10 Of The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’s Most Underrated Albums!
You'll find no Iron Maiden, Saxon or Def Leppard here....
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, these NWOBHM bands increased the speed, embraced the power chords 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 has rooted around the NWOBHM vaults and unearthed 10 relatively 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.
In no particular order….
Demon – The Unexpected Guest (1982)
Channeling Black Sabbath‘s eerie, morbid soundscapes but updating them for an 80’s audience (something even 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.
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 fuckin’ 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.
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 its 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!
Tytan – Rough Justice (1985)
Tytan arrived 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” recalled 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.
Tytan may have been a one-off in the 80’s but this is one album that deserves to be played over and over again!
Witchfynde – Stagefright (1980)
Not nearly as well known, or as loved, as their Give ‘Em Hell debut, 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.
Most underrated albums? The albums you choose are TOP NWOBHM albums except for the last two.
Thanks for commenting Roberto. You are correct, they are top albums but they are also most definitely underrated. By that we mean they should have been more popular outside of the niche circle of NWOBHM fans. Just to prove my point, consider the albums/artists not included. There’s no Maiden, no Tygers Of Pan Tang, no Saxon, no Angel Witch, no Raven and instead of Witchfynde’s more popular Give’Em Hell, we chose Stagefright….the more underrated album.
Canadian Thrash Metal band?
witchfinder General Friends of hell, death penalty.
I would consider Death Penalty to be an acknowledged NWOBHM classic but agree with Friends Of Hell being underrated, a great follow-up \m/
Really excellent list, mr. Jennings. For many enthusiasts of this movement, actually some choices are quite obvious, e.g. the mentioned albums of Cloven Hoof, Satan, Jaguar and Tytan. A very positive surprise for me is that you chose the astounding Stagefright of Witchfynde, a true underrated (or hidden) gem. This is one of my favourites of all time. Very distinctive, very dark and melodic at the same time, a obscure masterpiece.
Thanks! Stagefright is an obscure masterpiece indeed and the more people who discover this underrated classic the better \m/
Their albums were included in the list, but I don’t think Demon, Diamond Head and Tokyo Blade are less popular than Raven, Angel Witch and Tygers Of Pan Tang.
The tips in the end of the list are very good indeed. As a pretentious specialist, I have some additional recommendations: Witchfynde, Chateaux, Pagan Altar and Witchfinder General: everything released to date! And finally, Omega’s album “The Prophet”.
My Vote goes for Girl – “Sheer greed” fast punky songs with a glam sheen and some top notch solos. forget that various members went one to become american hair metal types and just enjoy the sheer energy of the collection
These are good albums, what do you think of A II Z’s Witch of Berkeley or Quartz’s self titled or Bitches Sin Predator?
The Quartz debut is great (they have a new album coming out this month you know!), the Bitches Sin album not so great. I have to confess, I’ve never heard the A II Z album but live albums don’t generally thrill me! Thanks for reading and commenting \m/