::New Wave of British Heavy Metal


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The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (commonly abbreviated in NWOBHM) was a nationwide musical movement that started in the late 1970s in the United Kingdom and achieved international attention by the early 1980s. The term was first used by journalist Geoff Barton in the May 1979 issue of the British music newspaper Sounds, as a way of describing the emergence of new heavy metal bands in the late 1970s, during the period of punk rock's decline and the dominance of new wave music.

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal began as an underground phenomenon parallel to punk and largely ignored by the media, which, only through the promotion of rock DJ Neal Kay and Sounds' campaigning, reached the public conscience and gained radio coverage, recognition and success in the UK. The movement involved mostly young, white, male and working class musicians and fans, who suffered the hardships of the diffuse unemployment condition that hit Great Britain in the late 70s and early 80s. As a reaction, they created a community separated from mainstream society where to enjoy each other's company and their favourite loud music. It evolved in a new subculture with its own behavioural and visual codes and a shared set of values, which were quickly accepted by metal fans worldwide following the almost immediate diffusion of the music in the US, Europe and Japan.

Although fragmented in a collection of different styles, the music of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal is best remembered for drawing from the heavy metal of the 70s and fusing it with the intensity of punk rock, producing fast and aggressive songs. The DIY attitude of the new metal bands caused the diffusion of raw-sounding self-produced recordings and the proliferation of independent record labels. The song lyrics were usually about typically escapist themes, like mythology, fantasy, horror and rock lifestyle.

The movement spawned about a thousand metal bands, but only a few survived the advent of MTV and the rise of the more commercial glam metal in the second half of the 80s. Among them, only Iron Maiden and Def Leppard became international stars, although Motörhead and Saxon had also considerable success. Other groups, like Diamond Head, Venom and Raven, remained underground acts, but were a major influence for the very successful extreme metal subgenres of the late-80s and 90s. Many bands from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal reformed in the 2000s and are still active with live performances and new studio albums.

New Wave of British Heavy Metal sections
Intro  Background  Identity and style  Music and lyrics  History  Influences and legacy  See also  Notes  References  

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