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The 25 Most Important People in Metal: #3, Brian Slagel

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As much as metal is a genre of music and a lifestyle, it is also a community. And like all communities, it has its leaders — men and women whose work, be it by design or circumstance, affects all lovers of extreme music on a regular basis.

Throughout November, MetalSucks will celebrate these industry leaders by counting down The 25 Most Important People in Metal one per day. To be clear, this is a list of the people we believe are most important to metal today, in 2016 — not necessarily the most important people overall in the entire history of the genre. Some of them are musicians. Many of them are not. Some of them are people you’ve heard of. Many of them work behind the scenes and do not routinely get to take a bow. But they all have one thing in common: more than just cogs in a machine, they are truly, undeniably irreplaceable.

While much of our list has focused on folks behind the scenes who typically get very little appreciation for all the hard work they do, much like yesterday’s pick — ex-Roadrunner and current Nuclear Blast A&R Monte Conner — today’s choice is not about that at all.

Brian Slagel’s inclusion on this was was a given from the moment of its inception. You knew it, we knew it, everyone fucking knew it. The man is a true legend.

To start: Slagel discovered Metallica. Think about that for a moment. He gave a little band from the Bay Area a shot by including them on his Metal Massacre compilation, released in 1982, the same year he founded Metal Blade Records, one of the most successful metal labels ever. That band would grow to quite literally define the genre of metal, and become the biggest metal band of all time (and one of the biggest bands in any genre, period). Oh, and then there’s another little band called Slayer that Brian Slagel discovered and signed, releasing their first three albums on Metal Blade before they jumped into the major label world headfirst.

Here are a few other bands Metal Blade Records, which Slagel has maintained as a household name in metal for almost 35 years now, has signed and developed over the years: Mercyful Fate, Cannibal Corpse, Behemoth, Amon Amarth, As I Lay Dying, Gwar, The Black Dahlia Murder, Whitechapel, Six Feet Under, Hate Eternal, Psyopus… and on and on and on and on.

And that brings us to the core of what makes Brian so important to our scene: he’s a lifer. He has, quite literally, given his life to metal. And he’s just as passionate about the genre now as he’s ever been. Slagel always — ALWAYS — has his ear to the ground for up and coming artists. I’ve spotted him at more random metal shows scouting out bands than I have any other record label higher-up (and most employees half his age), and I live 3,000 freaking miles away from the guy. He truly is that dedicated, which anyone who follows him on Twitter can see: he’s constantly sharing news about bands with the genuine excitement of a teenager just discovering distorted guitar for the first time. That dedication and excitement extends down to his employees, all of whom are the most reasonable and down to earth people in the music business.

Further, Slagel has done a remarkable job of recognizing metal’s diverse landscape by never letting Metal Blade become too invested in any one particular scene or trend. While several labels have thrown all their eggs into one basket, or chased trends that never seem to pan out (always one step behind), Slagel has had the balance and forethought to let Metal Blade’s roster be representative of the entirety of the metal universe. Just take a look at their current list of artists; it’s all over the place, in a good way. As such, when any bands on Metal Blade do experience wider success — like Cannibal Corpse, or Behemoth for example — it’s through years and years of hard work, never an “of the moment” flash in the pan. That’s how you achieve sustained success in one of the most difficult businesses in the world.

Metal owes everything to Brian Slagel. Without him, the genre today would be completely unecognizable or, who knows, perhaps nonexistent. And he’s still just as relevent today as he was 35 years ago… maybe even moreso.

THE LIST SO FAR
#25: Mark Riddick
#24: Robb Flynn
#23: Rob Scallon

#22: Kim Kelly
#21: Fenriz
#20: Rob Halford

#19: Ash Avildsen
#18: Steve Joh

#17: Karim Peter
#16: Misha Mansoor

#15: Dan Rozenblum
#14: Joey Sturgis

#13: Randy Blythe
#12: Amy Sciarretto
#11: Dimebag Darrell
#10: Corey Taylor
#9: Jose Mangin

#8: Monica Seide-Evenson
#7: Albert Mudrian
#6: Borivoj Krgin
#5: Sharon Osbourne
#4: Monte Conner

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