My final NWOBHM list! The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was coming to an end in 1983. After all, you can only be “new” for so long. The NWOBHM movement, which began in 1979, was much hyped by the heavy metal press, but when all was said and done it only produced two legitimate “superstar” bands, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard. (Trailing somewhere far behind, in third place, would probably be Saxon.) While surprisingly few NWOBHM bands ever made it beyond “cult” status, all the great music that emerged from the NWOBHM can’t be denied. The NWOBHM will always remain near and dear to the heart of old school metal fans (like you and me).
As mentioned above, by ’83 Iron Maiden and Def Leppard had become huge stars. As such, I have chosen to declare those two bands ineligible for this list. That means no Piece Of Mind, and no Pyromania. I will focus only on those bands that were still fighting for a big break in 1983. The “cult” bands, if you will.
As always, this list contains only my personal favorite NWOBHM albums from ’83. The ones I have enjoyed the most over the years. No apologies! Let’s roll…
10. Raven – All For One
What’s there to love about Raven’s third LP, All For One? Well, for starters the production is excellent (by Michael Wagener and Udo Dirkschneider). The drum sound they captured was perfection, and the performance of Rob “Wacko” Hunter was excellent (once again). The guitar work (by Mark Gallagher) is sure to please any true-blue metal fan. Intense riffing all over the place, and fiery leads to scorch your apple bag. Raven called their coke-fueled sonic mayhem “athletic rock”. That name didn’t exactly stick in the heavy metal lexicon, but looking back, the racket Raven was administering was actually proto-thrash. In essence, Raven had arrived at something that approached thrash metal, even before the genre came to be. All For One is a bit more catchy than the Raven album that preceded it, Wiped Out (1982). That’s not to say All For One is easy to get in to, it takes a few listens to make sense of the insanity. One track stands out above all, the magnificent Run Silent Run Deep, my favorite Raven song!
What’s not to love about All For One? Well, for me, the factor that limits me from full-fledged enjoyment of Raven’s music will always be the ear-piercing vocals of John Gallagher. Like a problem child in dire need of Ritalin, John screeches, shrieks and clowns his way through another Raven set. I have softened my stance on John’s vocals through the years, but I guess I still haven’t acquired the taste completely. My score: B
9. Jaguar – Power Games
Jaguar’s first full-length LP was overflowing with energetic high-speed metal of the sweat-band n’ sneaker variety. Power Games approaches Raven-like levels of intensity, yet without the ear-raping vocals of Raven’s guy (that’s a good thing in my book). Paul Merrell had a kind of guy-off-the-street voice, which suited Jaguar’s unpretentious, smash n’ grab sound. With amps set to “crank”, Jaguar put their foot to the pedal and just let it rip. This album actually picks up steam near the end of its ten songs (rare… most of these early eighties albums fall off considerably on side two). Ain’t No Fantasy, Rawdeal, and Coldheart close the show in kick-ass style. The original LP had the cheapish cover art shown on the left. When Power Games was re-issued on CD in ’97, the cover was “updated” (see it here). Possibly more crappy. My score: B
8. Witchfynde – Cloak & Dagger
The third Witchfynde LP was Cloak & Dagger. Although a new singer joined Witchfynde’s ranks for this album (Luther Beltz, replacing Steve Bridges), it was still the same ol’ hopeless Witchfynde (and I love ’em for it). The rhythm section stayed in place from Stagefright (1980), and guitarist/songwriter Montalo (one name only… like Cher I guess) was still leading this luckless band. And by “same ol’ Witchfynde” I mean that Cloak & Dagger sounds like a wobbly vinyl record, or a slightly warped cassette. Not sure how Witchfynde managed to sound this way, but I think it adds to their dreary, slightly inept, charm. Witchfynde (once again) stirred a bubbly cauldron of doomy, dungeon dirges, and cast sticky melodies o’er the top. The title track stands out above all, a sinister zombie march with a strong bass line, Montalo’s pretty lead tone, and Beltz’s strong vocals. Other faves include Crystal Gazing and I’d Rather Go Wild. Cloak & Dagger is not nearly as heavy as the band’s name and album cover insinuate, but it’s still a curio worthy of multiple spins. My score: B
7. Satan – Court In The Act
Satan! Is there a better band name than Satan? Gets right to the point, no bull shit. I like the cut of their jib. Satan debuted with Court In The Act on Roadrunner Records (also Neat Records and Metal Blade Records). This album shows a real progression of the prototypical NWOBHM sound into a more technically agile direction. Simply put, Court In The Act is a blazing heavy metal album. The guitar duo of Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins made an excellent case for themselves as upper echelon heavy metal guitarists for their time. There are tons of riffs, fills, and leads to get ya all boned up. With furious but controlled speed and plenty of catchy melodies, Court In The Act finds itself in that rarefied air where speed, power, and catchiness come together perfectly. Well, almost perfectly. You see, the production on Court In The Act pretty much blows. All the instruments seem to bleed together, and the final product sounds cheap and soupy. Brian Ross’ vocal track sounds like it was recorded over the phone. That’s another thing, Ross (ex-Blitzkrieg) was just an average vocalist (at best). His milquetoast delivery didn’t do justice to the knockout tunes on Court In The Act (in my opinion).
Despite my two quibbles, Court In The Act remains one of my favorite NWOBHM albums of ’83. Indeed, it may be one of the most cutting edge albums of that year, along with stuff like Mercyful Fate’s Melissa and Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All. Killer tracks include Trial By Fire and Blades Of Steel. The latter tune is NOT about the old Nintendo hockey game that torched my thumbs to a point of uselessness back in the day (although that would be awesome). It’s actually about marauding vikings doing their viking things (rape and pillage, perhaps?).
Despite the band’s blasphemous name, Satan’s lyrics were not concerned with occult themes. In fact, the name became somewhat of an albatross for the band. Several name changes were ahead for these guys. The next time we heard from them they had a new singer and were called Blind Fury (see review of that album here).
The bottom line is that Satan’s Court In The Act had all the makings of a metal milestone, but any possibility of such an impact was likely stopped in its tracks by a production job that may be the suckiest suck that ever sucked. CD re-issues add three bonus cuts, including the “single version” of the kick-ass Break Free. My score: B+
6. Sledgehammer – Blood On Their Hands
Though Sledgehammer released a single back in ’79, they (unfortunately) didn’t release this debut full-length LP until ’83. Had they been able to get an album out earlier during the NWOBHM craze, Sledgehammer may have made a bigger impact on the NWOBHM scene. Nevertheless, Blood On Their Hands (Illuminated Records) deserves some serious praise. Sledgehammer may be the only NWOBHM band that I can think of that reminds me of The Who. Vocalist Mike Cooke sounded a bit like a young Roger Daltrey, and some of the melodies on Blood On Their Hands were somewhat Who-ish. This, in contrast to many NWOBHM bands who were influenced by Sabbath and Priest.
Over The Top 1914 opens the album in stellar fashion; it’s an unorthodox tune that has a cool main riff and a dramatic “soft” break section. The second track, Perfumed Garden, has a gnarly main riff that calls to mind the tricky guitar lines of Tank. Again, Sledgehammer mixed in softer moments to give the song a dynamic edge. Another highlight of Blood On Their Hands is Sledgehammer, a mighty kick to the nuts. Good band, this Sledgehammer. Lots of cool stuff going on here! My score: B+
5. Saxon – Power & The Glory
The well-oiled metal machine that was Saxon continued to pound out album after album of solid material in the early eighties. Power & The Glory, the band’s fifth studio album, saw the addition of an excellent new drummer to the Saxon ranks (Nigel Glockler), as well as a much-needed boost in the production department. The album opens with what may just be the best Saxon song of them all, Power And The Glory. The song’s refrain; “To the power and the glory, raise your glasses high“, gives me that same goose-bumpy feeling that I get when I listen to Saxon’s “classic” Denim And Leather. Just an awesome heavy metal song! Although the chorus to Power And The Glory is quite anthemic (inspiring me to want to charge deliriously into battle after pounding a few goblets of ale), the lyrics to the song are actually anti-war, making the song somewhat duplicitous in nature (much like Springsteen’s oft-misunderstood Born in The U.S.A.).
My favorite thing about Saxon has always been Biff Byford’s earnest, straightforward lyrics. The lyrics to each of his songs often tell a simple story. This is very much the case on the entire Power & The Glory album. As mentioned, the title track deals with war, specifically the plight of the disposable soldier (Biff was influenced by the Falkland conflict at the time). Watching The Sky ponders the existence of extraterrestrial life (influenced by the movie E.T., so says Biff), and The Eagle Has Landed is about the first moon landing. These are just a few examples of Biff’s grounded, everyman musings. On the whole, Power & The Glory stands up very well with Saxon’s other early eighties albums. Since Power & The Glory only has one truly transcendent track (the title track), I place it behind Denim And Leather (1981), which had a handful of such majestic numbers. However, I rank Power & The Glory higher than Strong Arm Of The Law (1980), and probably equal to Saxon’s seminal NWOBHM platter Wheels Of Steel (1980). (I am happy to bid adieu to the abrasive guitar tone used on those two 1980 LPs!) As for the album cover? Big ol’ bag of suck. My score: B+
4. Heavy Pettin – Lettin Loose
Heavy Pettin’ was a young, cocky, and very talented Scottish band. Big things were expected of this band when they debuted with Lettin Loose in 1983 (Polydor Records). With a major label contract, and a very accessible “American” hard rock sound, it looked like Heavy Pettin’ were going to be huge. Not sure why Lettin Loose didn’t make a bigger splash, but I guess that’s how it goes.
Lettin Loose was co-produced by Queen’s Brian May. Though members of Heavy Pettin would later express disappointment in the final product, I think the album sounds just fine. There are nine tracks on Lettin Loose, and not a stinker among them. This is just solid, very enjoyable commercial hard rock/metal. While many compare Heavy Pettin to Def Leppard, I don’t reach that conclusion when listening to Lettin Loose. Certainly both bands had a radio-friendly sound built for American audiences, but the two bands did not sound very similar to me. If anything, one could say that Heavy Pettin were a bit more talented and consistent than the Leps, but the Leps had more “big hits” in their arsenal. Maybe that’s the only thing Heavy Pettin was missing on Lettin Loose; a breakout “smash” single like Photograph or Rock Of Ages. But the consistency of Lettin Loose is something to be admired. Just push play baby! (Note: the U.S. version of this album was re-mixed and released by Polygram records. Titled Heavy Pettin, the album had a different cover, shown here.) My score: A-
3. Chateaux – Chained And Desperate
Ebony Records released a handful of NWOBHM albums in 1983, the label’s second year of existence. The two most “famous” albums were See You In Hell by Grim Reaper, and Loose ‘N Lethal by Savage. But for me, the real jewel of Ebony’s ’83 NWOBHM output was Chateaux’s Chained And Desperate. Interestingly, Grim Reaper’s lead singer, Steve Grimmett, was also the lead singer for Chateaux on Chained And Desperate. Comparing these two Grimmett albums, it’s my opinion that Steve gives a much better performance on Chained And Desperate than See You In Hell (he’s much less “campy” and “cartoony” on Chained And Desperate). And to compare the two albums in general, See You In Hell sounds rushed and sloppy while Chained And Desperate sounds loose and lively. There’s no hiding that Chained And Desperate was recorded on a shoestring, but the rough edges of this recording seem to accentuate Chateaux’s searing, off-the-cuff, metal style. Jacked-up metal jams like Son Of Seattle and Shine On Forever highlight the album. The two tracks actually make me think of “grunge” music, which became popular about a decade later. I could imagine a band like Mad Season recording something akin to Shine On Forever. Tim Broughton’s in-your-ugly-face guitar playing and Grimmett’s outstanding vocals make this album a NWOBHM must-have! My score: A
2. Witchfinder General – Friends Of Hell
In 1983 Black Sabbath issued the very mediocre Born Again album. Luckily, Witchfinder General was able to pick up the slack, and deliver the blunt-force trauma of Friends Of Hell, an album that harkens back to Sabbath’s Master Of Reality days. Friends Of Hell was this Stourbridge band’s second album (Heavy Metal Records). Friends Of Hell contains a warehouse full of doom-soaked, meat plow riffs. Lyrically, Friends Of Hell was a bit more bleaker in tone than the tongue-in-cheek lyrics on their debut Death Penalty (1982). Love On Smack, Requiem For Youth, and Music are my particular favorites. Witchfinder General had a real amateurish charm about them (check out the hanging flesh bags on the cover for your proof). But the riffs? Holy shit! My score: A
1. Wildfire – Brute Force And Ignorance
Listening to Wildfire’s debut LP, Brute Force And Ignorance, makes it clear to me that the vocal talents of Paul Mario Day were not properly utilized in his previous band, More. Day sang on More’s 1981 album Warhead, but his performance was restrained, probably because More was the band of guitarist Kenny Cox, and not that of Day. Henceforth, it’s not hard to fathom why the two talents parted ways prior to More’s 1982 album Blood And Thunder. One can imagine that Day needed a better outlet for his voice and songwriting abilities. After leaving More, Paul Mario Day helped convince Alfie Faulkenbach to start a new label (Mausoleum Records), and one of that label’s first signings was Day’s new band Wildfire.
Day’s vocal talents shine bright on Brute Force And Ignorance. So too does his ability to create a seemingless endless amount of catchy melodies. Sitting comfortably between hard rock and melodic metal, Brute Force And Ignorance boasts a penchant for high quality song craft. Faves include Redline, Violator, and Wildfire. ‘Tis a shame that the somewhat ragged production values afforded this recording (typical of Mausoleum) pissed on the band’s lofty aspirations. With major label support and better production, the world may have learned to love Wildfire. I sure as f*ck do! My score: A+
Go back to the Top Ten NWOBHM Albums of 1982