For the Sake of Heaviness: the History of Metal Blade Records
by Brian Slagel and Mark Eglinton
Metal Blade Records
One of the electrifying things about being in a musical subculture is just how energizing and transformative it can be. Sure, you can just be a fan and listen to the music and go to shows or whatever, but a certain few get hooked and want to spread the word, whether through writing a zine, hosting college radio shows or podcasts, or starting a record label.
Brian Slagel was an underground metal fan who wanted to share his enthusiasm with the world. Slagel fell hard for both the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and the local Los Angeles metal bands. Soon he was trading tapes, going to over 250 shows as an 18 year old, and working in a record store, all to support his metal addiction. But that wasn’t enough, so he started a magazine, spent all his extra money on metal records, and eventually started Metal Blade, the label that launched bands like Metallica and Slayer out into the greater world.
For the Sake of Heaviness is Slagel’s story of founding and nurturing Metal Blade for over 30 years. Starting with the influential Metal Massacre compilation, which sold out in a day, to documenting every every metal subgenre since 1982 (with the notable exception of nu metal), Slagel recounts dealing with producers not understanding the new sound, struggles with contracts and finances, failing distributors and creating a successful record label with very little radio play with the enthusiasm of a music fan who periodically doesn’t believe all this has actually happened.
Slagel’s stories of metal gods in their early years are balanced out with tales of rummaging through the Warner Brothers vaults to reissue Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, and Alice Cooper, and riding out the collapse and rebirth of the vinyl market (the label stored all their vinyl in a warehouse and finally made money back 20 years later). While Slagel might not have had the resources to release all the bands he wanted, like Megadeath or Anthrax, he describes no bitterness towards the bands, stressing his love of the music first and foremost.
Slagel describes the label’s history with the heart of a fan, recounting his tales with enthusiasm and positivity. Sidebars with musicians from Slayer, Metallica, Armored Saint, King Diamond and more share a similar attitude. If you’re looking for a warts and all expose on the early thrash metal scene, you’re not going to get it here, but if you’re looking for a positive story of a fan turned label owner passionate about his releases and metal in general, For the Sake of Heaviness is highly recommended.