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The Greatest Scottish Heavy Rock Bands

I've been writing about foreign travel and European rock music online for over 12 years.


This article contains a motley but quality collection of the greatest ever Scottish heavy rock bands over several decades. The land of Scotland may be noted for the skirl of the bagpipes, the reels of the fiddle and accordion accompanied by a bodhran or two. But it has also produced the thunderous sound of modern rock ever since the late 1960s.

Here is a selection of the famous and not so famous but certainly the greatest exponents of the electric guitar to have echoed through the hills and glens of Scotland. An enjoyable variety of style and range from classic rock and classy AOR through to scream-emo and hard-core. With no order of preference and in the interests of democracy, the bands are listed alphabetically.

1. Alestorm

A metal band from Perth who were originally called Battleheart on their inception in 2004. However, after being signed by Napalm Records in 2007, the band changed their name to Alestorm.

Their fun-filled and raucous music is characterised by a pirate theme epitomised by their debut album 'Captain Morgan's Revenge' released in 2008. As you would expect from these scurvy knaves the crew has endured many line-up changes in their short career. But the good ship 'Alestorm' is still afloat and they are in fine fettle. They play various summer festivals in Europe including prestigious events like the Sonisphere Festival in the UK.

2. The Almighty

The Almighty were formed in Strathaven in 1988 and quickly rose to prominence. The lead singer Ricky Warwick from Northern Ireland had played with New Model Army without appearing on any recordings. In the new band he was joined by Floyd London on bass, Stump Monroe on drums and the exquisitely named 'Tantrum' on guitar. Their debut album 'Blood, Fire and Love' spawned the anthemic 'Wild and Wonderful', one of their best songs.

Even better was to follow with the help of ex-Duran Duran member Andy Taylor. His production coupled with the band's excellent songwriting resulted in their greatest album 'Soul Destruction' in 1991 which catapulted them into the big time. The album was full of tremendous tracks like 'Free and Easy', 'Devil's Toy', Bandaged Knees' and 'A Little Lost Sometimes'.

Although described as Classic Rock the band members came from a Punk background. The quality continued with the 'Powertrippin' album in 1993 with the grunge-inspired single 'Addiction' being a highlight. American Pete Freisen from the Alice Cooper band had replaced Tantrum.

They returned to their roots with a Punk album called 'Crank' the following year and continued to record until they spilt in 1996. They reformed a couple of times, notably to play benefit concerts for Floyd who had contracted leukemia. Ricky Warwick continued to produce solo material and in 2009 replaced John Sykes as lead singer with Thin Lizzy who then later renamed as Black Star Riders.

3. Attica Rage

Although formed in Glasgow in 2003, the roots of Thrash Metal band Attica Rage lie in Ayrshire. Founders and brothers Jonny Parr and drummer Richie Rage hail from the county of Rabbie Burns on the West coast. The current line-up also includes Coatbridge guitarist Stephen Bell and bassist Colin Wilson from Bellshill who joined in 2012.

They've supported Saxon, Diamond Head, Blitzkrieg and Armored Saint in the past and have also appeared at festivals such as Download, High Voltage, Hammerfest, Hard Rock Hell as well as events in Europe. They have released two albums so far, 'Ruin Nation' in 2008 and 'Road Dog' in 2011. Top tracks from the band are 'Ashamed,' '36 Insane' and 'Dark City.'

4. Balaam and the Angel

A trio of brothers from Motherwell in Lanarkshire although the band started in England. Mark, Jim and Desmond Morris had moved south with their parents to Staffordshire and the formed the band in 1983.

They rose through the ranks quickly largely thanks to a deal with Virgin Records and their second album, the humbly entitled 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' an impressive collection of Gothic Rock.

This was followed by tours with The Cult in the UK and then across the USA supporting The Mission, Iggy Pop and Kiss. They changed their style to that of a more Hard Rock sound and added a second guitarist and keyboard player.

Unfortunately they were dropped by Virgin in 1989 after their fourth album 'Day of Madness'. They ceased operations for a couple of years before reforming and are still on the go.

5. Chasar

Chasar were originally a trio formed in Alloa, Clackmannanshire in 1981. It comprised the Marshall brothers, Jim on drums and Peter on bass with Alec Pollock on vocals and guitar. With a heavy Progressive Rock style, they contained a strong element of 'Rush' in their sound.

They quickly developed a healthy live following and reputation for excellent musicianship throughout Scotland. Highlights of their time were excellent reviews in “Kerrang!” and a session for Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show on BBC Radio 1. They were also a four-piece for a time with various singers but the band decided to call it a day in 1988. Tragically Peter Marshall was killed in a road accident in the 1990s. However, Chasar re-formed in 2010 and are gigging again around Scotland.

6. Flood of Red

Founded in the Lanarkshire town of Airdrie, east of Glasgow in 2004, they began life as a trio during school days and the local skateboard scene. They have literally expanded since then and now perform as a six-piece outfit. Record deals were offered early on in their career but they took the principled decision to fend them off and had the confidence to ignore them all.

In 2009 they recorded their debut album 'Leaving Everything Behind' with producer Brian McTernan in Baltimore. Appearances in 2009 at both the Download and Sonisphere Festivals established their reputation on the UK Heavy Rock scene.

7. Glasgow

As the name suggests they hailed from Scotland's largest city being formed there in 1983. With the soaring vocals of Mick Boyle and long-term guitarist Archie Dickson they carved their name as one of the top Rock bands on the local scene. When asked about the choice of name of the band Mick once joked:

"We wanted to be known as "Stenhousemuir', but it wouldn't fit the back of the tour jackets."

Support performances with Uriah Heep and Nazareth were among their highlights but they never broke through into the big time despite an excellent collection of Classic Rock songs. Their only album 'Zero-Four-One' from 1987 is certainly worth a listen. Their best songs overall were 'Secrets in the Dark', 'No More Lonely Nights', 'No Way Out', 'We Will Rock' and 'Under the Lights'.

8. Gun

Originally called 'Blind Alley' then briefly 'Phobia', the Glasgow band Gun were formed in 1987. Their debut album 'Taking On the World' was released that year to instant success. The main single "Better Days" hit the Top 40 in the UK Singles Chart and remains a popular anthem today with the great vocals of Mark Rankin. They followed this with an American tour and in Europe, they also supported The Rolling Stones in 1990.

Further prestigious support gigs followed with Bon Jovi and Def Leppard and the band's similar melodic type of AOR Rock fitted the bill perfectly. However, their biggest hit was an inspired cover version of Cameo's 'Word Up' which was suitably enhanced with a Heavy Rock arrangement. But the band split in 1997 after four albums.

They reformed in 2008 with ex-Little Angels singer Tony Jepson on vocals but this was short-lived and he left in 2010. Bassist Dante Gizzi took over the helm of frontman. They enjoyed a popular comeback and the year 2012 saw an appearance at the Download Festival with a new album appropriately called 'Break the Silence'.

10. Heavy Pettin

Another band from Glasgow and formed in 1981. The following year a raw but superb single introduced the thundering tracks 'Roll the Dice' and the melodic 'Love Times Love.' They attracted the attention of Queen guitarist Brian May who produced their debut album 'Lettin' Loose' in 1983.

Highlights were 'In and Out of Love,' 'Rock Me' and a re-working of 'Love Times Love.' They even had an ill-advised and unsuccessful attempt at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1987 when they sang a ballad called 'Romeo' during the British heat. However, any band with a guitarist called Punky Mendoza deserved to be big, but it was not to be.

They split in 1988 after only one more album 'Rock Ain't Dead' with a third 'The Big Bang' released the year after their demise. However, previously unreleased tracks from the 1980s surfaced on the 'Prodigal Sons' album in 2007 giving an indication of what might have been for a fine band.

But to the delight of their fans the band re-launched in 2017 with a new line-up and are actively touring again.

9. The Henry Gorman Band

The Henry Gorman Band came about in 1978. The band performed the first annual Kelvingrove Festival in Glasgow in the 1970s which they headlined the following year. They also played the first Loch Lomond Festival in 1980 alongside Ian Gillan, Saxon, Wishbone Ash and other notables. The 'Official Bootleg’ album produced a single called ‘Chase the Night Away’ which was played by DJ Tommy Vance on BBC Radio 1 on his Friday Rock Show.

However, Henry decided to move to the USA in 1984 and became a writer and producer of other acts. He also performed alongside artists such as James Brown, Midge Ure, and Robert Palmer as well as being a member of supergroup 'The Far Corporation' who had chart success with a cover of “Stairway to Heaven.”

11. Holocaust

Heavy band from Edinburgh who was formed in 1977 while the musicians were still at secondary school. They originally comprised Gary Lettice on vocals, guitarists John Mortimer and Ed Dudley, Robin Begg on bass guitar and drummer Paul Collins. They were among the leading lights of the 'New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) after their debut album 'The Nightcomers' in 1981.

Listening to Holocaust for the first time may bring a sense of familiarity and deja-vu. You would be forgiven for thinking you were listening to early Metallica recordings. The Scots band were influential in the thrash style that became distinctive of Metallica.

In fact one of their songs 'The Small Hours' featured in the 1987 'Garage Days re-Revisited' E.P and appeared again on the 1998 'Garage Inc' album of covers. German Power Metal band Gamma Ray also recorded a version of another of their songs 'Heavy Metal Mania'. Despite line-up changes, the band has never gone away and still continue after three decades of music.

12. Iron Claw

The band began life in 1969 in the southern Scottish town of Dumfries by Jimmy Ronnie, Ian McDougall, and Alex Wilson. They were joined by Mike Waller on vocals in 1970.

They got their name from a lyric on '21st Century Schizoid Man' the seminal Progressive Rock song by King Crimson. The group eventually broke up in 1974 after moderate success with only a reunion show in 1993 briefly bringing them back.

However 36 years after the break-up the band eventually reformed in 2010 and began working on an album after recruiting a new singer Gordon Brown. The album, 'A Different Game' came out the following year and was actually launched at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow.

13. King King

Formed in 2008 in Lincoln in England this 4-piece is fronted by kilt-wearing Alan Nimmo on vocals & guitar with Zander Greenshields on bass, Jonny Dyke on keyboards and drummer Andrew Scott. They named themselves after a famous blues club in Los Angeles.

Their first album 'Take my Hand' appeared in 2011 and they have been prolific ever since. They featured in the Classic Rock magazine 'Best Album' poll in 2015 for their 3rd album 'Reaching for the Light' as well as being nominated in the ‘Best New Band' category.

A live album came out the following year and in 2018 they supported Europe on the Swedish rockers 'Walk the Earth' tour gaining even more plaudits and new fans. Their blues-rock style has been likened to band such as Bad Company and Thunder.

14. Logan

Logan came together in 2003 in Glasgow. Their soft-edged AOR musical style has been compared to the likes of Creed, Nickelback, and Alter Bridge among others. They had a prolific output with an average of a new album every 2 years until they broke up in 2010.

In 2008 the band won a local Rock Radio competition and the prize was a support role with Bon Jovi at Hampden Stadium. After that, they actually supported Alter Bridge in 2009 and also English rockers Thunder not to mention gracing the stage at the Download Festival in Castle Donington. Top songs to look out for are 'When I Get Down', 'Lost and Found' and the marvelous ballad 'Jump in Again'.

15. Lyin Rampant

A band that was based in Ayrshire and formed in 1982. Vocalist Stewartie Adams teamed up with guitarist Eddie Trainer, drummer Tam Cramer, and bass player Georgie Pringle. They later added Paul Stephens on the keyboard.

They built up an assured reputation on the local West of Scotland scene in the 80's. As well as being regulars around the pub and club circuit they also took part in the popular annual rock festival in Glasgow at Kelvingrove Park.

It resulted in their sole album called 'Up an' Cumin' which was released in 1987. It included stand-out tracks like 'Don't Walk Away', 'Way of Destiny, 'Say Goodbye' and 'Kill Them All'. But after gamely plugging away for a few more years the band eventually split up in 1991 after Prism Records folded.

16. Mendeed

The band came together at school in Dumbarton in the West of Scotland. In 2003 they signed a recording contract and toured with much of the Rock royalty in the Thrash and Death Metal world.

Namely Anthrax, Cradle of Filth, Napalm Death, Fear Factory, Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot, Skindred, Bleeding Through and Trivium. Originally favouring the Nu-Metal genre they developed into a Melodic Death Metal outfit with some hardcore ingredients

In between rubbing shoulders with the greats they also headlined their own tours and performed at the Download Festival in 2006. Therefore it was disappointing news when the band broke up the following year due to financial burdens and management problems.

17. Nazareth

Nazareth was founded way back in 1968 from the remaining members of a local group called The Shadettes in Dunfermline. They had several top hits in the UK in the early 1970s and broke through to an international audience in 1975 with the 'Hair of the Dog' album. Their most famous hit was a souped-up cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘This Flight Tonight’ which added a rocking dimension to the classic tune.

They also had a massive platinum hit with their version of the ballad ‘Love Hurts’ in 1975 which made Top 10 in the USA. They have been around almost as long as The Rolling Stones albeit with more line-up changes. Especially with lead-guitarist Manny Charlton's departure in 1990 and sadly due to the death in 1999 of drummer Darrell Sweet who suffered a heart attack.

As a band, Nazareth is still going strong in both recording and playing live and remain popular on the European live scene. However, in 2013 their long-time singer Dan McCafferty decided to retire from touring with the band due to health problems. But their classic hits like ‘Razamanaz’, ‘Broken Down Angel, 'Hair of the Dog', ‘May the Sunshine’ and ‘Bad, Bad Boy' echo still across the continent’.

18. Pallas

Pallas were a Progressive Rock band formed in Aberdeen in 1980. They were amongst the forefront of the new generation of the music in the 1980s. Pallas were inspired by the classic bands such as Genesis, Yes, and ELP and joined with groups such as Marillion in renewing interest in 'Prog'.

A self-produced LP in 1981 called 'Arrive Alive' aroused interest from EMI Records and led to a recording contract. But EMI's enthusiasm waned and production problems allied with interference in the musical side led to an unsatisfactory outcome.

The band's career continued sporadically for several years and in 1999 they released a comeback album called 'Beat the Drum'. Containing a harder Classic Rock sound it nevertheless retained their progressive feel. More albums followed into the new century. They are still on the go and a highlight of their later career was a 2011 appearance at the High Voltage Festival in London.

19. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

The legendary Alex Harvey formed The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB) in 1972. He recruited a whole band en-mass when the members of 'Tear Gas' came on board. Guitarist Zal Cleminson, bassist Chris Glen with Hugh and Ted McKenna on keyboards and drums respectively.

SAHB produced a succession of highly acclaimed albums and performed memorable tours throughout the 1970s. Their concerts at the Glasgow Apollo are still fondly remembered, especially their Christmas shows.

The band never achieved huge commercial success but they were popular in the UK and Europe as well as gathering a cult following around some parts of the USA. Many of their songs still sound fresh today and are remarkable for their rock n' roll pedigree and often their subversive humour.

Top tunes were the infamous ‘Gang Bang’, the supreme hypnotic sweep of ‘Faith Healer’, a hilarious version of Jacques Brel’s ‘Next’ the riff-injected 'Midnight Moses', the choral 'Tomorrow Belongs to Me' and the gutsy blues of ‘Framed'.

But there were 'all these and many more' as they say and certainly, SAHB was much more than just a Rock n' Roll band. Alex Harvey's death in 1982 at aged only 47 was a massive loss to music.

20. Snowblood

A Sludge and Doom metal band who emerged from Glasgow in 2002. With lengthy compositions comprising a lot of guitar they usually focus around a single lyrical theme. Their music is a dynamic interplay between the ambient calm and brutal Death Metal style screams.

Their experimental outlook even extends to recording with their third self-titled album 'Snowblood' being produced in 2009 in a cottage in Buckie.The advantages of modern technology and computers in the miniaturisation of equipment no doubt. Highlights of their repertoire are the tunes 'Appearance', 'Disappearance' and the extraordinary ambience of 'Augustine'.

21. Stiltskin

A band formed in 1989 but who have a had an intermittent career over three decades. They were started up by musicians Peter Lawlor and James Finnigan but surprisingly they couldn't find a suitable singer until 1993 when Ray Wilson entered the scene.

Their first single 'Inside' was an excellent slice of Rock Music but it was certainly helped by the fact it was written for a Levi jeans advert. It became a monster hit in 1994 with the helpful exposure of the TV commercial.

The descent however was just as quick and with no more hits the band split up in 1996 after only one album 'The Mind's Eye' which had sold well. After ten years a new version of Stiltskin appeared with Ray Wilson being the only original member.

The second album 'She' came out that year of 2006 with a live album the following year and then in 2011 came another studio album 'Unfulfillment. Although always remembered as One-Hit Wonders the band are still a going concern.

22. Yashin

Yashin are what are described as a 'Post-Hardcore' band who were formed in 2006. They come from Greenock on the banks of the River Clyde in the west coast of Scotland. The band named themselves Yashin after the famous Russian Goalkeeper of the same name. It had been the nickname of guitarist Paul Travers in his school days. However, the band's preferred explanation is it's Japanese translation of 'Ambition' instead.

Their first album called 'Put Your Hands where I Can See Them' was released in 2010 followed by extensively touring on many support slots. These included opening for 'Papa Roach' and the mighty 'Korn'. But headline shows have been successful too as well as an appearance at the Download Festival in 2011.

They returned to Download and headlined the Acoustic Stage in June 2012 followed by the release of their second album 'We Created a Monster' in the same month. But 4 years later having released several albums the band eventually broke up in 2016.


Keith Abt from The Garden State on December 31, 2012:

Nice list. I remember Gun, Heavy Pettin and The Almighty, and I have one of Holocaust's recent CDs in my collection (the title of it escapes me at the moment).