For nearly thirty years, Metal Blade has been aconsistent proprietor of hard rock and heavy metal music. They have unleashed such bands upon the world as Metallica and Slayer, and show no signs of slowing down. But how did this all start?
Brian Slagel, founder of Metal Blade Records
Metal Blade Records was founded by Brian Slagel, a young man with a hunger for something new in a mainstream world and a deep love for heavy music. Working for Oz Records by day and writer for The New Heavy Metal Revue by night, he gained approval for his Metal Blade project in 1979 when he asked some distributors if they would be interested in circulating a metal compilation Slagel had developed. Their acceptance of his proposal started a whirlwind of projects that would help shape the future of metal around the world.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all fun and games when the label first started. Brian was putting in 17 hour days between Oz Records and compiling artists for his first release entitled The New Heavy Metal Revue presents Metal Massacre. Some artists featured in this release included Ratt, Black ‘N’ Blue, and a little known band by the name of Metallica. However, when Metal Massacre was released, Brian had little intention of turning it into a label. After three years of strenuous solo work, Slagel hired engineer Bill Matoyer, who offered to help in any way possible. With Matoyer’s hiring, the flood gates officially opened and Metal Blade was born. Now, here we stand; 27 years late, and Metal Blade continues to pump out large numbers of quality artists. The foundation of Metal Blade continues to look after the best interests of the artists first, and the label itself second. Metal Blade’s explosion into the business it is today started in the 1980s with the eruption of hair metal into the music scene. It was at that point that Slagel and Matoyer decided to join forces with a larger distributor, since Enigma, their distributor at the time was facing bankruptcy. Warner Brothers Records and Distribution then entered the picture. Unfortunately, Warner’s paring with Ice-T, author of Cop Killer strained the relationship due to added censorship imposed by Washington DC police. Warner Brothers attempted micromanage the releases of Metal Blade bands such as GWAR in an effort to appease the United States legal system. Metal Blade decided it was time to part ways with Warner Bros, and in the process also said good bye to The Goo Goo Dolls who would be the only artist to release a gold or platinum record while signed with Metal Blade.
Not all was bleak in the world of Metal Blade Records, and they would not go down quietly. In fact, they continued to make even more noise when they discovered Slayer, a band out of southern California who made their start by performing cover songs in small bars and venues. The controversy that surrounded Metal Blade from then on would circulate for years. Slayer brought to the table thrashing riffs, driving beats, and proclaimed Satanic lyrics and screams, as well as an image of a darkness few had seen at a rock show. Under Metal Blade, Slayer released their first two albums and a pair of EPs. Slagel, instead of choosing to attempt censoring Slayer, chose not to interfere, in spite of his proclamation to Christianity. The path paved by Slayer would open the door to many metal artists who followed.
To this day, Metal Blade continues to let the artist be the artist, and as a result, metal fans are getting what they’ve asked for. Nearly 100 artists are currently associated with Metal Blade, and the vast majority of them fail to disappoint. Metal Blade remains consistent in releasing bands in the new wave of heavy metal; such bands as Between The Buried and Me, As I Lay Dying, The Black Dahlia Murder, Cannibal Corpse, Amon Amarth, and Unearth. This powerhouse of a band lineup continues to advance the horizons of modern day heavy metal. The label only continues to expand, and now owns subsidiaries in Germany, Japan, Canada, and the UK as well as its founding office in Agoura Hills, California and an office in Arizona. Many bands from around the world have signed with Metal Blade, and more will continue to sign with the prosperity of independent labels on the rise.
So what is metal blade up to now? They are currently distributing their music through the likes of Sony/BMG. Recently signed to the label is Glorior Belli, who will release their album “The Great Southern Darkness” this fall. Metal Blade has unleashed a plethora of Billboard Top 200 artists including Job for a Cowboy, Whitechapel, and the very first on the label to achieve this feat, Fate’s Warning. Announced recently were the tour dates of the Metal, Arise! tour, a concert series featuring up and coming metal blade artists including The Devastated, Allegaeon, and The Browning in 14 cities, including Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. It is Brian Slagel’s belief that metal will make a second run at prosperity. The one downfall Slagel sees with this scenario is the possibility of a major label intervention, where they may step in and sign metal acts that, under normal circumstances would sign with Metal Blade. Aside from this potential, but uncertain scenario, it looks like all is well in the world of Metal Blade Records.