “If Heaven Is Hell” proving the band had more than enough edge to keep up with Maiden and Saxon etc.
This was pure heavy metal with all traces of 1970’s hard rock dominance consigned to the scrapheap. For it’s time, Tokyo Blade was state of the art and breathlessly fast and to paraphrase opening track “Powergame”, you do want it and you do need it!
7. Tytan – Rough Justice (1985)
Tytan arrive a little late on the scene but this border-line NWOBHM supergroup sure had the mettle to stand-out in what was an incredibly overcrowded scene.
Featuring heavy-hitters Kevin Riddles (ex-Angel Witch) and ex-Judas Priest drummer Les Binks, Tytan recorded only one album but when that one album is Rough Justice, a semi-lost classic of the NWOBHM scene, you can consider yourselves more than worthy of reappraisal.
Channeling a commercial appeal that should have appealed to the masses Rough Justice was melodic heavy metal performed to perfection.
“Sadman” recalls Dio at his most epic, all thunder & brimstone bluster and lead-heavy mid-paced riffing while album highlight, “The Watcher”, should have been a massive hit; one of those songs that builds and builds into a pay-off that’ll have you head-banging so hard you’re likely to require a neck-brace.
Titan may have been a one-off in the 80’s but this is one album that deserves to be played over and over again; an absolute NWOBHM classic.
6. Witchfynde – Stagefright (1980)
Not nearly as well known, or as loved, as their Give ‘Em Hell debut, Witchfynde Stagefright is an experimental curio that divides opinion but is a fascinating slice of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal history nonetheless.
Unfairly dismissed in some quarters as a sophomore disappointment, Stagefright is an album that mixes mood and melody with mystery and menace and is perfectly designed to invoke chills.
Whether Witchfynde purposefully sought to confound expectation and produce a record that separated them from the NWOBHM pack is up for debate. What is clear is that Stagefright is a weirdly effective, wilfully obscure and often confusing release; challenging but also rewarding in its twisted take on hard rock’s standard behaviours.
You may not love Stagefright the first time you hear it but you’ll certainly return to it and we guarantee this is one album that will creep under your skin; a slow-burn classic of the genre and no mistake.
5. Jaguar – Power Games (1983)
Charging head-first into speed metal territory, Jaguar‘s debut album is another example of NWOBHM bands establishing a new order and influencing the thrash revolution which was unknowingly around the corner.
Howling feedback, distorted riffs and head-down blasting was the order of the day and it shreds as hard as any of thrash’s first wave of releases. “Prisoner”, “Coldheart” and “Dutch Connection” are pure aggression and things only settle down when Jaguar attempt an ill-advised power-ballad in the shape of “Master Game”.
Any fans of Accept, Exciter and Motörhead’s early 80’s material will get a kick out of Power Games and overall Jaguar’s debut is an astonishingly aggressive piece of NWOBHM history which deserves to be held in higher regard.
4. Satan – Court In The Act (1983)
In the days when bands were able to construct songs with melody, crunch, intensity and originality, Satan‘s debut, Court In the Act, stands out as a high-water mark and a NWOBHM album that can rival Iron Maiden’s debut for speed, attitude and technical prowess.
At it’s core, Court In The Act rattles along at a furious pace courtesy of Steve Ramsey’s chaotic and endlessly inventive riffs and an assured performance by vocalist Brian Ross; never strained but capable of unleashing demonic screams amidst ingenious vocal hooks.
The highly influential proto-thrash conjured by these Geordie mavericks is as thrilling today as it was 3 decades ago. In fact, it’s not just thrash that Court In The Act predates; speed metal and power metal owe this album a monumental debt of gratitude and fans of early Helloween and Blind Guardian will be experiencing a severe case of deja vu.
Just remember, Satan were first!
Recently reformed, their 2013 release, Life Sentence, is also worth selling your soul for.
3. Savage – Loose N’ Lethal (1983)
As soon as first track “Let It Loose” kicks you in the danglies, Savage‘s Loose N’ Lethal‘s purist speed/thrash credentials are authenticated; this album should have been as big as Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, it’s that good and frankly it’s that similar.
There is no doubt that the likes of Exodus, Metallica and Metal Church were taking extensive notes when Loose N’ Lethal‘s buzzsaw guitars, palm-muted chugging and vicious way with melody galvanised the scene. Make no mistake, all the early-era thrash bands borrowed extensively from the 8 white-hot tracks found here and Loose N’ Lethal should be held in higher esteem for this reason alone.
The vocals are strong, the solo’s are varied and intricate and the riffs hit hard. In all fairness, Savage were an extremely talented band who should have found themselves nestled alongside the big guns of the genre because in 1983 few bands were performing Metal this fast, this thrilling and this….SAVAGE!
Loose N’ Lethal is a bone-fide classic, add it to your collection quick-f*ckin’-smart!
2. Diamond Head – Canterbury (1982)
Diamond Head loved to experiment and their progression from Lightning To The Nations revolutionary raw noise, to the commercialised rock monster of Borrowed Time indicated they were never going to be a band to rest on their laurels.
When the time came to release their 3rd opus, Canterbury, Diamond Head fans could be forgiven for expecting more of the mainstream metal found on Borrowed Time but they were in for another shock.
Diamond Head had decided another change in tact would serve them well and although Canterbury is undeniably accomplished, fiercely intelligent and utterly fearless it unfortunately sent their career careening downhill fast.
So, what went wrong?
Perhaps NWOBHM fans weren’t ready for Freddie Mercury-esque, piano-driven odes to Tudor life (the title track), perhaps they balked at the middle-eastern tinged melodic AOR of “Ishmael” and the Led Zeppelin-isms of “The Kingmaker”, perhaps Diamond Head were simply too desperate to prove their worth and altered their sound too often without first establishing a loyal fan-base.
Whatever the reason for this album not being a massive success it’s high time NWOBHM fans gave it’s undeniable riches another chance to shine; forget the naysayers and give this underrated British classic another spin.
1. Tysondog – Crimes of Insanity (1986)
In 1986, thrash metal was in full swing and while the UK had a few bands attempting to keep up with their American cousins (Onslaught, mainly) one band in particular had all the necessary ingredients to make the leap from NWOBHM also-rans to UK thrash giants; that band was Tysondog.
Effortlessly bridging the gap between the NWOBHM and British thrash metal, Crimes Of Insanity is a fast-paced thrill-ride through 10 tracks of glorious heavy metal. “Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down” is the quintessential anthem and “Blood Money” recalls the likes of early Overkill and Flotsam and Jetsam, blending furious riffs and galloping pace with choruses so catchy your immune system will surrender on the spot. Even Tysondog’s decidedly risky cover of the Alice Cooper classic, “School’s Out”, pays dividends; the amped-up, added pace adding grit to an already classic tune.
Crimes Of Insanity should have elevated Tysondog to next level contenders but it wasn’t to be. Get ready for the bad pun….the only insane crime committed here is that this album wasn’t a massive success!
A tip of the hat to the following: Chateaux – Firepower/ Legend – Death In The Nursery / Gaskin – No Way Out / Elixir – Son of Odin / Hammer – Contract With Hell…..and there are, of course, plenty more!!!