Label Spotlight: Metal Blade
by Chuck Eddy | June 17, 2014
Metal Blade Records came into existence in either 1981 or 1982, depending on whom you ask, but its first vinyl definitely hit the beach in the latter year: two Metal Massacre compilations; two records by the female-fronted L.A. band Bitch; a single by an even more obscure outfit called Damnation Alley. Brian Slagel was a mere L.A. record store employee and occasional music journalist who felt local bands deserved some exposure, and he ran his new business out of his mother's San Fernando Valley garage. But bands like Metallica and Slayer have credited him with kicking off their recording careers -- which means it would be no stretch to call Metal Blade ground zero for thrash and all the extreme metal subgenres that came later.
By the mid-'80s, the independent imprint had released early albums -- often debuts -- by Trouble, Fates Warning, Voivod, Hirax, Omen and Cirith Ungol, among many others, primarily but no means exclusively in the speedmetal style. In 1990, Cannibal Corpse helped ring in the death metal era with their Metal Blade debut. Marketed not only out of L.A. but from offices in Tokyo, Germany and elsewhere, numerous albums on the label -- by bands like Armored Saint, Behemoth, The Black Dahlia Murder and King Diamond -- eventually hit the Billboard 200. The diverse roster now ranges from the grindcore of Cattle Decapitation and Bolt Thrower to the throwback doom and power metal of Bison B.C., Pentagram, Slough Feg, and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. And those are only drops in a very big bucket of blood: The 30 raging songs on this mix are just a sampler of the iron and steel Metal Blade has unleashed over the past 32 years.