Arthur Rizk is not only one of the hottest producers in metal right now, he’s also the guitarist in New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal faithfuls Sumerlands and Eternal Champion. And he’s here to share in the glory by schooling you in 10 Killer New Age Bands Playing Classic Heavy Metal.
Around the time I was 8 years old, I was exposed to heavy metal and hard rock via my older cousins from Lebanon. When I learned to play guitar, the first things I learned were Iron Maiden, Scorpions and Metallica and that is the path I’ve stayed on. I’ve been obsessed with a variety of different music since then, but my love for what you would call “classic metal” is eternal.
I’ve picked out 10 bands (all of which are currently active) who play classic metal in the modern day, which is sometimes categorized as NWOTHM (New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal). I prefer to just say “heavy metal” because in 100 years, these bands may be considered just the “heavy metal” era alongside Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. After all, Mozart and Beethoven existed over 30 years apart from each other but are considered to be from the same period and they get labeled the same!
Since I am also a producer who works in this genre, I left all the bands I have worked with off of the list out of respect for journalistic integrity and to avoid conflict of interest. I also tried to avoid a lot of obvious bands and highlighted a few that do not have a lot of worldwide recognition.
The NWOTHM playlist Loudwire put together NWOTHM is a killer assortment of current shit from our era and features some I have worked with. It also includes the new Sumerlands single, “Dreamkiller.” Wink, wink!
Okay! Without droning on any further, and in no particular order, here is my list of 10 Killer New Age Bands Playing Classic Heavy Metal!
Thanks to Arthur Rizk for answering the call to defend true steel. Get your copy of Sumerlands’ ‘Dreamkiller’ album here (out now on Relapse) and follow the band on Instagram, Facebook, Bandcamp and Spotify. And blast Sumerlands’ “Dreamkiller” below while checking out Rizk’s picks.
Head here to listen to Loudwire’s NWOTHM (New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal) playlist.
I saw Mirror play in an abandoned amusement park in Sweden this year at Muskelrock, and it was totally inspiring. After watching a million bands a year you eventually get desensitized and I was on a break from metal in general.
Mirror made me immediately pick up my guitar to start writing and set my heavy metal spirit ablaze. Jimmy Mavrommatis’ voice, memorable choruses, tasteful solos/leads and the influence of the Mediterranean in their genetic makeup had me zooted.
A crude combo of bands I would compare them to would be early Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate and Warlord. Hail Cyprus! These guys also fed the whole audience booze they brought from Cyprus.
Fates Warning wrote, IMHO, the greatest prog/power metal LP — Awaken The Guardian. Some members from that album started a new band in the 2010s and I was utterly shocked when I first heard it — a high end example of how a record from 2019 transcends music from 1986, but exists in a modern hybrid context. This record should be called “Sit down children, don’t quit your day job.” A bit of a cross between Rush, Crimson Glory and Cynic… Pure perfection. Thank you Arch / Matheos!
Black Sword Thunder Attack were the eighth wonder of the world to me when I heard the 2011 cult demo In Hell’s Reign and remained so until a few years when I first visited Greece. I met their bassist Stelios at a now sadly closed venue in Athens called The Crow Club. It was a sick place with movie memorabilia everywhere and a lot from the movie The Crow — R.I.P.
I later learned they recruited a new singer (Mareike) and were about to release their first official EP with her. This release totally rocked me! The melancholic synth work is flawless Mediterranean dark pop composition, fused with the cold epic vocals of Mareike. I would crudely describe it as somewhere between Manilla Road/Lordian Guard but way more obscure sounding.
Phil Swanson (Vestal Claret, Solemn Lament, Smith & Swanson, ex-Sumerlands) is one of my favorite songwriters/vocalists of all time — it’s no secret. This band is a collaboration between Phil and another incredible songwriter Martin Sparvath of (another killer band) Altar Of Oblivion.
I am a huge fan of the unassuming epicness of the choirs, the non-traditional choppy drum beats, the general doomed out song writing and the ultra-refined guitar leads. The new EP Lost Times has been on repeat and it’s so sick to hear some current obscure heavy metal with great hooks, both vocally and on guitar.
Claymorean are a recent discovery of mine, going back to the release of their Eulogy for the Gods album in 2021. The vocal lines, sung in English with a Serbian accent, are total earworms that hooked me on my first listen.
I’m often reminded of later Judas Priest and they can be described as a cross between Manowar, Hammerfall and Dark Star. Much respect for prevailing in such a small scene!
My blood brother and singer of Eternal Champion, Jason Tarpey, put me onto Terminus. I loved their 2017 record The Reaper’s Spiral, but the newest record captivated me right away. From the first moment, it came in with the ferocity of a death-thrash record, but with power metal vocals. It’s like a mashup of Manilla Road, Twisted Tower Dire and Manowar on the heavier moments.
Blood Star share members with Salt Lake City’s Visigoth, and once I heard that I wasted no time checking them out. The 7” titled “The Fear” is fucking amazing and starts with my favorite kind of heavy metal guitar playing — a fusion of melancholy and power metal.
The vocals are insanely catchy — total earworm city. I can’t help feeling like Madeline’s vocals are slightly country inspired or maybe it is the Utah accent? Maybe it’s Blood Star’s cover of The Highwaymen’s “Silver Stallion” that makes me feel that way. I highly suggest jamming the song below — I have listened to it so many times.
I mentioned meeting Black Sword Thunder Attack in Greece at The Crow Club, but what I didn’t mention is we (Eternal Champion) were playing with the legendary band Wrathblade that night. I was already a fan, but that night I became a diehard and went home and jammed this record for a month straight. It again relit my heavy metal flame at a time where I was mostly listening to Bee Gees, Abba and Barbara Streisand. Perfect production — raw, heavy and in your face. A cross between Omen, Iron Maiden and Doomsword.
Demon Bitch appeared on Fenriz from Darkthrone’s 2016 end of the year list along with Sumerlands and Eternal Champion.
Just three seconds into Hellfriends I thought it was perfectly mixed and at exactly 11 seconds in there was a skip kick drum beat that hit so hard. Logon’s vocals kicked in not too far after and I could not believe what I was hearing — he has the power of Geoff Tate circa Queensryche’s self-titled EP, not that there was any evidence of that inspiration.
The guitar solos fly in and out so quickly that you don’t know what hit you. I was and still am addicted to the record — it is like crack and I am taking a break from writing this article to finish listening to Hellfriends right now.
A cross of Jag Panzer, Agent Steel and early Queensrÿche. Hail Michigan
This band preceded Eternal Champion and was a massive inspiration that lit a fire under my ass. I had been writing demos with the intent to start a band with their singer, Jason Tarpey, and when I heard the finished product that is this Texas metal classic, I just knew I had to work harder to make it worth his time. This record is flawless.
A cross between Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol with some atmospheric elements of Queensrÿche. Hard as fuck above all else and, again, total legends.