The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (commonly abbreviated as NWOBHM) is a metal music movement which was instigated in United Kingdom in late the 70s. The revolution was a consequence of heavy metal bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. NWOBHM reduced the blues tone of the earlier acts and adopted a tougher sounding high paced tempo approach to music.
Their intention was not to cater to a wide audience but to cater to an exclusive crowd who appreciated heavy metal. The era is credited for instigating various metal sub-genres with prominent bands like Metallica citing NWOFBM bands like Motorhead as a major influence. In many ways NWOBM was a revolution against contemporary pop, emphasizing on musicianship and amplification. Unlike progressive rock which tried to incorporate a high level of musical complexity and unlike punk which thrived on ‘innovation and bizarre’, NWOBHM focused on speed and directness.
Despised and ignored by mainstream critics, NWOBHM nonetheless dominated the hard-rock scene of the early 80s. The music is characterized by fast paced solos, soaring vocals and power chords and lyrical themes centered on occult, fiction and fantasy. Despite the music being very much analogous to hard-rock and punk rock the musicians managed to inject an uncanny sense of melody into their songs. The early NWOBHM was associated with Avenger, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Demon, Sweet Savage and Samson. The long hair, torn denims, leather and chains donned by most NWOBHM musicians would go on to spawn a fashion cult amongst the youngsters.
It was Rob Halford, lead vocalist of Judas Priest who first introduced the macho leather jackets; he has admitted in many interviews that he procured them from bondage shops. The massive number of low cost demos that were available during this period coupled with the restricted amount of media coverage has made some of these releases collector’s items of the highest scale. In some cases as low as a single copy of a record is believed to exists.
NWOBHM suffered the same sad fate of many musical movements, the major reason being the inability on the part of the bands to follow up on their initial success. Things further deteriorated with the initiation of the new metal scene in LA in the mid 80s headed by Guns N’Roses and Motley Crue. Record companies too latched onto the LA metal scene for the simple reason they brought legions of female fans into the metal scene, something which NWOBHM failed to do. However groups such as Iron Maiden, Saxon and Venom went on to become the part of a group which had a major influence on the American thrash bands such as Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. Early Metallica in particular had striking semblance to number of NWOBHM bands such as Blitzkreig, Motorhead and Diamond Head.
The increasing popularity of the internet helped NWOBHM fans to get together and stage a minor revival of the movement. Many NWOBHM bands that were encouraged by the success of tribute bands, got together and toured successfully.