Britain! We invented heavy metal, you know! Ever since Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi rang out that immortal first chord to give birth to the genre we all love, the list of legendary metal bands from these islands is endless. From Iron Maiden and Judas Priest to Bring Me The Horizon and While She Sleeps, we’ve got loads.
However, British metal has rarely had as many young and distinct bands operating at the same time as it does now. With the scene feeling special right now, here are 10 UK bands that any metalhead worth their salt will listen to.
The big daddies of the current crop of UK metal bands. The rise of this elusive and mysterious band has been quite remarkable. You’re probably aware of the story: the masks, the rituals, the refusal to talk to the press, all culminating with the band selling out Wembley Arena in a mere 10 minutes. Clearly, Sleep Token’s modern R&B and djent riff mashup is connecting with millions of fans. It’s an incredibly impressive feat – and we suspect it’s just the beginning.
Employed To Serve
A decade in the game and Woking hardcore-crossover crew Employed to Serve have yet to release anything that isn’t crushingly superb. From the chaotically mathy Converge-isms of debut Greyer Than You Remember to the more instant grooves of latest album Conquering, you’ll struggle to find a second of ETS’s material that isn’t pure killer.
Formed back in 2012, London quintet Ithaca always had a lot of promise. Their 2019 debut album The Language Of Injury was brilliantly savage Every Time I Die riff worship with a social conscience, but it was last year’s They Fear Us that made the band utterly essential listening. It took metallic hardcore, dreamy shoegaze and pure classic pop influences and wonderfully mashing them all into one album. The end result was a step up that even their most ardent admirers couldn’t have seen coming.
Featuring former members of cult sludge bunch Hang The Bastard, many would have (rightly) expected Urne to have plenty of riffs in their back pockets. What people maybe didn’t anticipate is the remarkable standard of songwriting ability they have exhibited so far in their short career. Debut album Serpent And Spirit was the perfect amalgam of ’80s Metallica thrash, Mastodon’s proggiest moments and the melody of classic Thin Lizzy. It was so great that Gojira frontman Joe Duplantier begged to produce its forthcoming followup, A Feast On Sorrow. It’s destined to be one of the metal albums of the year.
Starting life as a sludgy metal band back in 2015, Heriot have begun to evolve into something way more threatening, unique and impressive. Their recent UK headlining tour saw the quartet in venues that, whilst modest in size, were jam-packed with people trying to get a glimpse of British metal’s future. Plus, last year’s Profound Morality EP was fantastic: a brutal aural attack of modern metal with some jagged electronics thrown in. Get involved now.
There are a lot of very heavy bands on this list, but possibly none of them carry the hulking, oppressive weight that Conjurer bring to the table. The Rugby-born four-piece took everyone’s breath away when their now-classic debut album, Mire, seemingly appeared from nowhere in 2018. Since then, this wrecking crew’s tar-thick, pitch-black, destructive sounds have been heard on festival main stages and major support slots, despite them being one of the least commercial-sounding bands you could imagine. Last year’s Pathos album only hammered home how great they are – carry on like this and they could end up being the UK’s answer to Cult Of Luna.
This is another band that have been around a long time and have had to slowly but surely chip away before gaining the recognition they richly deserve. Svalbard occupy a space where black metal, melodic hardcore, dream pop and scathing, righteous outrage at societal ills all coalesce into one inspiring package. Their previous two albums – 2018’s It’s Hard To Have Hope and 2020’s When I Die, Will I Get Better? – are both utterly essential listening for any metal fan, and their forthcoming album, The Weight Of The Mask, will surely be every bit as good.
For a trio to make such an unholy cacophony as Pupil Slicer do is a rare thing. Their 2021 debut album Mirrors took grindcore and powerviolence, made that concoction even more unpalatable by adding math-metal twists and turns that no one could ever have imagined coming. The fact that they have recently followed it up with an album that is arguably even better, and inarguably broader, in Blossom is unbelievably impressive. We can’t even pretend we have any idea where Pupil Slicer will go next but, on the evidence we have so far, we have no doubt it’ll be pretty fucking special.
Unquestionably one of the most distinct bands the UK currently has, Loathe are incredibly difficult to pigeonhole as a collective. They could, at any one time, be battering your skull in with ferociously djenty metalcore, making your bottom lip tremble with their soaring melodies, or sending you off into psychedelic, ethereal plains with their ambient electronics. Put it all together in one package and you’ve got a very special band indeed. Plus, we hate to be so basic about it, but they just look so fucking cool. The total package.
When Sheffield chaos-starters Malevolence released their debut album, Reign Of Suffering, in 2013, fans of underground metal and hardcore lost their collective shit. We all thought they were about to soar into the upper echelons of the UK scene but, as great as that album was, it didn’t quite happen. Good things come to those who wait though, and Malev’s incredible mixture of the best bits of Hatebreed and Crowbar is just too hard to ignore. We’ve had a pair of equally fantastic albums since, and the band are finally starting to get their dues as songwriters. They’re also the kind of imperious live band that would have most musicians trembling in fear at having to follow.