Metal Evolution: Season 1, Episode 4

New Wave of British Heavy Metal (9 Dec. 2011)

TV Episode  |  Documentary
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Heavy metal was now boldly out of the closet, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Saxon, Raven and Def Leppard seethed out of the gates with fast, technical, uncompromising metal music, building a fanatical, energized movement.


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Title: New Wave of British Heavy Metal (09 Dec 2011)

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Episode credited cast:
Geoff Barton ...
Biff Byford ...
Jess Cox ...
John Gallagher ...
Ashley Goodall ...
Mark Gregory ...
Gary Holt ...
Neal Kay ...


Heavy metal was now boldly out of the closet, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Saxon, Raven and Def Leppard seethed out of the gates with fast, technical, uncompromising metal music, building a fanatical, energized movement.

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9 December 2011 (USA)  »

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User Reviews

Leppard's extreme love of money, and Ozzy as a clone of Shelley Winters.
1 March 2012 | by (Serbia) – See all my reviews

Even though NWOBHM, i.e. what I refer to as "traditional heavy metal", doesn't count among my favourite types of metal, I enjoyed this episode the most. Part of the reason might be that by its very definition the show features almost solely British acts, which means that all these colourful and amusing English characters such as Dickinson, Halford, Scabies, McAuliffe, or Harris were featured. Another reason might be that NWOBHM that was the last big step that had to be taken before thrash reared its head just a few years later: the most important of all of metal's sub-genres, because of the high number of excellent bands it produced and the impact it had by helping spawn nearly every major new genre that appeared later.

When John Tucker says that NWOBHM is "what I have been waiting for" – that's exactly what I thought about thrash when it arrived. This kind of traditional HM wasn't good enough to pull me into metal; in fact, I considered (and still do, to a lesser extent) most classic HM to be cheesy and uninteresting, with very few exceptions such as Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Ozzy (who isn't strictly NWOBHM but plays more-or-less HM), all of which made some great music.

The running gag with Steve Harris and his hatred of the punk scene provides the funniest moments in the entire series. Repeatedly Dunn presses the issue of punk's influence on metal, but each time Harris absolutely refuses to budge, denying punk any credit whatsoever for anything, stubbornly deflecting all of Dunn's attempts to get him to surrender by finally admitting that punk had some degree on influence on the NWOBHM. "I won't credit it with anything, we absolutely hated it".

What Kim from Girlschool says about punk is very true: "when you listen to punk, it's quite weak really, whereas HM has a lot more power". For example, the song featured here by The Damned sounds like the bloody Pogues! In fact, the Sex Pistols were the exception rather than the rule, having the distorted guitar-orientated sound they had, whereas the vastly overrated The Clash was a mere pop band with atonal vocals and a phony rebellious attitude. Strummer basically jumped on the punk bandwagon as soon as he sniffed its commercial potential, and straight away changed his image – plus he stems from an affluent background. (So much for punk's "street credibility".) So in a sense Harris is right: Iron Maiden's sound has pretty much zero to do with those soft punk bands that were mostly blues-based and had no real heaviness to speak of. Most punk bands were a paper tiger: all show, flash and fake menace, but very little substance to back up all the posturing with. The Sex Pistols were pretty much the only band of quality from that first punk wave.

Iron Maiden didn't have much to shout about either, initially. Their DiAnno albums were quite weak song-writing-wise. Harris even admits that "many people bought (the first album) just because of the cover with Ed". Since Maiden's early years I had always insisted that their huge success had a lot to do with Ed, their cheesy (and embarrassing) gimmick. Ed is a double-edged sword, of course; it helped them become huge but it also added to the HM's tacky/childish imagery – the reason why many 60s/70s bands who influenced metal hate being labeled "metal" or having anything to do with it even. Metal being labeled "stupid" (as pointed out by Leppard's Elliot) is quite unfair though. I assure you that EVERY branch of rock and pop music is "stupid", i.e. most of its musicians are more-or-less equally moronic. What separates various rock/pop genres, apart from the music itself, is most of all the varying degrees of integrity. Pop/rap/techno/glam: zero integrity. Thrash/death/industrial: more integrity.

Speaking of (a lack of) integrity, next up: Judas Priest. Musically dull (aside from the solos), their riffs and choruses being a collection of mediocre HM clichés, and always ready to hop onto whatever rock/metal trend was "in" at the time. JP was always more about making money than great music. Their albums "Turbo" and "Painkiller" prove this bandwagon-jumping, in case anyone failed to notice. So it was appropriate for Dunn/McFadyen to start off JP's introduction with their sing-along tune "Living After Midnight" whose poppy chorus – if you listen carefully – sounds like an ABBA song. (An excellent pop group, btw, and fairly popular among metal fans.) JP often played music on the edge of pop, sometimes blatantly commercial – and the forefathers of crap like Hammerfall. But at least Halford doesn't deny JP joining NWOBHM (for profit).

Dunn was correct: including junk-meisters Def Leppard on the list of NWOBHM bands IS controversial, or put more bluntly - it's outright nonsense; probably motivated by the fact that Dunn loved the "Pyromania" album as a kid. Leppard always sounded like the cheapest kind of pop to me, 90% glam and 10% metal, with absolutely zero ambition to provide music of quality to their listeners. Watch any interview or documentary and within minutes you get a sense of their greed and over-focus on fame and success. They are a truly worthless band that only ever cared about raking in millions and spending them on cheap sluts at the French Riviera. How desperately and angrily Elliot tried to bury the "myth" that they were badly received on the famous Redding festival when crowds rightly identified them as garbage, hence unloaded their canned urine onto the stage, onto the band's heads, as opposed to going to the toilet. They must have figured: if it sounds like a sewer, than it must be a sewer.

Another reason this was the best episode: no Deena Weinstein this time, telling us that "heavy metal was heavier than the rock music before it" or some such bleedin'-obvious hooey, pretending to be an "expert". Damn Marxist buffoon.

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