Metal Blade Records founder BRIAN SLAGEL: My 10 favorite Metal Blade albums | Revolver

Metal Blade Records founder BRIAN SLAGEL: My 10 favorite Metal Blade albums

From genre-defining comps to underrated prog gems
brian slagel 2023 PROMO, Metal Blade
courtesy of Metal Blade

Pre-order Brian Slagel's new book, Swing of the Blade: More Stories From Metal Blade Records, over at Revolver's shop.

Metal Blade Records is synonymous with the genre it heralds in its name. Since Brian Slagel founded the label in 1982, Metal Blade has been crucial in developing thrash, prog metal, death metal and even deathcore by amassing a catalog of ahead-of-the-curve sounds throughout each era of heavy music's history. Next month, Slagel will offer up his second book, Swing of the Blade: More Stories From Metal Blade Records, following his critically acclaimed 2017 opus, For the Sake of Heaviness.

In advance of the tome's release, we had Slagel comb through Metal Blade's entire discography and select his 10 favorite releases that've been graced with the iconic bloody axe logo. From a genre-defining comp to underrated prog gems, check out Slagel's selections — in no particular order — below.

Various Artists - Metal Massacre, Vol. 1

Of course, this started it all for Metal Blade and has so many great bands on here. It's kind of hard to understand just how important this record became and it's amazing how the label and many of the bands on here are still doing well! Paying tribute to some of our best and brightest here.

Armored Saint - Symbol of Salvation

This one is important to me for many, many reasons. Armored Saint started on Metal Blade and were the first band signed to a major label from us. The band were great at mentioning us in the mainstream media, and this was the first time we were in it. I remained close friends with the band over the years, and after they were off Chrysalis Records and guitarist Dave Prichard had passed away, they were pretty much done. However, they had written some of their best songs ever and I did not want to see those songs not come out. So, the band got back together and made this incredible album. I firmly believe that if this came out in 1989 and not the grunge year of 1991, it would have been absolutely huge. It has been nice over time, though, to see it get the accolades it deserves.

Slayer - Hell Awaits

Still my favorite Slayer album to date and what an honor it is to be a part of it. This was really when you could see that this band was going to be huge. We were all still so young, but the writing on this record is so amazing. Very diverse and this pretty much led them on to the legendary status they now have. 

Amon Amarth - Twilight of the Thunder God

Of course, this was the big breakthrough album for these guys. Truly a classic of melodic death metal, complete with so many catchy riffs and songs. Again, happy to see how much these guys have grown and how huge they are now. Originally, the title track, "Twilight," was not the first song on the album, but I made sure they changed that!

Cannibal Corpse - Butchered at Birth

Wow, what an album cover! At first, I think everyone was nervous about what I would think, but I love it! The album itself is just as good, too. I think we all had a collective feeling that these guys would be very successful, even with the crazy artwork. I saw them for the first time live on the tour for this album, too. Wow, wow and wow. They were and still are amazing.

The Black Dahlia Murder - Unhallowed

What an amazing debut. I had no idea when we signed them that this album would come out so great. One of the best debut albums I have heard ... ever. From beginning to end, it is just a true classic. RIP to Trevor Strnad. Just the best! A classic.

Fates Warning - Awaken the Guardian

Another album that I was honored to be a part of. Pretty much the epicenter of the prog-metal movement and such a classic album. It was so great working with John Arch, who is just so incredibly talented, as well as the rest of the guys. This was a fun record, the whole process. Plus, we recorded some of it in the legendary Capitol Records studio in Hollywood!

Cirith Ungol - King of the Dead

I have always loved this album. This band is such a great story, too. They really did not fit into the L.A. metal scene in the early Eighties. For one, they were from the sleepy beach town of Ventura, north of Los Angeles. They had this kind of proggy, heavy-metal sound with a unique singer that I loved. Over the years, they have become an underground [sensation] and are finally getting the attention they deserve all these years later. They're even making new music and playing shows again!

Visigoth - Revenant King

From Salt Lake City, here comes the new classic metal force. Again, I just love these guys and this classic style of metal. It's so good and they absolutely killed it live. Check them out if you like the classic stuff.

Arch/Matheos - Sympathetic Resonance

As I mentioned earlier, I am a huge fan of John Arch. When he left Fates Warning, I was devastated. Then, when guitarist Jim Matheos mentioned that he and John wanted to do something together again, I was so relieved and excited. What followed was some truly special stuff. The fact that John sounds so good after all these years is truly, really amazing. If you're a fan of prog metal or old Fates Warning, you should check this out. It is a classic! I still love to listen to this as much as possible.