It’s hard to fathom that it’s now 40 years since the New Wave of British Heavy Metal became a term. I was 20 years old and had been a fan of “Hard Rock”, as we called it then, for maybe five years even though I had been listening to it off and on since the early seventies. Then the term “Heavy Metal” was just a synonym to “hard rock”, not another genre. Anyway, by the end of the seventies hard rock wasn’t the most popular music style even though the real fans still bought the albums and came to the concerts. But the music media was more interested in Punk and New Wave, especially in the UK. The New Musical Express loved to put down hard rock and Heavy Metal bands, so I never bought that paper. However, I did by Melody Maker whom had a couple of cool writers like Brian Harrigan and Steve Gett, that wrote about hard rock. These two papers where available in Sweden but the third and most important paper for this style of music, Sounds, wasn’t. At last not in Gothenburg where I lived. Geoff Barton who wrote for Sounds was actually the one who came up with the term “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” in May 1979. But at that time I didn’t even know about Sounds existence, but I still knew of the new metal movement…
In the seventies there was no outlet for hard rock on Swedish radio so I used to try to find international radio stations to listen to even though the reception was mostly pretty bad. This is something that I had started to do in the first part of the seventies when I stumbled upon Radio Luxemburg. But sometime around 1978/79 I found something much better when I managed to tune in to BBC Radio 1 and a fantastic program called “The Friday Rock Show” with the extremely cool host Tommy Vance and the great producer Tony Wilson. This program started at 09.00 pm (which was 10.00 pm in Sweden) and played pretty much exactly the music that I loved, everything from “art rock” to “Heavy Metal”. They also had a great intro tune by Dixie Dregs called “Take it Off the Top” with Tommy’s catch phrase “TV on the radio” on top, which I always liked. All the great bands from the seventies like Genesis, Yes, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Budgie and so on was featured. But there was also a healthy dose of new unsigned bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Tygers of Pan Tang, Angel Witch and all the other great bands from the NWOBHM movement. The show featured demos and self-founded singles by these bands and sometimes they were even invited to record a session for the program. Sometimes we even got to hear new songs from not yet released albums by giants like Rush.
This is how I found out about all this new great music long before anyone else that I knew in Sweden, at that time. Not to mention the new Heavy Metal magazine called Kerrang that was published by the people behind Sounds, if I remember correctly, which I of course started to subscribe to.
In the summer of 1980, I decided to go to England to see the three-day Reading Festival, mostly because Budgie was playing there, but also because a ton of NWOBHM bands playing there, as well as some classic bands. I managed to see Praying Mantis, Gillan, Rory Gallagher, Quartz, Grand Prix, Samson, Pat Travers Band, Iron Maiden, UFO, Sledgehammer, Angelwitch, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Girl, Magnum, Budgie, Def Leppard and Slade. I also bought all the debut albums that I found by these new bands as well as some singles. When I came home to Sweden again after the festival and played my new albums for my friends, most of them where not that impressed, they were stuck in the seventies. It took a couple of years before these new bands gained any popularity in Sweden in the broader sense, but me and some other hardcore fans around the country bought everything we could get our hands on. Not just the British bands, we found bands from all over the world like Canada, USA, other parts of Europe and even Japan. It was a great time to be a metal fan and soon Heavy Metal was a big genre even in Sweden.
New Swedish bands were also forming all over the country and most of them managed to release at least one album. Among the earliest bands of what became known in Sweden as FWOSHM (First Wave of Swedish Heavy Metal) were bands like EF Band, Overdrive, Torch, Silver Mountain, Axe Witch, Gotham City, 220 Volt, Ice Age and of course Europe, but there where many more, like own band Destiny that was formed in1982 even though our album debut was in 1985. Destiny however never broke up unlike most of the bands both from NWOBHM and FWOSHM who didn’t survive more than a couple of years. Almost only the giants like Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Lepparad survived to this day.
Than something happened. During the last decades quite a few of the pioneers of NWOBHM have returned stronger than ever. Personally, I’m very impressed by both the Tygers of Pan Tang and Angel Witch who have released very strong albums since their return.
The same thing is happening in Sweden where there are great bands like Wolf, Bullet, Ram and many more, that are inspired by metal from the eighties. Most importantly, even bands from the FWOSHM are making a comeback. One example is Ice Age that released an amazing album, “Breaking the Ice”, in 2017 and they are now in the studio recording a follow up. Another example is Torch that just a couple of weeks ago made a triumphant return with their first new album, “Reignited”, in 36 years. These are only two examples of “comeback albums” that has been released, and more is on the way.
So, after 40 years both NWOBHM and FWOSHM are back again, maybe not as big and important as when the movements started all those years ago, but surely just as good, if not better!
I end this chronicle with the prophetic words of Black Sabbath, “Never Say Die”…