Brian Slagel, ‘For the Sake of Heaviness: The History of Metal Blade Records’ – Book Review

Metal Blade / BMGMetal Blade / BMG

Record label owners are certainly well known within the music industry, but the average fan has no idea who owns or runs the label of their favorite artist. That’s pretty much the case in metal music as well, with one notable exception: Brian Slagel. After starting Metal Blade Records in his mother’s garage more than three decades ago, he built it to become one of the best and most respected record labels.

So what makes Slagel different than the usual record company CEO? His passion for metal music. He started the label because he wanted to bring these bands he liked to the masses. He, of course, learned how to run a business as he went along, but at the core he is a fan, not a suit.

Slagel recounts the history of the label in For the Sake of Heaviness: The History of Metal Blade Records. He collaborated with Mark Eglinton, who recently wrote a James Hetfield biography and has co-written books with Nergal (Behemoth) and Rex Brown (Pantera).

Like many biographies and histories, For the Sake of Heaviness is heavily focused on the early days. Slagel recounts how he went from a writer and record store employee to starting Metal Blade. It’s well known how he gave Metallica their first big break by including them on the first Metal Massacre compilation, and Lars Ulrich wrote the foreword to the book.

Signings of early bands like Armored Saint, Slayer, Fates Warning, Voivod and Trouble are discussed, along with bands that Metal Blade didn’t end up signing for one reason or another. The book flows well, blending Slagel’s narrative with sidebar interviews with people he crossed paths with along the way such as Betsy Weiss (Bitch), James Hetfield (Metallica), Joey Vera (Armored Saint), Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse), King Diamond and others.

While many metal labels struggled as the ’90s went on, Metal Blade managed to stay afloat with a strong roster of talent, and surged along with the genre in the 2000s. In addition to recapping what happened with Metal Blade and the industry over the years, Slagel also looks forward, predicting what may happen in an industry that has seen seismic changes in the 35 years Metal Blade has been around.

While filled with a lot of great stories and information, the 170 or so pages could easily have been doubled so even more tales of bands, tours, albums, personalities and Slagel’s life could have been included. Even so, For the Sake of Heaviness: The History of Metal Blade Records is a must read for metal fans who care about music history, as they will learn a lot about the genre and industry from somebody that helped shape it into what it is today.

The book is out now and available through the usual outlets. You can also order bundles here, which include items such as a shirt and a 35th anniversary Metal Blade cassette featuring bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Mercyful Fate and Fates Warning.

Metal Blade Release ‘For the Sake of Heaviness’ Book + Cassette