2005 has drawn to a close and here at Drowned in Sound, we think it’s nice to reflect on what we’ve enjoyed and who has given us that enjoyment. It’s nice to remember where the best parties were but it’s also important to remember why they happened. 2005 has been a silver jubilee for many: AC/DC’s classic era-defining opus, Back In Black was released in 1980 and indeed that record shook me all night long many times; MySpace’s Friday-morning entertainment of Pac Man first hit video arcades in the same year but I hate that f*cking game so I just aimlessly keep pressing refresh; and Roadrunner Records celebrated a quarter of a century as the world’s leading independent underground metal and heavy rock record label. 25 years is a grand age and celebrate is just what they did.
Heralding the true nature of the spirit of independence Joey Jordison (Slipknot), Robert Flynn (Machine Head), Dino Cazares (ex-Fear Factory) and Matthew Heafy (Trivium) were labelled as the four captains in charge of a heady troupe of metal warriors way back in summer 2004. This creation was to be called Roadrunner United. By looking back over the past with such a metal veteran as Cazares and also looking to the future with Heafy, Roadrunner knows exactly what longevity means.
Dino Cazares (ex-Fear Factory) on what Roadrunner has meant to him during his long and enviable career: "When I signed to Roadrunner, I was like, 'Wow, I'm on Roadrunner.' It was the best label for underground metal and pushing the envelope and finding new bands. It was a real honour to be on the label, and it's still an honour to be part of Roadrunner."
In the end the recording included 56 artists from 44 bands and there’s no beating pure talent. The hard work recording over the past year culminated in Roadrunner United: The All-Star Sessions, which was released earlier this autumn and was everything that was expected and more. Instead of churning out some generic fodder that would appease the masses, some truly wonderfully scripted tunes have emerged from the collective talents of these metal monsters such as the epic single 'The End'.
The carnival was capped by a wondrous event a fortnight ago (December 15th) when the commemorative supergroup featuring the Roadrunner All-Stars, got together for a one-off show in New York’s Nokia Theater. Featuring the combined talents of such heavy metal luminaries as Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, Scott Ian (Anthrax), Evan Seinfeld and Billy Graziadei of Biohazard as well as the entirety of this year's Next Metallica, Trivium, this particular logistical nightmare was the dream of any metalhead worth their salt.
Danielle Sameroff, a prominent Roadrunner employee in the London office was in attendance that night, "Roadrunner United was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Witnessing Roadrunner artists past and present come together collaborating on classic hits from the past 25 years was one of the most entertaining nights of my life. I am really privileged to work for not only a legendary, but also a very generous label. Staff from all round the world were flown in for the show - which made it extra special for us employees. Let me tell you, the drinking started at the party before the gig, and didnt finish until dawn." Amazing stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.
As well as mind-boggling collaborations there were six re-issues marking out the classic records over time, and it is clear even to the casual that there was never any messing around. Ever. Mercyful Fate’s remastered, trailblazing, heavy-prog work of art, Melissa, has hardly dated despite the bemusing 1983 date adorning the notes and indeed the other five releases by Coal Chamber, Soulfly, Sepultura, King Diamond and Fear Factory sound equally vital and reassures you that when you toddled off to shop and saw a record demarcated from the rest by that friendly red rectangle, emblazoned with the Roadrunner logo, you weren’t just foolishly buying a load of crap. Make no bones about the fact that anything bearing that logo has a certain pedigree, chum.
Beyond the backward-looking shenanigans lies the current silage for the masses. In Slipknot lies arguably the most successful metal band of recent times. The masked nine-piece released their 9.0 Live album this year and while it offers a welcome retrospective of their three studio albums to date, the fresh and invigorating tones of the classic tunes ‘Purity’ and ‘Spit It Out’ and the stark social marker of ‘People=shit’, still fill this writer in particular with a fervour and anticipation of the blistering, uncontrolled experience of the pantomime glory of the Slipknot live show.
At the other end of the spectrum lies the new blood of Trivium as the metal band with the most potential for huge success. The youthful Floridians blazed trails onto the scene in 2005 with their hybrid metal and were heralded by many a rock publication as ones to watch or best newcomer, and the rest. The quartet’s melodic-death-thrash fusion was thrown at the world in full force with their second album, Ascendancy – a masterclass in assembling kickass hits, one after another without, apparently, being part of any scene. This record has gone silver in the UK. It is difficult to argue with the claim that these guys will rule the (heavy metal) world.
With outstanding releases this year from Chimaira, Opeth, Killswitch Engage and Every Time I Die as well as albums from Within Temptation, Sevendust, Fear Factory, Devildriver, Obituary, Wednesday 13 and Soulfly, Roadrunner Records is the best record label in the world. End of.
Trivium bassist Paolo Gregoletto has his own views on they who own his ass: "I just turned 20. Our new record is going great in the UK and we're just off for our first tour in Japan. It never would have happened without Roadrunner Records. I love those guys."
And I love you too, Roadrunner. But why did you have to sign Nickelback??