Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel flanked by Metallica's Lars Ulrich (left) and James Hetfield (Photo: Stephanie Cabral)
In a serendipitous bit of timing, on the same day that Metallica announced the formation of their own label, Blackened, the group turned out to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the indie that first released their music. Metal Blade Records founder/CEO Brian Slagel has come a long way since 1982, when he offered a spot on the first volume of the Metal Massacre compilation series to the fledgling young thrashers, who celebrated their own 30th anniversary last year. Metallica's James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo joined Slagel, longtime Metal Blade president Mike Faley and VIP guests for a riff-heavy shindig that went well into Friday night.
The Southern California based label's annual Christmas party doubled as an anniversary bash at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, featuring performances by label veterans Armored Saint, Sacred Reich and newcomers Gypsyhawk. V H1's That Metal Show co-host and radio personality Eddie Trunk emceed the night's festivities.
From left: Don Jamieson ("That Metal Show"), actor Luke Perry, Hetfield, Sacred Reich's Phil Rind, "That Metal Show" host Eddie Trunk (Photo: Stephanie Cabral)
Guests with the properly hued wristbands to get them into the Foundation Room and even more exclusive balcony included Live Nation's Vice President of Theater & Club Programming Kelly Kapp (one of Billboard's "30 Under 30" in 2007); Ozzy Osbourne bassist and Black Veil Brides manager Rob "Blasko" Nicholson; Blasko's partner John Fenton of Mercenary Management and Sharon Osbourne's management company; MMA star Josh Barnett; Jerry Clubb of Richochet Management; entertainment lawyer Ian Friedman; Razor & Tie A&R man Mike Gitter; Raw Power Management's Matt Ash; Mike Taft from Ibanez Guitars; Crush Management sports division honcho Paul Conroy; Steve Davis, Nick "Biggie" Grimaldi and Chuck Andrews from Good Fight Entertainment; Fireball Ministry's Emily Burton and more.
Slagel and Ulrich spent much of the night seated at a table in the balcony with Rick Sales, longtime manager of Slayer, whose pre-major label albums were issued by Metal Blade. Actor Luke Perry's son is a big fan of "That Metal Show," so the actor best known from "Beverly Hills, 90210" was one of the VIPs able to get past security to say hello to Hetfield. Trunk's VH1 co-host, comedian Don Jamieson, was also on-hand; Backbeat last caught up with that duo at the Led Zeppelin "Celebration Day" premiere in October. Armored Saint covered songs by Metallica and Slayer during their set, which featured guest appearances from labelmates Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth) and Ray Alder (Fates Warning).
The Saint's Metal Blade/Metallica connections runs deep: vocalist John Bush, whose voiceover career has included spots for Burger King, once declined an invitation to join Metallica (he did front Anthrax for a number of years). Armored Saint bassist Joey Vera -- who was also under consideration to join Metallica, after Cliff Burton's tragic death in 1986 -- is married to Tracy Vera, the Senior VP/GM at Metal Blade who has been with the label for 22 of its 30 years.
Good Fight's Chuck Andrews and Steve Davis with Slagel (center) (Photo: Vince Edwards/Metal Blade)
Founded by Slagel in 1982, Metal Blade's catalog includes Billboard 200-charting albums by Cannibal Corpse, Gwar, Anvil, King Diamond, pre-Warner releases from Goo Goo Dolls, as well as newer acts like Whitechapel and As I Lay Dying. Back in 1986, Slagel recommended one of his artists, Flotsam and Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted, to Ulrich. Newsted subsequently played in Metallica for 14 years. Metal Blade is distributed in the United States by Sony's RED Distribution.