All non-album/non-stock pictures by Tony Pijar
Any hard rock/metal fan, regardless of age, will know the majesty, might, and magnificence of the NWOBHM. The bands that came out of that time period (figure 1979-82), to this day, have influence that is far-reaching. Not only did hundreds of groups form out of England, but throughout Europe, Japan, and the US. I have ranked my top 20 NWOBHM albums (from 20 to 1) below. In addition, I have created a separate list of bands outside of England who were strongly impacted by this majestic and influential movement (also from 1979-82).
Top 20 NWOBHM Albums:
20. Hollow Ground – ‘Warlord – Anthology’.
This anthology, released through High Roller Records, encapsulates Hollow Ground’s complete recordings. The band is most noted for their inclusion on Lar Ulrich’s NWOBHM compilation, ‘79′ Revisited’ , with the track ‘Fight with the Devil’. A great cut, but there is so much more to this band that falls under the category of ‘should have made it big…’
19. Gaskin – ‘End of the World’
Led by guitarist Paul Gaskin, the band released two excellent records back in 1981-82 with ‘End of the World’ and ‘No Way Out’. The latter was a more streamlined hard rock record, while the former is metal with prog leanings. ‘Sweet Dream Maker’ and ‘I’m no Fool’ are both quintessential NWOBHM anthems. in 2000, the band reformed and put out ‘Stand or Fall‘ and followed it with ‘Edge of Madness’ in 2012. Since then, all has been quiet on the Gaskin front.
18. Dark Star – ‘S/T’
Back in 1981, Dark Star released one of the best NWOBHM albums that has stood the test of time. They were one of the more promising acts from that movement. Lady of Mars‘ was showcased on the legendary NWOBHM compilation ‘Metal for Muthas II’. That song, along with ‘Backstreet Killer’ and ‘Kaptain America’, should have put this band in the same category as maiden, Saxon, and Def Leppard. Dark Star released one more album in 1987 entitled ‘Real to Reel’, but it’s AOR stylings didn’t do them any favors with their hardcore fan-base.
17. Weapon – ‘Set the Stage Alight – Anthology’
Another great band with their eyes on the prize who just couldn’t break out. Shame too, because these guys had it all; looks, enthusiasm, exemplary musicianship, and excellent songs. Everyone who is a fan of the NWOBHM knows their standout track called ‘Set the Stage Alight’ but, for me, ‘It’s a Mad Mad World’ was it! The main riff to this song remains one of the best ever! They reformed in 2010 and are now known as Weapon UK and have since put out ‘Ready 4 U‘ and ‘Rising from the Ashes’. Both are worth checking out!
16. Marseille – ‘Rock you Tonight: The Anthology’
Initially mentioned in the same breath as Def Leppard, Marseille had everything that the Lep’s had but didn’t get the same breaks. Their material was hard, but with great melodies, hooks, and killer choruses. Their debut, ‘Red, White and Slightly Blue’ wasn’t bad, but the self-titled release in 1979 shook the music world. It was a killer record that had the likes of ‘You’re a Woman’, ‘Rock you Tonight’ and the awesome ‘Some Like it Hot‘. The follow-up album, ‘Touch the Night’ paled in comparison and they disbanded shortly thereafter. They regrouped in 2009 and put out ‘Unfinished Business’. It looks like the band has been dormant since.
15. Raven – ‘Rock Until you Drop’
‘Athletic Rock’ is what Raven were tagged with when they first came out…and rightfully so. The progenitors of what would become known as thrash and speed metal, Raven, back in 1980-82 knew two speeds; blur and total blur! ‘Rock Until you Drop’ and ‘Wiped out’ inspired the likes of a fledgling Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and others that would start the whole thrash movement. ‘Don’t need your Money’, Crash Bang Wallop’, ‘Faster than the Speed of Light‘ and others solidified thee band’s reputation as one of the best NWOBHM bands ever. After a rough patch of less than spectacular releases, Raven went back to their roots with ‘Walk though Fire‘ in 2009 and haven’t looked back. Their latest record, ‘Metal City‘, is one of their best ever!
14. Samson – ‘Shock Tactics’
Many will cite ‘Head on’ as the band’s best with Bruce Bruce (Dickinson), but for me ‘Shock Tactics’ is a more consistent album. Their cover of Russ Ballard’s ‘Riding with the Angels‘ is amazing, as is ‘Earth Mother’, ‘Nice Girl’, ‘Once Bitten‘ and ‘Grime Crime’ – all sure-fire winners. Had Dickinson not joined Maiden, who knows what masterpiece Samson would have come up with next. Nonetheless, it was the post-Dickinson Samson with Nicky Moore that made them better. Paul Samson was more comfortable with a more blues-based hard rock sound, which is what we got with ‘Before the Storm’ and ‘Don’t get Mad…get Even’.
13. Venom – ‘Welcome to Hell’
Good God! When I put the needle onto the record and ‘Son of Satan’ came blasting out of the speakers, I thought the speed was on 78 and that there was fuzz on the stylus! I thought ‘Welcome to Hell‘ was garbage! Who knew that it would become one of the most revered and influential metal records ever! It, along with its successor entitled ‘Black Metal’ spawned black, death, and speed metal. Listening back to ‘Welcome to Hell’ nowadays, I get it. Mantas wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought he was back in the day, and mostly every black and death metal band has a vocalist who owes a debt to Cronos.
12. Samson – ‘Before the Storm’
After Bruce Dickinson joined Maiden, Samson was kind of up in the air. After all, losing such a magnificent singer and front-man would kill off less talented bands. Paul Samson recruited Nicky Moore and delivered with ‘Before the Storm‘. It’s less metal and more hard rock with bluesy undertones, which suited Moore’s voice and Samson’s playing perfectly. The band could still box the ears when necessary on the likes of ‘Test of Time’, ‘Turn out the Lights‘, and ‘Dangerzone‘. The follow-up, ‘Don’t get Mad…get Even‘, is almost as good.
11. Def Leppard – ‘High ‘n’ Dry’
For those ‘in the know’, ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ is the absolute best Def Leppard album ever. All else after it pales in comparison. ‘On Through the Night’ is great, but lacks the production of its successor. The triple hit to the face that is ‘Let it Go’, ‘Another Hit and Run’ and the title track are three of the band’s best songs ever. Then, you get the metal instrumental that is ‘Switch 625′, the rocking ‘Lady Strange’, and Lep at their heaviest with ‘No No No’. With a whiff of America and big bucks, Lep changed their spots, went for the AOR gold, got it, became millionaires, and never looked back. I just wish they had it in them to write one more hard rock/metal masterpiece…
10. Tygers of Pan Tang – ‘Spellbound’
While the Tyger’s 1980’s debut album, ‘Wild Cat’, raised more than a few eyebrows upon its release, it was ‘Spellbound’ that catapulted the them into the upper echelon of the NWOBHM pantheon. With the addition off vocalist Jon Deverill and hot-shot guitarist John Sykes, the Tygers produced an absolute gem. Having Sykes and Robb Weir spar on songs such as ‘Hellbound’, ‘Gangland’, and ‘Tyger Bay’ was fantastic! Deverill’s almost theatrical voice suited the music perfectly. The Tygers are still going strong and have just released a greatest hits package highlighting the last 13 years called ‘Majors and Minors’; a worthy pick-up!
9. Angel Witch – ‘S/T’
This influential, ‘self-titled album by the great Angel Witch ranks as one of the best NWOBHM albums ever! Every song is amazing with Kevin Heybourne’s inimitable vocals and lead playing simply brilliant throughout. If you don’t have this record yet, I’d search for the ‘25th Anniversary Edition‘ that has loads of seldom-released material such as ‘Flight 19′, ‘Extermination Day’, all of the BBC recordings and a wealth of demos. Their last two albums, ‘As Above, so Below’ and ‘Angel of Light’, are pure old-school NWOBHM class!
8. Holocaust – ‘The Nightcomers’
Another highly regarded release (just ask Metallica who covered the band’s ‘The Small Hours’) from a band that is still going strong. ‘The Nightcomers’ is just unbridled energy, but done with class. The title track is an eerie piece that rockets along on Robin Begg’s riveting bass line. What else can be said about ‘Heavy Metal Mania’ and ‘Death or Glory’, both of which were covered by Gamma Ray. You should also check out the live ‘Hot Curry and Wine‘ record too. The band’s last recording, ‘Elder Gods’, is too progressive for my tastes and moves further from the band’s metal blueprint. Check out ‘Predator’ instead.
7. Tank – ‘Filth Hounds of Hades’
Originally thought of as a Motorhead copyist band, Tank had more to offer. Yes, ‘Filth Hounds…’ is a raw and raucous piece of metal, but some of the songs did have a hint of melody to them. On one hand, you get ‘Shellshock’, ‘Blood, Guts and Beer’, ‘Heavy Artillery’ and the frantic title track. Paradoxically, the heavy but more melodic ‘She Fell in Love with a Stormtrooper‘ and ‘That’s what Dreams are made of’ will have you humming the chorus for days. While the next three releases, ‘Power of the Hunter’, ‘This Means War‘, and ‘Honor and Blood‘ were all excellent, they never matched the sheer power of this debut. Tank is still going strong and have put out some fantastic newer material. Check out ‘Valley of Tears’. Algy Ward’s ‘Breath of the Pit’ is decent enough as well. It’s too bad that Ward and Mick Tucker and Cliff Evans can’t get on the same page, as I’m sure they’d produce some kick-ass tank music.
6. Iron Maiden – ‘Killers’
Paul Di’Anno’s last stand with Maiden and it was a great way to go out! ‘Killers’ upped the ante and made the band instant stars in Europe. America beckoned as well in 1981 and Maiden joined Judas Priest on their ‘Point of Entry‘ tour. As a witness to that event, I can tell you that Maiden destroyed Priest! Many people prefer the Di’Anno-fronted albums to the more prog sleek machine the band would become with Bruce in the band. For me, anything that Maiden does is manna from the heavens!
5. Motorhead/Girlschool – ‘St. Valentine’s Day Massacre’.
What a great collaboration! Motorhead, on the legs of ‘Ace of Spades’, and upstarts Girlschool formed an incredible bond; so much so, that they combined forces and released this three-track EP. Every member was contributed to the Johnny and the Pirates song ‘Please don’t Touch’. Motorhead put their indelible touches on Girlschool’s ‘Emergency’, while the girls returned the favor with an amazing cover of ‘Bomber’ – I’d say it’s better than the original!
4. Girlschool – ‘Hit and Run’
Back in the late 70s/early 80s, all girl metal bands were not taken seriously. However, when Motorhead fully endorsed Girlschool it all came together. Their first album, ‘Demolition Boys’ was as decent enough debut, but it all came together with their sophomore release. ‘Hit and Run’ has eleven cuts and they’re all excellent, especially the lesser-known pieces like ‘I’m your Victim’, ‘Kick it Down’, ‘Watch your Step’ and ‘Yeah Right’. In fact, this album rates so highly that the current band re-recorded all of the tracks. Their last record, ‘Guilty as Sin‘ (2015), is also quite brilliant!
3. Diamond Head – ‘Lightning to the Nations’
‘Lightning to the Nations‘ was so far ahead of its time! Brian Tatler and Sean Harris were just teenagers when they conceived this monster! Every track remains a NWOBHM classic! A couple of these songs ended up on the group’s next album called ‘Borrowed Time‘, which is also a great slab of metal, but a more polished than ‘Lightning’. As it was once written, one Diamond head song had more riffs in it than the first four Sabbath albums! Of course, an exaggeration but you get the point. Next to Tony Iommi, there was no better riff writer than Tatler! The band is still out there and putting out highly commendable records including their last one entitled ‘The Coffin Train’.
2. Saxon – ‘Strong Arm of the Law’
If truth be told, ‘Strong Arm…‘ and ‘Wheels of Steel’ are interchangeable at the top two spots. Both are indispensable and iconic. Was there ever a better NWOBHM anthem than ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’? How about the rocking and epic ‘Dallas 1 PM‘ with its chugging riffing? Check out the metal groove of ‘Taking your Chances’ or the swaggering riff that is ‘Hungry Years’. There is no weak song herein! All classics!
1.Saxon – ‘Wheels of Steel’
Honestly, I picked up this record back in 1980 based solely on the bad-ass back cover; never heard a note, but I knew I had to have this album! It helped that two of the guys were wearing Motorhead shirts! As soon as the revving of the motorcycle engine and that guitar riff kicked ‘Motorcycle Man‘ into gear, I knew I was onto something great here! Like its successor, every cut on ‘Wheels…‘ is gold from the groove-heavy title track. the anthemic ‘747 (Strangers in the Night), the frenzied ‘Street Fighting Gang’, and the manic ‘Machine Gun’! To complete the trilogy, Saxon added ‘Denim and Leather’ to the pack in 1981. They would never sound this good again!
Top 20 Albums from International Bands Aligned with the NWOBHM:
20. 220 Volt – ‘S/T’
This Swedish act released two excellent albums in 1983-84, their self-titled debut and ‘Powergames’. Their sound comprised of driving metalized riffs with an acute ear for melody. Their music is closely in step with the NWOBHM but with a sound that was inherently and undeniably Swedish. They, along with Silver Mountain, Torch, Overdrive, Heavy Load, Axewitch, Glory bells, etc., were the forbearers of Swedish metal.
19. Silver Mountain – ‘Shakin’ Brains
Another great Swedish outfit, Silver Mountain, started in 1979 and released a hard-to-get single. They, like 220 Volt, released their debut album in 1983. They, along with Yngwie Malmsteen, arguably started neoclassical metal. Guitarist Jonas Hansson’s playing was aligned with Yngwie’s, but certainly not as bombastic. They combined hard-hitting metal with melody and classical influences. ‘Shakin’ Brains‘ is the best of the lot. They last put out an album in 2015 called ‘Before the Storm’ and it is quite good. As an aside, phenomenal and legendary keyboardist Jens Johansson got his start with Silver Mountain. It wasn’t long before he was the most in-demand keyboard player out there.
18. Baron Rojo – ‘Volumen Brutal’
The greatest band to ever emerge from Spain, Baron Rojo’s music was steeped in the NWOBHM. They never bettered this album and its successor ‘Metalmorfosis’. ‘Volumen Brutal‘ has the edge though largely due to their two best tracks ever ending up here; ‘Isolation Ward’ and ‘Rockers go to Hell’. The latter has some killer slide playing from Armando de Castro. It was this record that propelled Baron Rojo to stardom in England. They were the first Spanish metal band to ever play at the infamous Marquee and adorn the cover of the metal bible back in the day that was the mighty Kerrang! Sadly, as fast as the band rose to the top, they faded back into relative obscurity. That said, they continue to release some high-quality hard rock/metal. I saw them a few years ago in NYC and they blew me away!
17. Killer – ‘Ready for Hell’
Belgium’s Killer were often compared to Motorhead back in the early 80s. This three-piece raised a ruckus with their debut as well as their successive records ‘Wall of Sound’ and ‘Shockwaves’. This was Paul ‘Shorty’ Van Camp’s band and his uncompromising, if somewhat simple, guitar playing hit the spot. The band are still intact and are poised to put out a new album in the near future.
16. Overdrive – ‘Metal Attack’
Not to be confused with the UK’s Overdrive, these Swedes were the real deal. They, like Silver Mountain, could best be described as neo-classical metal, especially with Janne Stark’s exceptionally fluid playing. In truth, they were more straight-up metal than Silver Mountain. This album and the follow-up ‘Swords and Axes’ were two prime slices of Swedish metal. While no new music has been created since 2011’s ‘Angelmaker‘, the band is still together.
15. Ocean – ‘S/T’
Ocean was a great French band. Next to the almighty Trust, there was no better French hard rock/metal group out there. They began their journey in 1977 with ‘God’s Clown’, which wasn’t very good. They started to find their sound with 1980’s ‘Je Suis Mort de Rire’ and ‘A Live + B’. But, it was with this ‘S/T’ release where Ocean became a true class act with some AC/DC-like riffing. Guitarist Georges Bodossian’s playing was up comparable to Angus in some respects, but perhaps more aligned with Trust’s NoNo. Just when the band found their stride, they, inexplicably, broke up. They reformed in 2016 and put out ‘C’Est La Fin’, but it never reached the heights of this self-titled output.
14. Bodine – ‘Three Times Running’
13. Torch – ‘S/T’
Sweden’s Torch was and is the true epitome of an out of control metal machine. This album and the follow-up, ‘Electrikiss’, are their best. The band reformed in 2009 and put out ‘Dark Sinner’, which is a mix of old re-recorded material as well as new cuts. In 2021, Torch released ‘Reignited’, which is quite good! But their self-titled debut saw this new group at its best with some of the best riffing you’ll ever hear. You’ve got to check out ‘Warlock’, ‘Watcher of the Night‘, and ‘Battle Axe’. You’ll see just how special Torch was…and is!
12. The Rods – ‘In the Raw’
Choosing the best Rods album is a difficult task; the first three are all classics! I chose ‘In the Raw’ because I think it is the most consistent. For starters, you get the raging opener ‘Hurricane’ followed by another stomping track in ‘Can’t get Enough of the Fun’. Rock Feinstein delivers on two of the best Rods cuts ever in the Priest-like ‘Go for Broke’ and the manic ‘Hot Love’. Carl Canedy sings on the more mid-paced numbers like ‘Witches’ Brew’ and ‘Evil Woman’. ‘In the Raw’ is just a meaty, sweaty record that kills. Of course, you should pick up the band’s debut and ‘Wild Dogs’; a trilogy of metal mayhem of the highest degree!