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10 Essential Albums of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal Movement to Listen to Next Time You Shop for Leather Pants

Arguably one of the most important explosions in bands in heavy metal history, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement, or NWOBHM (or to some people, Nu-Wah-Bum for some reason) combined the heaviness and melodies of bands like Judas Priest, Motorhead, Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy with the working-class, DIY attitude of the punk movement (don’t tell Steve Harris we said that) to create some of the best, hard-hitting, kickass metal albums of all time. Singles and EPs aside, here’s a list of what we believe to be 10 albums that every denim-clad-heavy metal-rock n’ roller must have in their collection in order to understand the essence of NWOBHM, in no particular order.

Saxon “Denim and Leather”

“Where were you in 79′?” Well, I wasn’t born yet, but if it was half as good as Saxon’s 1981 classic “Denim and Leather” record, I’d say you’d be lucky to have lived back then. This record is the epitome of straight-up leather jacket-wearing, knife-fighting, fist-banging heavy metal, and certainly solidifies Saxon’s spot on the Mt. Rushmore of British Heavy Metal.

Standout Cut: “Denim and Leather” for being a more than worthy theme song for the entire NWOBHM movement.

Raven “Rock Until You Drop”

After releasing the iconic “Don’t Need Your Money,” single, Raven’s 1981 debut album on the legendary Neat Records brought their signature high-energy, chaotic rocking heavy metal sound into the spotlight. Even after all these years, the Gallagher brothers (not those ones) can still kick ass on stage with the best of them!

Standout Cut: “Don’t Need Your Money” and sure, it was a single before the record, but goddamn you can’t deny how great that main riff is, fat daddy.

Tank “Filth Hounds of Hades”

Algy Ward of the Damned fame fronted the power trio that was Tank, and in 1981, released one of the most non-Motorhead Motorhead records in heavy metal history with “Filth Hounds of Hades.” Like many bands in the NWOBHM, they may have not reached levels of fame like some of their contemporaries, but that doesn’t take away from the importance of this record.

Standout Cut: “Blood, Guts, and Beer” because it’s called, “Blood, Guts and Beer” and it rules.

Iron Maiden “Number of the Beast”

What’s to say about Iron Maiden that hasn’t already been said? We’ll probably be berated for not including any D’anno era albums on this list, but hey, Number of the Beast is just the perfect metal album, and was released during the burgeoning movement, so that’s what we’re going with.

Standout Cut: “The Prisoner” mostly just because “You are number six.”

Diamond Head “Lightning to the Nations”

Released in 1980, Diamond Head’s “Lightning to the Nations” is probably in the top 3, if not THE most important record of the movement. “Am I Evil” is basically the quintessential heavy metal song, and even a little west coast thrash metal outfit named Metallica started out as a band covering songs from this record. This is probably a good place to start if you’re interested in the NWOBHM movement.

Standout Cut: “Am I Evil” because it’s everything heavy metal is about, respectfully.

Tygers of Pan Tang “Spellbound”

After releasing the fantastic “Wild Cat” record in 1980, Tygers came back with an even bigger and better effort in 1981’s “Spellbound.” Now with John Sykes on guitar, and new vocalist John Deverill, the sound of the had changed, but for the better. A fine example of what the NWOBHM craze was all about.

Standout Cut: “Hellbound” because of that severely catchy chorus, amongst many other things.

Def Leppard “On Through the Night”

We all know how lame Def Leppard became, but people tend to lose sight of how significant they were to NWOBHM. “On Through the Night” is as much of a classic as any release by any of their contemporaries at that time. Go back and check it out.

Standout Cut: “Rock Brigade” for its high levels of perfectly executed cheese while still maintaining its badassery.

Angel Witch “Angel Witch”

The self-titled release by London’s occult metal masters “Angel Witch” is just an absolute classic. It was apparently panned by critics upon its initial release, and we can only imagine it’s due to the air quality of London at that time affecting the Grey matter of music critics.

Standout Cut: “Atlantis” because its mix of fantasy imagery, kickass riffs and catchiness, but the entire record is like that, isn’t it?

Venom “Black Metal”

Even Satan was at the center stage of the NWOBHM movement! And who delivered the word of Satan better than Newcastle’s own shirtless devil minions Venom? The influence their second record “Black Metal” has had on metal as a whole cannot be matched. I mean, an entire genre was named after this album, that must mean it’s great, huh!

Standout Cut: “Heaven’s on Fire” because it’s over-the-top delicious blasphemy.

Witchfinder General “Death Penalty”

Not one of the more widely known NWOBHM groups, Witchfinder General is certainly still one of the best. Having a massive influence on what was later to be coined as “doom metal,” Death Penalty is a great example of Black Sabbath-influenced heavy metal that has a unique approach all around. Definitely essential.

Standout Cut: “Burning a Sinner” because the chorus brings you back right in the middle of the Salem Witch Trials (for better or for worse.)