Ask any heavy metal fan what their favourite sub-genre is and you will be met with a variety of answers. Perhaps they prefer the classic rock of the 1970s, hair metal from the 1980s or grunge from the 1990s, but it is unlikely you will hear anybody mention the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. This short-lived movement was primarily adopted by the working class who delighted in going to live gigs and supporting local bands.
This movement arrived in the UK as punk rock was falling into decline in the late 70s and featured fast, aggressive songs, mainly self-financed on the bands’ own record labels. Here are some bands who inspired fans, and caused a sensation in their local towns, but didn’t make it into the mainstream.
Although formed in 1974, Witchfynde achieved little recognition until the release of their first single Give ’em Hell in 1979. It received frequent airplay on the Friday Rock Show and was followed by a support slot with Sheffield rockers Def Leppard. The driving force behind the band, bassist Andro Coulton, left in 1980, and their record label subsequently withdrew its funding.
Sparta were formed by Tony Foster in 1979, and are renowned for their innovative, fantasy-inspired lyrics, matched with hard-driving twin lead guitars. They soon created their own label, Suspect Records, and released their debut single Fast Lane, which was named Single of the Week in Sounds magazine. In later years they were approached by High Roller Records who were eager to release a compilation of their entire back catalogue, perfect for listening to on your expertly refurbished macbook air uk for some old-school headbanging. They still attract a huge fan following all over the world.
This band from Warrington formed in 1981, but split within a year due to financial issues and were unheard of until their re-emergence in 2014. after being invited to perform at a festival. Since then, they have gone from strength to strength on the underground scene, reviving the classic hard riffs that are associated with this genre, and gaining new fans in Europe.
This Newcastle band came to attention with the release of a demo EP in 1982, which was widely praised for its crisp production which was unusual for a self-financed label at that time. They are still touring today, having been reformed by original guitarist Dave Dawson, and released a new album in 2017.
Surprisingly, this genre has always been more popular on foreign shores, as opposed to appealing to its homegrown listeners. Rare singles and albums have been known to change hands for thousands of hands across the globe, particularly in Japan and South America.