Breaking America has long been seen as a sign of excellence for overseas bands. It is, after all, the biggest music market in the Western world. However, being a successful musician doesn’t mean you’re big everywhere at the same time – in fact, there’s a myriad of bands who, for one reason or another, simply don’t make it in some countries like they do in others. Whatever factors it may be down to – whether it’s their soundscape, cultural differences or just timing – some heavy metal geniuses just never break America. Here are 10 bands that put the “great” in Great British metal yet never made it across the pond.
New Wave Of British Heavy Metal stalwarts Saxon have plugged away steadily for decades and amassed a dedicated fanbase. They hit the top 10 in the UK charts three times during the 1980s, yet the same couldn’t be said on the other end of the Atlantic. In fact, the band have barely ever cracked the Billboard 200 in the US.
Scotland’s beloved trio have evolved from odd math rock to arena-bothering behemoths in the UK, but America has never fallen for them the way their homeland has. An ill-fated tour there was understandably cancelled to focus on the band’s health, but it also put the brakes on them seemingly ever blowing up stateside.
These danceable electro-rockers scored a number one hit in their homeland with latest album A Kiss For the Whole World, but there’s something quintessentially British about their take on their genre. It’s meant that, despite festival headline slots and topping UK chart, America simply doesn’t seem to get Enter Shikari.
How the godfathers of grind never cracked America is anybody’s guess, and it’s frankly incomprehensible. Despite Scum popularising the genre and the US having a burgeoning grindcore scene nowadays, the Brummie purveyors of extremity are best beloved on home turf, with the US never quite getting their head around Napalm Death.
Despite Heartwork being a seminal text in modern melodeath (which heavily influenced both metalcore and the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal), Carcass have flown largely under the US’s radar. It wasn’t until 2013’s Surgical Steel that their success picked up somewhat, entering at 41 on the Billboard 200.
Purveyors of all things doom and gloom, goth metal titans Paradise Lost are UK legends. Despite this, even the Yorkshiremen’s late-career revival with 2015’s excellent The Plague Within wasn’t enough to get the US to catch on fully, instead placing them on the “Heatseekers” chart, usually for emerging bands. Whoops.
Sikth helped pioneer a peculiarly British approach to progressive metal, with an avant-garde take to blending extremity, melody and hardcore that amassed them a cult following. Despite their influence, America didn’t really get it, even when the band returned after a hiatus and were welcomed back with open arms elsewhere.
Here’s a surprising one, perhaps, since Metallica have cited Diamond Head as one of their biggest influences and Am I Evil? remains one of the NWOBHM’s best-known songs. Despite this, the first time Diamond Head set foot on US soil wasn’t until 2002, for a single show in New Jersey.
Although 1989 debut Streetcleaner did get them touring the US in support, Godflesh’s cult following never grew much beyond that across the pond, perhaps due to singer/guitarist Justin Broadrick’s dislike for live shows. They’re still a phenomenal band, though, and their impact on industrial and post-metal practically goes without saying.
Influential to the point of having an entire UK festival named after them (ArcTanGent), Earthtone9 are beloved by those in the know. However, their scattergun approach to playing shows and, after their 2010 reunion, lack of desire to release much in the way of new music has kept America cold on them.