New Wave of British Heavy Metal

Was a musical movement from England, which emerged between the 1970s and 1980s. Despite its name, it spread across Europe and around the world.

It began in the late 1970s when classic and already established Rock bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath began to be eclipsed in the music scene by the punk movement (increasingly strong with bands like Ramones, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, Exploited, GBH among others).

With New Pop and Disco Music comes a unique movement of bands that seek to rescue Heavy Metal, including the particularities of the style. The British New Wave of Heavy Metal re-energized heavy metal in the late 70s and early 80s. At the end of the 1970s, heavy metal was stagnating, with its great stars (Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath) looking for new directions away from their Metal roots, such bands were lost in their indulgences, making room for the emerging punk rock that seemed to meet the needs of a proletarian British youth, unemployed and hopeless under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government.

The British New Wave of Heavy Metal took the blues out of the first generation of Metal, adding weight and speed to it and emphasizing the metallic aspects of that style. It was pure metal made for fans without worrying about reaching large audiences yet reaching them. Perhaps this is why so-called traditional metal is largely shaped by the bands of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, like Metallica, who was inspired by bands like Diamond Head and Iron Maiden.

The following are considered the great exponents of this movement: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Venom, Def Leppard, Saxon, Motorhead and many others, but this quintet in particular achieved much media success and popularity in the 1980s. This quintet strongly influenced many other hard rock and heavy metal groups in the ’80s, defining central aspects of the so-called traditional metal. Some of them became references in other styles, such as Venom, which is considered the great forerunner of Black Metal; Judas Priest, a pioneer in the use of two guitars; and Def Leppard, which helped shape the 80’s hard rock and got a ride on the AOR (arena rock) with the album “Hysteria”. Other bands that were very prominent were Diamond Head, Samson (the band where Bruce Dickinson, current frontman of Iron Maiden, started), Raven, Tygers of Pan Tang (the band that revealed John Sykes), Girlschool, Witchfinder, among many others.

I never considered Led Zeppelin “Heavy Metal” and more like Hard Rock, but Deep Purple was nearly there. These bands were a source of inspiration for the New Wave of British Metal. I suppose Black Sabbath was probably the first Heavy Metal band, and Children of the Grave was among the first Metal songs.