Winds of Time: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal 1979-1985

Winds of Time: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal 1979-1985

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Overview

Coming after the first wave of heavy metal bands like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple in the early '70s and the initial appearance of punk in the mid-'70s, a scene developed during the late '70s in the U.K. that combined aspects of both scenes and sounds to come up with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The bands involved definitely were children of Sabbath and Purple, with all the heavy riffing and yowling vocals that implied, but they were influenced by the D.I.Y. nature of punk, too. That meant that bands weren't waiting to be sent into fancy studios to get their rough-and-ready sounds cleaned; they were recording on the cheap and putting out records on small labels. A few bands like Def Leppard and Saxon broke through to the metal mainstream, but like in the case of punk, many of the bands burned brightly for a few singles or albums, then faded away. It's not a scene that's been heavily documented by reissue compilations, so that makes Cherry Red and HNE's three-disc box set Winds of Time: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal 1979-1985 so welcome. The compilers of the set round up a nice selection of bands from the era, both pretty well-known (Girlschool, Tygers of Pan Tang, Venom) and quite obscure (Demon Pact, Hellanbach, Gaskin), while making a strong case that there was no monolithic sound that the scene produced; it was more of an attitude and way of doing things. The bands dole out scuzzy biker rock (Lautrec's "Mean Gasoline"), rampaging fantasy metal (Diamond Head's "The Prince"), good-time party jams (Silverwing's "Rock 'n' Roll are 4 Letter Words"), and lots of tough rockers (Stormtrooper's "Bounty Hunter"); get sounds that range from super-poppy (Persian Risk's "Too Different") to darkly epic (Jaguar's "War Machine"); and only occasionally devolve into parody. When they do, like on the ridiculous "Tetelestai" by Witchfynde -- which amazingly Slash seems to have used as the template for his guitar sound on "Sweet Child O' Mine" -- it's still a lot of fun to hear. One of the guiding lights of the wave was definitely Motörhead, and more than a few bands followed Lemmy and the boys' every move, then cranked out an imitation. It's a tall order to match up with such a definitive group -- but Vardis give it a shot on "If I Were King," as do Warfare on "Metal Anarchy" -- and have the requisite energy, if not the songs. There were also songs, like Dark Star's "Kaptain America" and Angel Witch's "Loser," that could have been hits with major-label backing and slicker production. They were exceptions, though, and many of the bands here are doomed to obscurity by either dodgy production, guitar players whose grasp extended their reach, or songs that were kind of silly. Some may see those as flaws, but they are the elements that make the scene and the bands involved so interesting, and this collection does a great job of presenting the NWOBHM with warts and all.

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