You can find metal, rock, punk,... back in almost every aspect of life, also in literature (Yes, we read!). Whether it's an artist or band sharing their stories with you, a book of poetry that goes along with the music, a comic book about a band or just something that appeals to rockers and metalheads in this world, we want to bring you an idea of what goodies there are waiting for you.
Enter "The GRIMM Reader"...
For the Sake of Heaviness - The History of Metal Blade Records is a perfect description of what you get with this book. Written by the label's founder, CEO and one of heavy metal's forerunner and biggest defender Brian Slagel with the help of Mark Eglinton (writer of biographies about James Hetfield, Nergal and others), it brings a brief history of how Metal Blade became a thing, how they survived all these years and what it looks like for them in the future. This all happens through the eyes of Brian himself, taking us with him on memory lane through stories, personal achievements he still fondly looks back to and tales of keep on trying "for the sake of heaviness".
One thing that definitely resonates throughout the book is a sense of family and friendship, persistence, integrity and consistency. The book opens with a foreword written by Lars Ulrich, a long time friend of Brian. A name that comes back on regular occasions, being one of the earliest partners in crime considering the upcoming heavy metal scene. Offering him a slot on the very first Metal Massacre compilation (which was basically the early beginning of the label) if he had a band, Brian basically pushed Lars into creating one of the biggest heavy metal bands ever. He summarizes what Brian stands for in the following simple lines:
Here's the thing.
Brian is the true vanguard of heavy metal.
He loves it.
He supports it.
He really does live it.
He doesn't foghorn what he does or what he has done.
He just does it.
And that's just one of the (more well-known) anecdotes that are the basis of this book. You get to travel along with Slagel through time, starting from him discovering Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, growing a small label from a fanzine and the Metal Massacre compilations. To the point that he became a part of one of the biggest media companies in the world to then walk away again when the integrity of one of his bands (GWAR, to be precise) was in danger, still becoming one of the biggest and most-respected metal labels out there. And we can all follow in depth how he struggled through hits and misses to get where Metal Blade Records is now.
Brian's narrative that brings a feeling of him talking to just you, is completed with short anecdotes and quotes by partners, friends and artists. And besides that you get the occasional interview with prominent members of the scene like James Hetfield (Metallica), Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth), Chris Barnes (ex-Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under), John Bush (Armored Saint) and many others to get an extra glance behind the scenes. What I very much appreciated, was the effort and care that went into making sure that every anecdote or interview was related with that main story that followed upon it. This way those anecdotes and interviews never felt distracting and rather became a nice segue to bring the story together. The only thing that I maybe missed a little bit in a book like this, were maybe a few pictures of certain things that took place throughout history to illustrate things, but that's a rather small complaint.
Besides his music, he isn't afraid to steer towards other ventures that still have a link with heavy metal like comedy, hockey,... And all of the 35 year history of Metal Blade Records with its struggles and almost end when the CD was replacing vinyls, gave Brian a unique and rather positive outlook on what the future brings for music and record companies. Instead of the classic complaining that things are not going well, towards the end of the book, he looks at what will be possible and how the music business will evolve to deal with it. A most refreshing take on things!
It's simply a great look behind one of the biggest names and influencers in heavy metal history (and future) and a very smooth read that could've had twice the amount of pages without getting boring. It actually made me more aware of what the label does and what great bands it supports. To be highly recommended for anyone who is either fan of the label and wants to know more, a savage supporter of heavy metal music or who is interested in music history... or all of the above!
You can get a special edition of the book, including a cassette with some of the very first bands that shaped the label and other little treats here.
And remember: "Heavy metal will never die!"