10 obscure but amazing New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands that should have been far, far bigger

Album art by Diamond Head, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Fist and Tokyo Blade
(Image credit: Press)

Whenever anybody talks about the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, the conversation always turns to the same pool of bands that found huge success: your Iron Maidens, your Saxons, your Def Leppards. However, those names are just a handful of the hundreds that helped bring the NWOBHM to prominence.

Alas, no movement lets every participant rise to fame, so we dug through the archives to pick out 10 bands who were releasing music that was just as good. Some, dare we say, had moments where they were even better than the superstars. Here are 10 unsung heroes of the UK metal heyday.

Metal Hammer line break

Diamond Head

When Megadeth lists you as an influence and Metallica covers your songs, you know you’ve done something right. Sadly though, during debut album Lightning To The Nations, Diamond Head were managed by their singer’s mum and their first “record label” was a cardboard factory. Momentum took quite a while to pick up.

Angel Witch

Angel Witch’s history is a convoluted one that involves 31 members, a US iteration of the band and a rather woeful commercial peak of number 75 in the UK charts. Still, their influence on thrash, doom and speed metal is undeniable. Death, Celtic Frost, Anthrax and Slayer have all listed them as an inspiration. 

Tygers Of Pan Tang

After they entered the UK album charts at number 18 with debut album Wild Cat, Tygers Of Pan Tang seemed to be destined for greatness. Instead, their chart numbers plummeted as the ’80s continued. The Northerners perform and record to this day, however, and have a rather high-profile fan in Lars Ulrich.

Tokyo Blade

There are few bands that have changed their members, genre or name as much as Salisbury’s Tokyo Blade. Unsurprisingly, all that upheaval prevented them from hitting any real run of success, but the quality of their early albums landed them tours and festival slots alongside everyone from Scorpions to Dio and Ozzy Osbourne.


Although Fist faded into obscurity, their limited output exemplifies all that was magnificent about the NWOBHM. Punchy riffs? Check! Tight solos? Check! Elastic vocals? You know it! They may have been dropped by MCA (the same label that bungled Diamond Head and Pan Tang‘s careers), but fans have stuck about – and for good reason. 

Traitors Gate

A rare Welsh member of the NWOBHM, Traitors Gate released one EP, 1985’s Devil Takes The High Road, before disbanding for 30 years. Its galloping riffs and hooks make it more than worth unearthing, and the band finally followed it with a debut album called Fallen in 2018! That’s one hell of a buildup, lads.


Their debut album was produced by Tony Iommi. Ozzy Osbourne offered to sing backing vocals on their song Circles. And Brian May tried and failed to edit said song, stating the original version was better. In short, Quartz might just be the most all-star-endorsed heavy metal band that you’ve never heard of.

White Spirit

You know Janick Gers as one of Iron Maiden’s three guitarists. But, before that, he formed the criminally underappreciated White Spirit. Their self-titled 1980 debut still sounds great today, and a long lost cassette was carefully restored and released as their second album in 2022 – 41 years after it was originally recorded!

Praying Mantis

Although Praying Mantis’ formed long before the NWOBHM heyday, their late debut and stop-start stints never truly gave them a chance at mainstream recognition. The Londoners’ first album, 1981’s Time Tells No Lies, is an absolute gem, but instability with their management resulted in their label dropping them. A followup wouldn’t come for 10 years.

Cloven Hoof

Cloven Hoof started strong, their uber-theatrical approach (replete with element-inspired nicknames) and debut EP The Opening Ritual winning them support from Kerrang! and Sounds. However, seemingly endless lineup changes stifled that goodwill. The band are currently on their ninth vocalist, and only bassist Lee Payne has stayed with the Wolverhamptoners since they first formed.