The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (or NWOBHM) is a term coined by rock journalist Geoff Barton to refer to the uprising of literally hundreds of grassroots-level metal bands that formed in Britain circa 1979-1981. The whole scene emerged from the dying punk era when there was an almost complete absence of home-grown rock bands and the only alternatives were (mainly American) bland AOR bands such as Foreigner, Toto and the likes.
Dozens of bands jumped on the bandwagon and formed a steamroller movement across the country. Bands such as Samson, Vardis, Sledgehammer, Witchfynde, Tygers of Pan Tang and the legendary Diamond Head.
Many of these bands put out self-financed singles, EP’s, and LP’s. In the absence of contracts, and therefore mega-recording budgets, their recordings generally sounded quite raw and under-produced. In addition, small amounts of money meant small quantity pressings (usually just two or three thousand copies), so some of those recordings have since become both rare and valuable.
A handful of the NWOBHM bands actually made it big time and still survive today, notably Saxon, Def Leopard and, of course, Iron Maiden. Sadly, without major record company backing, most of the NWOBHM bands faded from existence.
Paralex survived longer than most by adapting their style and staying slightly ahead of their rivals. It has been said from several sources that the band were too ahead of their time. Of course, this may have been one of the reasons that the band never managed to secure a major recording deal. Much of the feedback from the record companies was that the public wasn’t ready for the band’s playing style.
Many people who are familiar with the NWOBHM have heard of it through Metallica, who have covered many songs from NWOBHM bands over the years. Paralex were contacted by Metallica’s management about the possibility of Metallica covering ‘White Lightning’ on their ‘Garage Days’ EP. The deal never actually came off, but it’s great to know that a street-level band such as Paralex had influenced metal gods Metallica.
Indeed, it was Metallica’s drummer, Lars Ulrich, who decided to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the NWOBHM movement with a ‘best of’ compilation album entitled ’79 Revisited’. The album was released in 1990 and featured tracks from, amongst others, Girlschool, Gaskin, Venom and Blitzkrieg. The Paralex track ‘White Lightning’ was also included.
The music from the NWOBHM now sounds dated, but at the time is was raw, fresh and exciting. And it sure was fun being part of it.