Popular Record Labels in the Metal Business

It’s no secret that labels make the music world go ‘round, but it’s hard to tell which bands are signed on to which labels, or where to submit your band’s demo tape. Whatever the music, the labels below are currently some of the most popular labels in the business, signing on anything from heavy metal to grindcore.

Roadrunner Records
Currently a division of the Warner Music Group, Roadrunner was launched back in 1980 in the Netherlands, importing North American metal bands into Europe. It wasn’t until 1986 when they opened up their first office in New York, followed by offices in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and many other countries. Early Roadrunner successes came from King Diamond (who was Roadrunner’s first artist to enter the Billboard Top 200 album chart) and Annihilator. The label was also responsible for the early releases of Metallica in Scandinavia.
Website: Roadrunner Records Site

Current Bands: Dream Theater, Gojira, Killswitch Engage, Slipknot, Stone Sour, Trivium

Century Media Records
Founded in Dortmund, Germany in 1988, Century Media has launched the careers of countless metal acts from Architects to Eyehategod and more. The label’s first act to break into the Billboard Top 200 album chart was Lacuna Coil with their 2002 album, “Comalies,” where it reached No. 178 two years after its release. The label also received some criticism after pulling their catalog from Spotify, citing it as “an attempt to protect the interests of their artists.” They have since made their catalog available again after receiving “impressive debates and messages from fans” as well as discussions with Spotify. Century Media was bought out by Sony Music last August, with worldwide distributions being handled by Sony Music while RED will be distributing in the United States.
Website: Century Media Records Site

Current Bands: Arch Enemy, Deicide, Finntroll, Insomnium, Lacuna Coil, Napalm Death, Queensryche, Turisas, Watain

Season of Mist
One of the more recent labels to come out, Season of Mist, is constantly focused on releasing more extreme metal records from stylistically diverse bands. When black metal legends, Mayhem, signed on to the label in 1999, they began to attract other black metal bands such as Carpathian Forest and Rotting Christ. Keeping close to their black metal roots, the label has since widened its range and added to its black, death, doom, thrash and progressive metal rosters.
Website: Season of Mist Site

Current Bands: Abbath, Carach Angren, Kylesa, Mayhem, Ne Obliviscaris, Rotting Christ

Napalm Records
Founded in 1992 by Markus Riedler in Austria, Napalm originally focused primarily on black metal and folk metal bands such as Summoning and Falkenbach respectively. Since then, the label has expanded its roster to add gothic metal, symphonic metal, power metal, doom metal, and metalcore among other genres as well.
Website: Napalm Records Site

Current Bands: Alestorm, Delain, Gloryhammer, Heidevolk, Kamelot, Summoning

Metal Blade Records
Metal Blade was founded by Brian Slagel in 1982, who was working as a record store employee in Los Angeles, as a way of increasing the recognition of local metal bands. The label’s first release was a compilation album called The New Heavy Metal Revue presents Metal Massacre which featured bands like Ratt and Metallica.  Numerous Metal Blade acts have made it onto the Billboard 200 charts including The Goo Goo Dolls, Amon Amarth, Behemoth, Cannibal Corpse, and more.
Website: Metal Blade Records Site

Current Bands: Aeon, Amon Amarth, The Black Dahlia Murder, Cannibal Corpse, Ensiferum, Goatwhore, Gwar, King Diamond, Tyr

Nuclear Blast
After founder Markus Staiger returned from a four week trip throughout the United States, he founded Nuclear Blast in his home of Germany in 1987. Originally releasing hardcore punk records, the label moved on to releasing albums by melodic death metal, grindcore, power metal, and black metal bands.
Website: Nuclear Blast Records Site

Current Bands: Behemoth, Blind Guardian, Death Angel, Eluveitie, Enslaved, Korpiklaani, Nightwish, Sabaton, Slayer, Wintersun


David Gagnon

Born in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Dave has laid down his soul to the gods rock n' roll. He attended Columbia College Chicago as a major in Creative Writing. Some of his favorite things are heavy metal and pizza.

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