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Headbangers Arise! Dive into the NWOBHM: The British Metal Invasion That Redefined Rock

In the late 1970s, a sonic earthquake hit the music scene. Disco was king, and prog rock was starting to lose its luster. But amidst the shimmering flares and funky basslines, a new breed of musicians emerged from across the pond. Enter the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), a movement that would forever alter the course of rock and roll.

Imagine the raw power of BLACK SABBATH and JUDAS PRIEST cranked up to eleven, infused with youthful rebellion and a dash of punk energy. That’s the NWOBHM in a nutshell. Bands like IRON MAIDEN and SAXON weren’t just playing metal; they were breathing new fire into the genre, paving the way for a whole new generation of headbangers.

This article is your guide to this groundbreaking era. We’ll delve into the origins of the NWOBHM, explore the bands that made it legendary, and unearth the lasting impact this movement has had on the music we bang our heads to today.

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The British Steel Battalion: Unveiling the Top 13 NWOBHM Bands That Forged Metal’s Future

This list of NWOBHM bands pays tribute to the groups of the era that reestablished heavy metal’s place in popular music and also paved the way for countless artists to follow, leaving a lasting legacy that continues to inspire and shape the metal landscape to this day.

13 – RAVEN

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RAVEN, hailing from Newcastle upon Tyne, are a pioneering force in the world of heavy metal, and have left an indelible mark on the genre with their fierce and unyielding sound.

Formed in 1974 by brothers John (bass/vocals) and Mark Gallagher (guitar), along with drummer Rob “Wacko” Hunter, RAVEN emerged during the formative years of metal, becoming one of the precursors to the thrash metal movement and remain one of the most recognized NWOBHM bands..

The band’s early albums, such as “Rock Until You Drop” (1981) and “Wiped Out” (1982), showcased their dynamic blend of speed, aggression, and melodic sensibilities. Their influence reverberated through the metal community, inspiring countless bands with their energetic performances, high-octane guitar work, and distinctive vocal style.

RAVEN‘s commitment to pushing musical boundaries and their influential live shows helped solidify their role as forebearers of the genre, earning them a devoted global fanbase. Their impact on the evolution of heavy metal remains evident in the fervor of modern bands, demonstrating the enduring legacy of RAVEN‘s uncompromising spirit.

Despite numerous lineup changes over the years, predominantly behind the drum kit, they remain active today, touring and releasing new music.

12 – PRAYING MANTIS

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PRAYING MANTIS, a stalwart of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement, has played a pivotal role in shaping the genre’s distinct identity.

Emerging from London in 1973, the band’s early history intertwined with the burgeoning British hard rock scene. However, it wasn’t until the late ’70s and early ’80s that PRAYING MANTIS became a driving force within the metal movement, characterized by their melodic yet powerful sound.

Their debut album, “Time Tells No Lies” (1981), exemplified their ability to seamlessly fuse harmonious melodies with hard-hitting riffs, showcasing a style that would become emblematic of the era.

PRAYING MANTIS‘ influence on the genre is unmistakable, as their craftsmanship and commitment to melodic sensibilities have paved the way for countless bands. Their significance lies in their ability to bridge the gap between traditional heavy metal and a more melodic approach, leaving an enduring mark on the evolution of British metal and beyond.

11 – ANGEL WITCH

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ANGEL WITCH, a revered figure within British metal, stands as a cornerstone of the genre’s foundation.

Formed in London in 1977 by guitarist and vocalist Kevin Heybourne, the band burst onto the scene with their eponymous debut album “Angel Witch” in 1980. Renowned for its blend of heavy riffs, intricate guitar work, and occult-inspired themes, the album became a touchstone for the emerging NWOBHM movement.

With its dark and captivating sound, ANGEL WITCH helped shape the sonic landscape of the era. The band’s influence on the genre is palpable, as their pioneering approach bridged the gap between traditional heavy metal and a more intricate, progressive style.

ANGEL WITCH‘s impact extends beyond their immediate contemporaries, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to inspire and influence subsequent generations of heavy metal enthusiasts and musicians.

10 – SAMSON

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SAMSON, a trailblazing force within the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, has etched an indelible mark on the genre’s landscape.

Formed in 1977 by guitarist and vocalist Paul Samson, the band quickly gained prominence with their electrifying live performances and a sound that seamlessly blended traditional metal with raw power. Their early lineup included future IRON MAIDEN vocalist Bruce Dickinson, further solidifying their ties to the burgeoning movement.

SAMSON‘s debut album “Survivors” (1979) garnered attention for its ferocious energy and captivating melodies, setting the stage for their influential contributions. The album “Shock Tactics” (1981) further showcased their innovative prowess, paving the way for their distinctive style.

SAMSON‘s influence on the genre is undeniable, as they played an instrumental role in shaping the sound and attitude that defined the movement. Their legacy lives on as a driving force that helped propel the NWOBHM to international recognition, leaving an indelible imprint on the evolution of metal.

9 – GIRLSCHOOL

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GIRLSCHOOL are an iconic and trailblazing presence within the New Wave of British Heavy Metal who proved that you don’t have to be male to deliver pummeling, aggressive music.

Formed in London in 1978, the band’s driving force was the quartet of talented women: Kim McAuliffe (vocals/guitar), Enid Williams (bass/vocals), Kelly Johnson (guitar/vocals), and Denise Dufort (drums). Their debut album “Demolition” (1980) burst onto the scene with a fierce blend of hard-hitting riffs, raucous energy, and a defiant spirit.

GIRLSCHOOL‘s contributions resonated deeply within the movement, showcasing their relentless determination while breaking down gender barriers in a male-dominated genre. The album “Hit and Run” (1981) further solidified their reputation as pioneers, boasting anthemic tracks that became emblematic of their sound.

GIRLSCHOOL‘s unwavering influence within metal is exemplified by their dynamic stage presence, pioneering attitude, and unapologetic approach, making them a beacon of inspiration for subsequent generations of heavy metal artists and fans alike.


8 – TYGERS OF PAN TANG

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TYGERS OF PAN TANG are a band who embraced the melodic side of the NWOBHM movement.

Emerging from Whitley Bay in 1978, the band quickly gained traction with their potent blend of gritty riffs, melodic sensibilities, and electrifying performances.

Led by founding member and guitarist Robb Weir, the TYGERS OF PAN TANG‘s sonic prowess was showcased on their debut album “Wild Cat” (1980), which highlighted their distinctive sound and captivating songwriting. The subsequent album “Spellbound” (1981) further solidified their status, presenting a seamless fusion of hard-hitting anthems and infectious melodies.

TYGERS OF PAN TANG‘s impact on the genre of heavy music is undeniable, as they contributed to its meteoric rise and played a vital role in defining the era’s sonic identity. Their enduring legacy continues to resonate through subsequent generations of heavy metal artists, exemplifying their influential and lasting contributions to the genre.

7 – VENOM

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VENOM, a pioneering force in the world of heavy metal, has carved an indelible path with their dark and aggressive sound.

Formed in Newcastle, England, in 1979, VENOM burst onto the scene with their debut album “Welcome to Hell” (1981), which unleashed a new level of intensity and extremity. Comprised of Cronos (vocals/bass), Mantas (guitar), and Abaddon (drums), the band embraced a raw and visceral approach, coining the term “black metal” in their music and aesthetics.

Their second album, “Black Metal” (1982), further solidified their iconic status, influencing the burgeoning thrash and extreme metal subgenres.

VENOM‘s influence reverberated through the metal community, spawning legions of devoted fans and inspiring generations of bands to embrace a more aggressive, uncompromising sound. Their contributions to heavy metal’s evolution remain pivotal, shaping not only the music but also the rebellious spirit that defines the genre.

6 – DIAMOND HEAD

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DIAMOND HEAD is a legendary heavy metal band hailing from the UK, renowned for their significant impact on shaping the genre of metal during its formative years.

Formed in Stourbridge, England, in 1976, DIAMOND HEAD gained prominence in the late 1970s and early 1980s as pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. Their distinct blend of powerful riffs, melodic solos, and soaring vocals established a blueprint that countless metal acts would draw inspiration from in the years to come. The band’s influential sound, characterized by intricate guitar work and dynamic songwriting, played a pivotal role in defining the classic metal sound.

DIAMOND HEAD‘s 1980 debut album, “Lightning to the Nations,” is a cornerstone of the genre, featuring timeless tracks like “Am I Evil?” and “Helpless.” These songs, particularly “Am I Evil?,” achieved legendary status and were famously covered by METALLICA, further solidifying DIAMOND HEAD‘s enduring influence on metal.

Over the decades, their impact remains palpable as their music continues to inspire and resonate with new generations of metal enthusiasts, cementing their legacy as true icons of heavy music.

5 – SAXON

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SAXON are a quintessential heavy metal band hailing from England who made an incredible mark on the history of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal since their inception in 1977.

The band swiftly rose to prominence with their energetic and anthemic sound. Fueled by the powerful vocals of Biff Byford, intricate guitar work, and hard-hitting rhythms, SAXON became synonymous with the classic metal sound that has stood the test of time.

Their breakthrough album, “Wheels of Steel” (1980), is considered a cornerstone of the genre, featuring iconic tracks like “747 (Strangers in the Night)” and the title track.

SAXON‘s influence on metal is profound, as they not only contributed to shaping the emerging sound but also inspired subsequent generations of bands, both within and beyond the heavy metal realm. Their ability to fuse melody with sheer power and deliver memorable live performances has solidified their place as true pioneers of metal, maintaining their relevance and impact over the decades.

4 – MOTÖRHEAD

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MOTÖRHEAD, an iconic heavy metal band formed in 1975 by the legendary Lemmy Kilmister, stands as a force of nature within the genre. With their raw and unrelenting sound, MOTÖRHEAD not only helped define metal as a genre but also played a pivotal role in the creation of speed metal and thrash metal.

The band’s history is a testament to their enduring influence, characterized by an uncompromising attitude, relentless speed, and Lemmy‘s distinctive gravelly vocals.

Their 1980 album “Ace of Spades” remains a seminal work, showcasing their signature blend of hard rock and punk influences.

MOTÖRHEAD‘s music embodies the spirit of rebellion, loudness, and unapologetic authenticity that continues to resonate with fans and musicians alike. Their relentless touring and ferocious live performances further solidified their status as true pioneers, inspiring generations of metalheads to push boundaries and embrace the rebellious essence of heavy metal.

3 – DEF LEPPARD

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DEF LEPPARD is a renowned British rock band that played a significant role in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Formed in Sheffield, England, in 1977, the band’s early years were marked by a raw and energetic sound that blended heavy metal with glam rock influences. DEF LEPPARD‘s debut album, “On Through the Night” (1980), showcased their burgeoning talent and established them as a rising force in the scene. However, it was their follow-up releases, “High ‘n’ Dry” (1981) and the groundbreaking “Pyromania” (1983), that catapulted them to international fame.

Despite personal and creative challenges, including the tragic loss of drummer Rick Allen‘s arm in 1984, DEF LEPPARD persevered and reinvented their sound with the massively successful “Hysteria” (1987).

Throughout their early years, DEF LEPPARD‘s relentless pursuit of innovation and their fusion of rock elements contributed significantly to shaping the NWOBHM movement and solidified their status as enduring rock icons.

2 – TANK

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Rolling out of London in 1980, TANK didn’t waste time on frills or theatrics. They were pure, unadulterated NWOBHM fury. Unlike bands like IRON MAIDEN with their galloping theatrics, Tank specialized in a heavier, more traditional metal assault.

Imagine thunderous drums laying down a relentless foundation, overlaid with galloping bass lines and gritty vocals that leave no room for compromise. That’s the TANK sound. Their music wasn’t about intricate melodies or soaring vocals; it was about sheer power and headbanging intensity.

Tracks like “Stormtrooper” and “W.M.L.A.” became anthems for fans who craved a more aggressive side of the NWOBHM movement. TANK wasn’t afraid to delve into darker lyrical themes, adding another layer of depth to their music.

While commercial success remained elusive, TANK earned a dedicated following within the metal scene. Their influence can be heard in thrash metal bands and other artists seeking a heavier sound. TANK may not have been flashy, but they left their mark on the NWOBHM landscape with their relentless sonic assault.

1 – IRON MAIDEN

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IRON MAIDEN, formed in 1975 in London, stands at the pinnacle of the NWOBHM movement.

Rising to prominence during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement, IRON MAIDEN‘s early years with singer Paul Di’anno showcased their raw and rebellious spirit. Di’anno‘s gritty vocals combined with the intricate guitar work of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and the galloping basslines of Steve Harris created a distinctive sonic tapestry.

Their self-titled debut album, “Iron Maiden” (1980), and its follow-up, “Killers” (1981), introduced a blend of melodic aggression and storytelling that captured the imagination of metal enthusiasts. Tracks like “Running Free” and “Wrathchild” embodied the band’s energetic live performances, helping to shape the archetype of the metal frontman.

IRON MAIDEN‘s early era set the stage for their future success, as their unique blend of melody, harmonies, and gritty edge laid the foundation for the epic compositions and operatic storytelling, courtesy of Di’anno‘s eventual replacement and former SAMSON singer Bruce Dickinson, that would become their hallmark.

Their influence on the genre is immeasurable, as they not only inspired subsequent generations of metal bands but also revolutionized live shows with their elaborate stage productions, further cementing their status as pioneers of heavy metal.

Conclusion:
The top 13 NWOBHM bands have left a massive mark on the world of metal music. Their influence continues to shape the genre, and their music remains cherished by fans worldwide.

While some bands have faced challenges and undergone lineup changes, their legacies endure, inspiring generations of metal musicians.

From the energetic performances of RAVEN to the iconic sound of IRON MAIDEN, these bands embody the spirit of the New Wave OF British Heavy Metal and its lasting impact on the history of heavy music.