New Wave of British Heavy Metal

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The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) emerged in the late 1970s, in part a reaction to the decline (or over-popularity, and therefore 'untouchable' status) of traditional heavy metal bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. It was also a reaction against punk, although it incorporated many of British punk's innovations, and some of its aesthetic.

NWOBHM reacted against the artifice of contemporary pop, placing an emphasis on musicianship and amplification, the former trait setting it apart from punk. Yet, unlike progressive rock, which placed a far greater emphasis on musical ability, and unlike post-punk, which emphasized 'strangeness' and innovation, the NWOBHM thrived on volume, speed, and directness, with an idealised working class image. (Its closest counterpart in the British rock-musical landscape of the time was Oi -- a stripped-down, working-class variant of punk, which usually had little of heavy metal's technical prowess, but cross-fertilized with the new wave of British metal bands via groups such as the Cockney Rejects.) Reviled or ignored by many mainstream critics in both the UK and the US, the NWOBHM nonetheless came to dominate the hard-rock scene of the early-mid 1980s.

The movement was most associated with Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon, and Diamond Head, along with hard rock acts such as Motörhead and AC/DC which were not strictly part of the NWOBHM (and, in the latter case, not actually British). Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard went on to considerable, lasting mainstream success, with Def Leppard in particular being embraced by the American market. These bands, as well as many less well-known ones, became part of the canon (also including the New York Dolls, Kiss, etc.) that influenced later American bands such as Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Guns N' Roses.

NWOBHM was musically characterised by power chords, fast guitar solos and screeching vocals, with lyrical themes often, drawing inspiration from mythology, fantasy fiction, and the occult. The movement's music was, however, often surprisingly melodic, and surprisingly parallel to punk and post-punk (the main riff in Def Leppard's 'Photograph' was taken from The Pretenders' 'Brass in Pocket,' which was itself one of several Pretenders songs built on the riff from Public Image Limited's 'Public Image.')

The NWOBHM existed mostly outside the world of mainstream pop and rock culture; magazines such as The NME, Sounds, The Face and Melody Maker did not generally feature NWOBHM acts at all, whilst the genre did not lend itself to success in the pop singles market; NWOBHM acts typically emphasised albums. In response to this lack of recognition a popular subculture of NWOBHM magazines and fanzines emerged, most notably Kerrang!.

NWOBHM suffered the same fate as many other musical movements; the majority of its leading lights were unable to follow up their initial successes and the superstars moved further away from the genre towards mainstream hard rock. By the middle and end of the 1980s, America had become the epicenter of heavy metal, most notably with Van Halen, and later with Guns N' Roses and Metallica. The latter two in particularly were avowed fans of NWOBHM, recording cover versions of songs by Saxon and Angel Witch respectively. The few NWOBHM acts which remain popular today, with the exception of most notably Iron Maiden, are increasingly nostalgia acts.

List of artists:

External links

no:New Wave of British Heavy Metal pl:NWOBHM sv:New Wave of British Heavy Metal


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