If you know metal, you know Metal Blade. Home to some of the biggest and heaviest bands of all time including Killswitch Engage, Whitechapel, Amon Amarth, The Black Dahlia Murder, Cannibal Corpse and so many more, Metal Blade has been releasing the best in the industry for nearly four decades.
We spoke to founder and owner Brian Slagel about Metal Blade’s origins, biggest accomplishments, new music, unconventional marketing tactics, and more. See how a one-person label founded in a Mom’s garage has grown into one of the most accomplished labels in the metal music landscape.
Metal Blade is known for its powerful, innovative music. How do you discover new talent?
It has changed a lot over the years. We started going to live shows, then the Internet happened. It was a good way to find bands. I would say though mostly it comes from people we work with. Whether that is one of our bands who heard or saw something good, or local promoters, magazines, radio stations. They all have helped us find bands over the years and continue to do so now as well.
In your nearly 40 years of operation, what have been a few of the most defining releases and why?
That is always a really hard question. I guess the first Metal Massacre album, just because that is what started this whole thing. Slayer‘s Show No Mercy was our first really big release. The album Tomb of The Mutilated by Cannibal Corpse is also up there because that album has become a classic for both the cover and the music. Also, Cannibal Corpse is an important band in the history of Metal Blade and have been with us through the entirety of their career. I have to also mention Armored Saint’s Symbol Of Salvation which is very special to me because it was Armored Saint’s first album back after the tragic death of guitarist Dave Pritchard. It was an important album to release, and I consider it one of my favorite albums I have ever worked on. Shameless plug but you can read the whole story in my book. I’ll top it off with Twilight Of The Thunder Gods by Amon Amarth. Amon Amarth is another band who has spent their entire career with us. This is my fave album of theirs and really got them to the next level.
What was the first band Metal Blade ever signed?
My good friends in Bitch from LA. They were also the first release other than a Metal Massacre with their EP, Damnation Alley.
How has the label grown from day one to today?
A lot! Metal Blade started with just me in my Mom’s garage for the first three years. Now we are a multinational company with over 30 employees around the world and a big roster of great bands. It is really crazy to me how far this thing has come as I never would have ever imagined this happening.
In your opinion, what are the most essential pillars to building a successful record label?
Good people and good bands. You have to surround yourself with great people to work with. We would not be where we are with a tremendous staff, bands, managers and partners we work with. Also at least some sort of business sense as this is a business and if you do not know what you’re doing, that can really hurt you.
The metal scene is always evolving yet known for its unrelenting fanbase. Why do you think that is?
We all live, breathe, and sleep this music. We are all really big fans and it is a community and family. I think that sense keeps us all together and moving forward. We all feel as one and will do things to help the music evolve. Everyone in this scene is so great and really puts the music first. The fan base is so supportive too.
In your experience, what bands have had the most success at building a rabid fanbase? What’s the secret to that success?
I think within metal there are so many examples of this. I am not sure there really is the right way to do it since there are so many ways. Obviously interacting with the fans is really important. Usually that is pretty easy since all the bands are fans too! Certainly these days, social media is extremely important. It is a great way to share things with fans and let them know what is happening.
What have been your biggest accomplishments as a label?
Another really hard question. I do not really think much about that kind of stuff. I think just being around this long and seeing the success of bands we have is great. Providing a home for a great staff and bands to be successful is a huge accomplishment. Also, just the fact that we get to do this for a job is incredible in it’s own right!
Any new music in the works we should keep an eye out for?
Well with the current pandemic situation, there hasn’t been much to do besides make music. We are going to have a LOT of releases over the next year or so. New Cannibal Corpse, Whitechapel, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Visigoth just to name a few. I think these next releases are all going to be really good and I am excited for the future! And I cannot wait to go to live shows again!