As we mentioned the other week, Roadrunner Records has now been fully acquired by Warner Music Group. Whether this is a bad thing or not remains to be seen, but I’m fairly sceptical. With this in mind, and with the label being 30 years old, now seems like a better time than any to have a look back at the company, its formation and how it grew into one of, if not, the biggest Metal label today. It also happens to be one of the most controversial Metal labels, depending on who you talk to…
Read on after the jump.
Roadrunner Records is 30 years old, formed way back in 1980. I’m unfortunately not old enough to remember the early days of its growth, but I do remember many of the label’s most significant releases and did witness some of the growth in the label. I could do one of two things here. I could either just rewrite what is already available to you on Wikipedia (or just copy and paste it, because let’s face it, I’m lazy as fuck), or I could speak about my own thoughts and feelings on the label, drawing on personal experiences growing up. I may be a lazy bum, but I actually opted for the latter.
So let’s go back to the beginning, before I was even born. The year was 1980. Metal as a genre was growing, particularly in the USA and North America as a whole. Starting out as just a Dutch import company, responsible for bringing many North American Metal bands into Europe, it wasn’t long before the label really grew into its own. By 1986, RR opened its US offices in New York City, and later opened offices all over Europe, including France, Germany, Wales (really? Wales? Ok then…), Japan, Australia, Denmark and Canada.
Early successes for the label included many more extreme Metal acts such as King Diamond and Annihilator. In the 1980s, RR was a prominent label in regards to the growing Death Metal scene in the 80s and 90s, having success with Deicide, Obituary and Suffocation. By the 90s, however, RR really started to make an impact upon the mainstream, with releases from Sepultura and Type O Negative cracking the charts. Slipknot later went on to give Roadrunner their best selling album with their debut, although Trivium later topped this feat with one of their albums.
By the mid to late 1990s, Roadrunner Records were growing fast, but not without facing any controversy. Many of the Death and Thrash bands that helped the company develop, were either being dropped by the label in favor of more modern Metal bands, or left feeling that they weren’t being appreciated. This is something that Roadrunner Records has been accused of right up until the present day, with the label adopting many Nu-Metal bands, only to drop them in favor of Metalcore acts once that became the current trend. Roadrunner also releases a lot of re-issues and greatest hits albums, which has caused a backlash from some Metal fans.
Despite criticism, Roadrunner, have undoubtedly produced some of the most significant Metal releases of the last 20 to 30 years, being home to such classics by Deicide, Suffocation, King Diamond, Sepultura, Machine Head, Type O Negative, Slipknot and many other artists.
In 2005, Roadrunner celebrated its 25th anniversary in style, by producing an 18 track album of brand new material, written and recorded by a whole host of different artists from the label teaming up. The album featured everything from straight Heavy Metal, to Death Metal to various other styles and proved to be both a critical and commercial hit. It’s true that not everything on the album appealed to everyone (there’s certainly a good few tracks that I have to skip), but overall the package was a great way to celebrate the label’s life, success and future. The DVD of the special concert, released in 2008, was even better, and I’m hoping to review that sometime next week (So stay tuned for that!)