The New Wave of American Heavy Metal (NWOAHM) began in the late 90s and continued into the mid-2000s. The movement encompassed everyone from Pantera and Machine Head to emerging metalcore acts like Killswitch Engage and Unearth. I'll let our own J. Andrew explain.
"The movement experienced its rise through the underground during the late 90s, fusing the sounds of At the Gates style-riffs, Pantera-esque vocals and production, along with the attitude and breakdowns prevalent in 90s hardcore," he said in his piece Reflecting on The New Wave of American Heavy Metal. "As 2003 moved into 2004, it became clear that this sound was the dominant movement in heavy music. Not only did it open the doors for countless other genres, it also brought listeners’ attention back to the canonical sounds of thrash, death and black metal – movements which seemed passe and forgotten in the era of nu-metal."
So where did the phrase come from? Chimaira vocalist Mark Hunter tells the Talk Toomey podcast that he believes it originated on the back of a Chimaira shirt. Hunter said the shirt was originally intended to be a spoof-type design on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal term, and would use the Iron Maiden font to drive the point home.
“"It’s one of those things, we did it during the [Pass Out of Existence] era—we had a t-shirt. Our sound guy at the time, Wedge, was a big Iron Maiden fan. And before we would play every night, we would be playing Iron Maiden over the loud speakers. So we just started making t-shirt ideas, like ‘oh, lets use the Iron Maiden font, what does our name look like there? And then lets just change it to ‘New Wave Of American Heavy Metal’ instead of ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’, and just kinda having fun and that caught on.
"I remember getting ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ albums when I was younger and it actually said it on some of those albums. They were letting you know it was like a brand almost. So when we released the CD single to the press and radio stations—and this was just kind of like the first few songs they could play before the album was released—it was called the ‘New Wave Of American Heavy Metal’ sampler. And to my knowledge, I mean unless someone can prove us wrong, I don’t believe that phrase exists before that t-shirt in 2001-2002."
Update: Shortly after publishing, Hunter offered the cover of their sampler as further proof.
Here is the CD sampler we released pic.twitter.com/mH3MWKbr8X
— Mark Hunter (@chimairamark) August 6, 2020