In the current age of streaming, it can be easy to get enamoured with metal music that sounds emphatically modern. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to take it back to where it all started. That is, with hard-hitting, no-nonsense metal reminiscent of the legendary records released in the 1980s. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Helloween, Dio, and many others set a new standard for heavy metal in the 80s and inspired countless bands to follow in their footsteps — no doubt many on this list.
However, with the NWOCR (New Wave of Classic Rock) movement taking flight over the last couple of years with acts like Greta Van Fleet, Dirty Honey and Rival Sons, bands that take influence from the heavier side of the music spectrum frequently pass under the popular radar. So, we’ll delve into some of the musicians flying the flag of classic heavy metal the highest this year!
That isn’t to say that the following bands don’t put their own, unique, modern twist on that classic sound. The truth is quite the opposite. These artists bring the vintage metal sound back, screaming for vengeance, in a fashion that befits the times. Punchy production and ultra-tight performances are qualities that many of these groups share. Still, they often meld their sound with other genres to create something fresh whilst nodding to the heroes of old.
Without further ado, here are the top 11 underground bands keeping classic metal alive in 2022:
“Making the OLD sound NEW again” is a statement that immediately greets you upon searching for Dream Tröll on social media. It’s a perfectly accurate statement of intent. Hailing from the UK, the band have been releasing top quality metal music with a classic feel since 2017. However, last year’s EP, Realm of the Tormentor, really saw Dream Tröll catapult into a league of their own. With a unique production style and hard-hitting riffs, they’re well-poised to take the metal world by storm in 2022!
Fellowship had a fantastic 2021, providing a standout performance at Bloodstock that left many in the audience begging for more. This band is a power metal titan from the South-East of England. They channel their inner DragonForce to unleash a barrage of high octane, technically proficient and (most importantly) super-catchy metal music. Be forewarned, the melodies that will bounce around your head for days after hearing them.
Bursting onto the scene in 2012, Night Demon are true defenders of the faith, taking great influence from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene. Their recordings sound like you’ve stumbled into their rehearsal room in the best way, showcasing songs that are immensely groovy and tight. Not to mention, the group has a real knack for writing memorable lead guitar lines.
One of my favourite underground records of 2020, The Vulture’s Amulet exemplifies exactly what makes this band so special. Lady Beast mix influence from Mötörhead and Mercyful Fate with vocals akin to that of Doro Pesch, perfectly encapsulating the 80s NWOBHM vibe. Raw and in your face, if you dig all things hard ‘n’ heavy, Lady Beast are the band for you!
The solo project of Jonathon Barwick, Australia’s Fierce Deity combine prog, stoner rock and power metal into a sound that is wholly their own. This culminated in last year’s Power Wisdom Courage, a three-song album that pushed the boundaries of what classic influenced metal can be in the modern era. With a new 7”, “A Dragon, Gold” (and a cover of Ozzy Osbourne‘s “Diary of a Madman“), dropping February 18th, Fierce Deity are in for an exciting 2022!
Perhaps the most progressive-rock-influenced band on the list, Seven Sisters’ latest record takes the listener on an epic sci-fi journey across the stars in a way no-one else quite can! Tempo and time signature changes throughout their music constantly keep you on your toes. They make for a fascinating listening experience for those of you into the ‘proggier’ side of the metal scene.
Heavy riffs. A fantastic singer. Tight production. Mercia, originating from the province of their namesake, seem to have it all! Whilst still sounding distinctly classic, the band also incorporate atmospheric keys and grunge-like passages to stand out amongst their peers – making their 2021 EP: As the Crow Flies a must listen!
If you’re at all interested in modern metal that sounds distinctly classic, you’ve definitely heard of Haunt already. The passion project of Trevor Church, Haunt first caught my ear with their 2020 release: Mind Freeze – what an incredible record! Soaring vocals and dual guitar harmonies are scattered throughout Haunt’s discography, both of which I’m a real sucker for. Since the release of Mind Freeze, the band have been incredibly prolific – so if you fancy some quintessential modern metal with a classic feel (even in release schedule), look no further!
Comedy metal legends WarlocK A.D bring the laughs in a genre all too often hung up on being serious and moody. If you fancy getting lost in the lore behind the band, chuckling at the excellently delivered puns and jokes or getting your face melted by their intense instrumental passages, WarlocK A.D are certainly the band for you!
The self-proclaimed “mercenary metal band”, Sellsword play a unique brand of symphonic power metal with lyrics concerning all things noble and knightly. As someone who often thinks synths are unnecessarily rammed into metal, they pleasantly surprised me by their tasteful use of the instrument. This, coupled with relentless drums and epic orchestral elements, make Sellsword a must listen for all discerning metal fans in 2022!
Perhaps the ‘heaviest’ of the bands on this list, Portland’s Bewitcher bring the speed-metal edge – often with a hint of black metal attitude. Heavily influenced by Venom, Bewitcher bring that classic proto black metal sound kicking and screaming into the 21st Century with raw vocals and filthy riffs on tracks like “Valley of the Ravens” and the above “Satanic Magick Attack”. If you’re a fan of all things “black ‘n’ roll,” you must inject some Bewitcher into your playlists.
Thank you for reading this list! What classic metal influenced bands do you think we should be listening to? If you’ve got a recommendation – be sure to leave a comment! For now, here’s a Spotify playlist containing all the bands featured here:
Raised on the evergreen rock gods of ‘Priest and ACDC, Max has been surrounded by music that’s hard and heavy from a young age. Music; among many other interests such as sci-fi, fantasy, sound design and herps (reptiles and amphibians), has always been a part of his life and Max is never happier than when he finds a new band to share with the world! He’s also in a classic metal band called Underking!