I used to blog about music a wee bit on here, but I’ve realised I haven’t done if for, wow, over a year.
One of the great things about YouTube is that, if you use it enough for listening to music, it starts to suggest things you’ve never heard before.
I got into heavy metal in about 1985, or perhaps early 1986 (it was a long time ago now…). By that time, what was being called NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) had been going for quite some time. It started in 1979 (well, the name was coined then; some of the bands had been around for a few years) as a little bit of a reaction against punk. It had the same energy as punk, and some of the same attitude, but it put a higher value on musical talent and melody, and it grew as an underground musical movement, without any real coverage from mainstream media, with news of bands being spread by word-of-mouth and hand-produced fanzines.
Well, because I didn’t start listening to it until 1985-86, I missed a lot of bands that didn’t break out of those underground scenes and were essentially gone by the mid-80s. Which brings me back to now and YouTube. I’ve been exploring around, clicking from band to band, exploring the music I didn’t get a chance to experience the first time around.
There’s an awful lot of it, and I don’t have space to talk about it all here, but here are a few highlights I’ve come across.
Tokyo Blade were a band who really should have made it. They had the talent and their music had enough potential. There were certainly similarities with Iron Maiden in the guitars and vocals (although Iron Maiden had a more complex, full sound). But they, like a lot of bands, went through far too many line-up changes and didn’t kick on as they should have done.
Nonetheless, they put out some good stuff and are, in fact, after disbanding several times, still around.
Here’s one of their songs, “If Heaven is Hell”:
Virtue were formed in 1981, right when NWOBHM was at its height, but they didn’t actually release anything until their single, “We Stand to Fight”, in 1985. This was unfortunate because, to be honest, if they had released it three years earlier they might have had more success. But by 1985, the genre had shaken itself out a little bit. Iron Maiden had already released their first five albums and were a global phenomenon. Ozzy Osbourne had released Bark at the Moon and Diary of a Madman. Dio had put out Holy Diver and The Last in Line. Def Leppard, Accept, Queensryche, Warlock, and so on were all becoming big.
Even if you don’t know who these bands are, what I’m saying is that the major bands were already becoming superstars and releasing what would later be acknowledged to be the best albums in the genre. Virtue’s single felt just a few years too late.
Nonetheless, this is a classic bit of early NWOBHM that just happened to not appear early enough.
To be honest, I think I was vaguely aware of Praying Mantis, but I don’t think I ever actually listened to anything they put out. Which is a shame, because I think I would have liked them, and they were putting out good music. They were on the slightly ‘softer’ end of the heavy metal of the time – more AOR influenced, perhaps.
Praying Mantis had a reasonable amount of success and, although they broke up for a while, are now back together and playing again.
This is “Children of the Earth” from their first album.
For this last band, we’re going really obscure. This is a Danish band called (rather unfortunately) Randy. They only put out a few songs, and their best work came out as the two sides of their single, “Shadows are Falling / The Beast”. So, I’m going to put both here, because I really can’t decide which I prefer.
Here is “Shadows are Falling”:
And here is “The Beast”:
There are a lot of other great bands from the same era that I didn’t catch the first time around and which didn’t make it big, bands like Overdrive, Crucifixion, Excalibur, Mendes Prey, Cloven Hoof and so on. You can hear a bunch on this playlist (the playlist includes a couple of bands that were relatively successful, too):