Various Artists – NWOBHM Thunder (HNE Recordings)

The essential anthology, NWOBHM Winds Of Time, reintroduced diehard fans and new converts alike to a much-loved genre that simply refuses to die.

Two years down the line and its companion release – NWOBHM Thunder – delivers more trademark anthems, cult favourites and long-lost gems from a golden age of molten metal.

A bona fide national phenomenon that soundtracked the late 70s through to the mid 80s, it is, nevertheless, widely accepted that North East England was NWOBHM’s spiritual home.

The genre’s deep connection with the working-class communities of Tyneside, Wearside and County Durham runs right through this 44-track celebration of famous names and oft forgotten one-track wonders.

Powerhouse local labels Neat Records, Guardian Records and Teesbeat Records released a slew of riff-fuelled classics. 

Bands flocked to fully booked studios from Newcastle to Pity Me to cut the tracks that would make or break their NWOBHM reputation.

And Venom, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Fist, Battleaxe, War Machine and more ensured that a region synonymous with rock and roll continued to make its presence felt at the forefront of a diverse and bold movement that would go on to shape metal bands for decades to come.

Even in 2020 the bond between the North East and NWOBHM remains unbreakable.

The annual Brofest festival, curated by NWOBHM nut Stu Bartlett, beat lockdown by a matter of weeks earlier this year.

And one of the staples of Newcastle music calendar remains committed to celebrating the very best in 80s metal.

Witchfynde – who contribute I’d Rather Go Wild to disc three of NWOBHM Thunder – kicked off this year’s Brofest in some style to a packed house inside the city’s legendary Trillians Rock Bar.

Heavy Pettin’ headlined the festival across town 48 hours later and Love Times Love is another disc three delight on this cracking compilation. 

And then there’s Teesside quartet Black Rose.

The opening act at 2013’s inaugural Brofest, driving anthem Ridin’ Higher is a disc two treat.

It’s another timely reminder of the North East’s key contribution to an enduring metal movement.

Of course, NWOBHM pulled in bands from across the UK.

And Tokyo Blade (Salisbury), Shiva (Bristol), Satan’s Empire (Dundee) and Cloven Hoof (Wolverhampton) all appear across the mouthwatering …Thunder compilation.

According to Cloven Hoof’s Lee Payne, the band got their big break when Neat Records boss David Wood heard the band’s session on Tommy Vance’s the Friday Rock Show. 

And it’s worth noting that without talent spotters, influencers and prominent voices like Wood and Vance there would likely have been no NWOBHM movement.

In fact, both men were pivotal to the genre’s early 80s explosion.

In Newcastle, the workaholic Wood was booking bands into the city’s Impulse Studios and snapping up the best of the best for his Neat Records imprint.

Hundreds of miles away in London, Vance was championing NWOBHM’s standard bearers and giving invaluable airtime to big names and emerging wannabes alike.

Buzz Elliott from Hammerhead features in …Thunder’s extensive sleevenotes and tells a familiar tale about the band’s Time Will Tell (disc two).

“A lot of our older sings are quite long,” he explains.

“I wanted this one to be more like a single with a commercial edge to it.

“It was played a few times by Tommy Vance on The Friday Rock Show but he seemed to prefer the B-side Lonely Man.

“Tommy played that a few times!”

The much-missed Vance was at the vanguard of the NWOBHM movement and Wood was right there with him.

Neat Records was home – at one time or another – to many of the bands showcased here including, most famously, Venom.

And NWOBHM Thunder includes the song which transformed the Geordie black metallers into genuine contenders and serious game changers.

Live Like An Angel, Die Like A Devil allowed Cronos to shine as a singer: the song was originally added to Venom’s set to allow then-vocalist Clive Archer to squeeze in a quick costume change.

But legend has it that Cronos stole the show from behind the mic and Archer’s days were suddenly numbered.

All these stories and more make NWOBHM Thunder much more than a musical trip down memory lane.

For those willing to leaf through the enclosed booklet there’s a condensed history lesson providing invaluable context to some seriously addictive metal.

As the enduring fascination with NWOBHM’s heroes – and retro-fuelled festivals like Brofest – prove this is a genre going nowhere soon.

And although …Thunder delivers a thrilling flashback to an era rich in bold creativity it doubles up as an inspiration to the next generation of trad metal bands breathing new life into the old school.