Ten Of The Best: Scottish Metal

Writing On The Wall – Lucifer Corpus (The Power Of The Picts, 1969)

This spooky Edinburgh hard-prog quintet played with Black Sabbath in 1970, but the Scots had already beaten the Brummies to the Satanic downer rock punch on this fuzzy Gothic chiller with a trippy dose of the occult (“The devil’s name be on my dying breath/Lucifer go down down, take me underground…”).

Iron Claw – Skullcrusher (Demo, 1970)

Nae fockin’ aboot from this savage Dumfries quartet whose demo material was some of the heaviest metal of the early 70s; Skullcrusher marauds along on a creepy riff that Autopsy would be proud to call their own. Iron Claw unexpectedly reformed to release their studio debut in 2011, and their 1971 tune Loving You is covered on the new Blood Ceremony 7”.

Nazareth – The Ballad Of Hollis Brown (Loud ‘N’ Proud, 1973)

Scotland’s biggest shot at heavy rocking glory, Dunfermline foursome Nazareth were an energetic, hell-raising combo later covered by Guns N’ Roses and Overkill, but this sludgy nine-minute reworking of a Bob Dylan ballad is pure proto-doom, thick with fat, droning stoner guitars and Dan McCafferty’s sublime voice increasing in pitch to raucous pre-Halford shrieks.

Holocaust – Death Or Glory (The Nightcomers, 1981)

The pride of Scotland’s fairly modest contribution to the NWOBHM – beating the considerable likes of Zenith, Hazzard, Heavy Pettin’ and Chasar – Edinburgh’s Holocaust were favourites of Metallica and Chuck Schuldiner, and this evil-riffed classic with creepy psycho lyrics (“Don’t need no girl to hold me/I only love my knife”) was surely their most influential, and mesmerising, moment.

Satan’s Empire – Soldiers Of War (Lead Weight, 1981)

This excitingly-named Dundee quartet remained a complete mystery for decades; this was the only song they ever released, on a Neat Records sampler, and even surrounded by the cream of England’s Geordie metal mafia – Venom, Raven, Blitzkrieg, White Spirit, Fist – and despite a thin, low-budget sound, consensus always was that this quirky prog-metal epic was the highlight.

The Exploited – Anti-UK (Death Before Dishonour, 1986)

Effectively an uncouth rallying anthem for the Scottish independence campaign (“Let’s all rule ourselves/Let God save the fucking Queen!”), this vicious opener from an underrated album saw the Edinburghian street punks edging ever closer to the raw brutality of incipient extreme metal, with Wattie’s furious gargling bellow and Nig’s ripping buzz-saw guitar.

The Almighty – Powertrippin’ (Powertrippin’, 1992)

These fiery Glaswegians were fatally hyped as the Scottish Guns N’ Roses when they emerged in the late 80s, and were on the cusp of rock megastardom when grunge suddenly made fun unfashionable. This was their most concerted blast of stripped-down aggro metal, with pummelling bass drums and a blunt, squealing solo ramping the Motörhead up to 11.

Alestorm – Keelhauled (Black Sails At Midnight, 2009)

This Perth-based ‘True Scottish Pirate Metal’ quintet struck a rich seam of swashbuckling jollity in the late 00s on the back of the Disney pirate craze. These wacky longhairs were about as historically accurate as Jack Sparrow, with their pantomime look, party-hard attitude and synthesised accordion, much in evidence on this archetypal scampering folk metal reel with sea-shanty overtones.

Cerebral Bore – 24 Hour Party Dungeon (Maniacal Miscreations, 2011)

Brutal death-grind deviance from the gutter of a Glasgow ghetto, Cerebral Bore’s self-released debut included this topical ditty about Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his own daughter in a sex dungeon for 24 years, summing up the case with Caledonian sensitivity in lyrics like “Prepare for winky, it’s coming for you and it bears a tash” and “Zinger Tower gives me the power to deflower my own kids”.

Attica Rage – Back To The Old School (Road Dog, 2011)

These sturdy, stocky Celts, with a lineage going back to the late 80s, bear traces of good-time rock ‘n’ roll among their hammering monster biker grooves, and this weighty anthem, imploring the listener to “Raise a clenched fist and bang your heads” to “the old school days”, is an inevitable favourite at their well-honed but uproarious live show.

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.