BRIAN SLAGEL - For The Sake Of Heaviness: The History Of Metal Blade Records
October 14, 2017, a month ago
In 171 pages, the story of Metal Blade and its founder, Brian Slagel, is intertwined with the rise of metal in the U.S. After stints as zine writer, record store importer and concert promoter, managed to have a hand in the early careers of luminaries like Metallica and Slayer. So too this chronicle of his label, with those guys (as well as several others) contributing their reminiscence about Brian and his fledgling Metal Blade days. In fact, the narrative reads like a history book, Slagel having his pulse on the NWOBHM, the rise of LA scene, San Fran thrash and most metallic movements since. Practically a year-by-year format (detailing major events/releases during each), the easy read lays out a timetable for those that weren't around (corroborated by those of us who were). Slagel is almost lackadaisical about his successes and likewise doesn't fret about his failures, which include producing too much vinyl, as CDs rose to power, so much so that he nearly lost the company (saved only by floating money between 15 credit cards!).
Always the collector, a couple of decades later he was able to unload the stockpile, as LPs gained favor once again. He talks about sales figures. He talks about primitive budgets in the early days, including losing out on recording the Megadeth debut, because Combat offered $8000, a grand more than Slagel could pony up. Wish there was more from the glory days though. He discusses losing bands to major labels (at least a dozen between '88 & '89 alone), as well as partnering with Warner Brothers and the slew of reissues from the major's vault. He contends the grunge guys were all big metalheads (relates a tale of Alice In Chains' frontman Layne Staley having a fanboy moment over Fates Warning), but would never condescend to signing to a label called Metal Blade. As metal withered on the vine, those guys (although avid fans) said nothing. Talk about posers! Rise of censorship (in wake of Warner's Body Count debut), see Metal Blade sail away from major label distribution. During the mid-late Nineties, Slagel admits interest in Korn & Tool (neither of whom he was able to sign), but proudly dismisses all of nu-metal as garbage. Not much to show for that era, apart from GWAR, Cannibal Corpse/Six Feet Under and King Diamond/Mercyful Fate, despite the New Age Of Metal campaign (which he neglects to mention).
Sadly, no references to licensing Paradise Lost, alongside Pantera & Sepultura (also non-MB signees), the lone “true” metal holdouts for most of that rightfully maligned decade. Didn't find his musings on the metalcore leanings in the new millennium too interesting, but that's not my scene. He ends with a look at the future, basically predicting (within the next three years) the demise of the label, as we know it, moving in a new direction. Guess that vision is how you stay on top.