The follow-up to his 2017 book For The Sake Of Heaviness, Swing Of The Blade is an endearing, honest, and enjoyable journey into the deeper world of Brian Slagel, the main man behind the legendary Metal Blade Records. Whilst the first book drew on other’s own experiences of Metal Blade, with interviews with such luminaries as James Hatfield and John Bush, this is very much Brian in his own words, recounting tales from the early days of Metal Blade through to a brief post-pandemic epilogue, where he expresses his regret that the book hasn’t coincided with the 40th anniversary of the label.
Swing Of The Blade – Brian Slagel
Release Date: 9 May 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
It’s evident that Brian has written this himself, although he does once again thank Mark Eglinton for his help, for there’s a humble way to his writing. It’s got a few typos and grammatical errors which make it even more real.
A vibrant intro from Slayer’s Kerry King kicks things off. The joy in which Brian recounts his tales is compelling, and even though he has mixed with the great of our beloved style of music for many years, he doesn’t present as anything other than a fan who got lucky, albeit combined with a huge amount of determination and grit. He may have been in the right place at the right time, but there is no denying that Brian’s early love of Deep Purple, Rainbow and his beloved Iron Maiden were the catalysts to drive him from that basement room at his mother’s house through to the CEO of an international label that houses some real beasts of the Metal world.
What’s even better than his tales of hanging with Metallica, King Diamond, and Anthrax are his stories of some of the underdogs, like Omen, Phenomenon, Helix, Helstar and the like. Brian’s motto is simple. If he likes it, then originally, he would make an offer.
He’s down to earth about the limits for a label like Metal Blade – he’s clear about budgets, the impossibility of signing the likes of Ghost, Rammstein and Korn, and reminisces about the ones that got away, for example, Volbeat.
Brian also spends a bit of time exploring some of the side labels that Metal Blade has developed, picking up the more left-field bands who don’t quite fit into the Metal Blade image. He’s at pains to point out that there isn’t a typical Metal Blade band, guides the reader through the tough times in the 1990s when the likes of GWAR and Cannibal Corpse kept the label ticking over, as well as his skirting around nu-Metal (he offers special praise to Korn as the exception) and the excitement when bands including As I Lay Dying, Killswitch Engage and The Black Dahlia Murder broke through with their Metalcore style in the early 2000s.
He touches on his love of sports, in particular ice hockey and basketball, and credits the continuation of sports during Covid as keeping him sane, even if the crowds weren’t present.
One of the things I was unaware of was the expansion of his podcast Metal Misconduct where Brian and his co-host Shawn Roake talk to sports stars who are also Metal fans. There’s a particularly engaging tale of Brian trying to get Czech hockey star Jaromir Jagr onto the show, finally being able to entice the reluctant Jagr via a meeting with Metallica, who were his favourite band.
There’s plenty to dive into, and even some of the parts that are a little repeated from the first book are fun to re-read. Being the first to be told by Paul Di’Anno that he was leaving Iron Maiden, and the fact that despite 300+ Maiden shows, Brian had to be dragged into a photo opportunity with Steve Harris, a star who he has only ever met twice, make him even more genuine.
His favourite Maiden track is Hallowed Be Thy Name, his favourite Maiden cover is Killers, and The Book Of Souls features in his top five all-time Maiden albums.
His love of Metal is unconditional, and as he passes sixty years of age, he gives no indication that he’s about to stop doing what has clearly turned from a passion to a career.
This is a book that may not reveal deep, dark secrets about the music industry, but it does very much paint the picture of an honest, likeable person who, despite all the contacts (not all of us have King Diamond on speed dial after all), is very much like you and me … someone who is a Metal Head at heart, and who will be until the day he leaves this planet.
To read the interviews with Brian Slagel, keep an eye on https://www.metaltalk.net/tag/brian-slagel.
Swing of the Blade: More Stories from Metal Blade Records can be ordered from https://www.metalblade.com/swingoftheblade.
For the Sake of Heaviness: The History of Metal Blade Records is available from Amazon.
Swing of the Blade is also available in an exclusive bundle including a bookplate signed by Brian Slagel, bookmark, patch, and a 40th anniversary medal.