It’s heartwarming how many of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’s original instigators are still writing and playing. The hot young bucks of 1979-80 are now reaching the ends of their careers, out on a last hurrah living the denim and leather dream one more time. But not all the heads banging are grey and bald; across the last few years we’re witnessing another groundswell of young homegrown talent eager to follow in the OGs’ footsteps, securing a future for the noble traditions of the craft.
Here are ten New Old/Old New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands kicking 2023 up the arse.
As the Lancaster quartet’s PR blurb proclaims, “In the parallel universe where the NWOBHM happened 600 years early, Wytch Hazel are the band of choice for the discerning Plantagenet headbanger.” Although the devout, pastoral folk vibe is less pronounced on gorgeous new LP IV: Sacrament, singer/guitarist/bandleader Colin Hendra continues delivering the most infectious, emotively charged and downright wholesome songwriting in 21st century metal, each earworm painstakingly honed into optimum shape but maintaining an organic magic.
Tygers Of Pan Tang
One of the best-loved bands from the NWOBHM’s original Class of '79, the Whitley Bay rockers alienated their grass roots support when they were tempted down the path of major label compromise, watering down their sound for an American mass market that never materialised. Since their millennial relaunch guitarist Robb Weir has gradually reasserted the Tygers’ place in our metal hearts, 2023’s Bloodlines the latest and feasibly greatest in a run of three/four killer records.
These Lancashire heavyweights have been bubbling away for a decade, percolating in the trad metal underground with the promise of great things to come. Even greater things than expected came on last year’s Ancient Light, one of the flat-out classiest British heavy metal records of recent memory, rugged and epic atmospheres deployed with a raw, spunky attack. Effortless fist-raisers, Eliminator have learnt all the right lessons from all the right bands (though mostly Iron Maiden).
Bad management, shady labels, line-up turmoil, health disasters... Tokyo Blade’s 40-year career has been plagued with enough misfortune to break the hardiest soul. Yet the Wiltshire quintet’s 1983 line-up - reunited in 2018 for the aptly named Unbroken LP - remains stoically intact after three heart-warming comeback albums. 2022’s razor-sharp Fury LP proves the Blade are hitting the form of their lives right now, the unexpected icing on the cake of a wildly chequered career.
KK Downing’s hottest tip for the new generation of UK HM, baby-faced whippersnappers Tailgunner proudly wear their impeccable influences on their sleeves (literally; their skeleton mascot is seemingly the bastard lovechild of Eddie and Vic Rattlehead). The multinational quartet have already proved themselves precociously adept with their energetic performances and bang-on time-warped tunesmithery; they’re hitting the socials hard with the self-promotional zeal of a young Manowar, and their imminent debut LP radiates confidence and panache.
The most important Gallagher brothers in rock, Geordie hellraisers John and Mark have guided the good ship Raven for nearly 50 years, never wavering - even when Mark needed four years to recuperate after being crushed by a 20-foot collapsing wall. Astoundingly, Raven’s new fifteenth LP All Hell Breaks Loose is arguably their most hyperactively intense work since 1981’s uproarious Rock Until You Drop debut, thanks partly to the whirlwind drum barrage of Mark Heller.
Southampton’s bid for heavy/power/speed metal glory, Toledo Steel have been on the rise for a decade, paying their dues warming up boards for NWOBHM legends like Raven and Grim Reaper. Influences range across US, UK and Euro styles, but a distinct identity emerges most persuasively in Rich Rutter’s wild, expressive vocals (check out the crazy wail opening On The Loose). A third album is coming together, and should make them household names (no pressure lads).
Suffolk’s mightiest contribution to the movement, Trespass’ strange career began with definitive 1980 cult NWOBHM anthem One Of These Days, punchy and tough but with a wistful melodic hook. On and off again throughout the 80s and 90s, Trespass didn’t finally settle into a consistent schedule until the mid-2010s. 2023’s Wolf At The Door confirms founding bandleader Mark Sutcliffe’s abiding knack for a driving tune, beguiling late-night city vibes delivered with a gut-level, blue-collar heft.
Joyfully immersed in an ancient English sylvan realm all of their own, Worcestershire’s Dark Forest isn’t that dark after all, more often lifting the spirits with scampering twin-guitar folk melodies and jubilant, galloping riffs. They’ve been around for 20 years, but 2020’s Oak, Ash & Thorn LP leant most decisively into their quirky bucolic USP, the warm, human voice of ex-Wytch Hazel man Josh Winnard soaring earnestly over a languid landscape of rousing pastoral melodies.
Playing Wolverhampton boozers in the early 1980s dressed as human embodiments of Air, Earth, Fire and Water must have taken balls of steel. Cloven Hoof eventually dropped the theatrics to distil a rugged brand of British power metal that unusually got stronger as the 80s wore on. Since bassist Lee Payne assembled a new line-up in 2006 their comeback albums have kept getting stronger too, with 2022’s sparkling Time Assassin packing a particularly powerful punch.