After more than three decades, Roadrunner Records has endured the changing of times and the passing of trends, triumphed against the odds, defined multiple generational shifts, developed diverse and powerful talent, and established a brand that is synonymous worldwide with sonic power, quality visual presentation, and artistic passion. Millions of albums sold, regular Top 10 debuts across global charts, multiple Grammy nominations and endless rock radio staples have all sprung forth from the Warner Music Group company's beginnings as a Dutch indie importer of heavy metal albums in 1980.
The Roadrunner roster of today boasts an impressively diverse array of distinctively authentic artists, comprising something of a "best-of" playlist of the past decade's most energized and honest music. It includes multiplatinum masked cultural innovators Slipknot, whose fans are some of the most devoted the world has ever seen; platinum rockers Theory of a Deadman; gold-certified, groundbreaking New Wave Of American Heavy Metal standard-bearers Killswitch Engage; gold-selling hard rock heroes Stone Sour; the jaw-droppingly talented Dream Theater, subject of meticulous study by the most serious of musicians; metalcore upstarts and magazine cover starsThe Devil Wears Prada; modern metal riff-masters Trivium, who have sold over a million records worldwide; and legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Rush, who have had an undeniably massive influence on generations of acts who’ve followed in the trio's wake. And of course, Roadrunner’s brought the world Canadian chart-toppers Nickelback, one of the most successful rock groups of all time, with 50 million records sold worldwide and second only to The Beatles as the biggest-selling foreign act in the U.S.
The past five years alone have seen Roadrunner artists like Stone Sour, Killswitch Engage and Dream Theater crack the Top 10 on the Billboard 200. Megadeth, DragonForce, Machine Head, Storm Corrosion and countless other Roadrunner bands past and present have racked up Grammy nominations or wins.
Alternative visionaries Young the Giant scored two gold radio singles with "My Body" and "Cough Syrup" from their 2011 eponymous debut. One still can't switch on the radio without hearing Nickelback anthems like "How You Remind Me” and “Photograph.” In 2008, Slipknot's All Hope is Gone debuted at #1 in the U.S. and elsewhere abroad and was certified platinum two years later.
Even as Roadrunner dominates mainstream charts and rock radio, the label has kept one foot in the underground. A catalog that contains cult classic albums from death metal legends Death, Deicide and Pestilence, Christian progressive thrashers Believer, math-infused mind-benders Cynic and face-painted ghoul King Diamond has added avant-garde critical darlings Gojira, buzzy noisemakers Kvelertak and ever-evolving, breathtaking creative shamans Opeth.
Roadrunner's roots stretch back to the Netherlands, where the do-it-yourself indie got started importing and licensing releases that included early albums by Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Exodus, Exciter, Venom,Savatage, Anvil and Blitzkrieg, running the gamut from the emerging thrash movement to the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) by teaming up with labels like Combat, Neat Records, Music For Nations and Megaforce. Roadrunner soon began discovering and signing bands of their own, expanding into North America with an office in New York City in 1986. Some releases appeared Stateside with a Roadracer logo for a time, while lawyers (successfully) navigated around any association with the Warner Bros. cartoon character in America.
Mercyful Fate's Melissa, Carnivore's Carnivore and Whiplash's Power and Pain were among the first titles released in the US (Mercyful Fate singer King Diamond eventually became the first Roadrunner artist to hit theBillboard 200). Albums from Brazilian thrashers Sepultura, Floridian death metal merchants Obituary and punishing locals Suffocation cemented Roadrunner's stature as the new premier imprint amongst diehard metal mavens who lived and breathed the music and the scene. Even lesser-known albums by underground acts like Holy Terror, Toxik, Atrophy and Exhorder are cherished by students of the genre and neo-revivalists.
In addition to Sepultura, Suffocation and Obituary, the early '90s saw crucial releases from Annihilator and Deicide, as well as the hardcore-infused bounce of Biohazard and the earliest rumblings from Fear Factory andType O Negative, whose 1993 album Bloody Kisses became Roadrunner's first gold record (and eventually went platinum). Sepultura's sound grew and evolved as their label did the same with increasing expansion. Their genre-redefining Chaos A.D. became Roadrunner's first Top 40 release.
That same year witnessed Life of Agony's street-smart but melodic River Runs Red and Believer's art-metal excursion, Dimensions. New York City hardcore lifers Madball joined the roster in 1994, just as Machine Head'sBurn My Eyes ushered in a new era of groove-oriented aggressive music (with a shotgun blast!). Fear Factory's Demanufacture inspired a slew of imitators in 1995 with the L.A. band’s precision approach to screaming verses and singing choruses. Sepultura's Ross Robinson-produced, world-music-embracing Roots, featuring guest appearances from Korn's Jonathan Davis and Faith No More's Mike Patton, went on to sell over two million copies worldwide.
Coal Chamber's debut album was another gold-certified success for the label, with the groove-heavy/radio-friendly band at the forefront of the burgeoning nu-metal movement kicked off by Roots and Korn (who went on to release two albums on Roadrunner). Machine Head released their sophomore album the same year. Both bands, as well as Fear Factory, became regulars on Ozzfest tours. Co-founder Max Cavalera split from Sepultura and formed Soulfly, kicking off what would become a lengthy second Roadrunner career with a gold debut. Roadrunner dipped into hardcore once again with Earth Crisis and the noisier post-hardcore outfit Glassjaw, whose debut went on to become a cult classic.
The new millennium ushered in one of the most inescapably important shifting of the continental plates in heavy music in the form of a group of nine guys from Iowa calling themselves Slipknot. The masked madmen's percussive, destructive, aggressive yet hauntingly singable songs propelled their self-titled debut to platinum status in the year 2000, with fans around the world happily counting themselves among the “maggots,” as Slipknotsupporters are lovingly known.
Nickelback joined the label the following year, blowing down the doors of the pop culture mainstream. Silver Side Up sold over 6 million copies in the U.S. alone on the strength of instant radio classics "How You Remind Me," "Too Bad" and "Never Again" – not to mention frontman Chad Kroeger’s Spider-Man movie anthem "Hero," which featured Josey Scott of Saliva. Despite being released on 9/11, Silver Side Up entered the charts at #2 (just behind Jay-Z) and garnered several Billboard Music Awards (and Junos in their native Canada). In 2002, "How You Remind Me" was the #1 song of the year on Billboard's Hot 100.
Slipknot released their sophomore album in 2001, earning two Grammy nominations and breaking into the Top 10 in nine countries (including a #3 debut in the U.S. and #1s in the U.K. and Canada). Iowa was also certified platinum. The following year, Roadrunner released some post-Alice In Chains material from Jerry Cantrell, as well as new albums from Soulfly, Coal Chamber and a reissue of Nickelback's self-released debut. But it wasKillswitch Engage's Alive Or Just Breathing that would later achieve classic status, with Kerrang! declaring that the Massachusetts band "kills nu-metal dead." Once again, Roadrunner was at the forefront of a new movement, as the NWOAHM (New Wave of American Heavy Metal) emerged with Killswitch Engage as the scene's leaders.
Slipknot's Corey Taylor and Jim Root revealed an even more melodic side with the straight-ahead rock band Stone Sour, whose acoustic ballad "Bother" drove the album to gold certification. Nickelback's Chad Kroegerco-produced the debut album from Theory of a Deadman, which was released in 2002 as well. Nickelback's own The Long Road, which followed in 2003, featured the hits "Someday" and "Because of You” and saw the band sell another five million albums worldwide. Machine Head reclaimed the metal throne all across Europe with their comeback album, Through the Ashes of Empires, while Dez Fafara, split from Coal Chamber, re-emerged with the much more aggressive DevilDriver the same year.
Killswitch Engage joined MTV2's Headbanger's Ball Tour and contributed a track to the Freddy vs. Jason soundtrack before releasing The End of Heartache, which resulted in their first Grammy nomination and gold record.Slipknot's Rick Rubin-produced third album, Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) arrived in 2004 as well. It debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, earned the band a Grammy, sold over a million copies in the United States and was certified either gold or platinum in six other countries.
Roadrunner also began inking deals with established/veteran metal acts like the female-fronted Nightwish, symphonic black metal band Cradle Of Filth and a couple of years later, hardcore road warriors Hatebreed and Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society. Roadrunner also discovered and developed Trivium, who issued their label debut in 2005.
Nickelback's All The Right Reasons became one of the best-selling albums of all time in the States with a jaw-dropping eight million in sales. That album included the hits "Photograph," "Animals," "Rock Star" and "Side of a Bullet," undeniably some of the biggest songs in rock radio history.
Roadrunner chose the occasion of the label’s 25th anniversary to embark upon one of the most ambitious albums ever conceived in the hard rock space. Roadrunner United brought together 57 artists from 45 bands who had made albums for the label over the years to collaborate on brand new music. The unprecedented project was spearheaded by four “team captains”: Joey Jordison of Slipknot and Murderdolls; Trivium frontman Matt Heafy;Fear Factory/Brujeria guitarist Dino Cazares; and Machine Head’s vocalist/guitarist/co-founder, Robb Flynn. Credits for tracks like “The Dagger,” “No Way Out” and “In the Fire” read like a Who’s-Who of the label’s history, with appearances from members of Killswitch Engage, Type O Negative, Sepultura, Stone Sour, Opeth, Cradle Of Filth, Coal Chamber, Chimaira, Annihilator and many, many more. The album’s release was celebrated with a massive NYC concert on December 15, 2005, featuring a variety of performers covering classic Roadrunner songs by artists like Obituary, King Diamond and Slipknot. The evening ended with a dozen trailblazers gathering onstage for Sepultura’s “Roots Bloody Roots.” All of it was documented in a subsequent DVD set.
DragonForce is forever linked to the Guitar Hero phenomenon, putting Roadrunner once again in the middle of a cultural milemarker. The mid- to late 2000s saw more impressive releases from Killswitch Engage, Cradle Of Filth, Trivium and Machine Head, among others. In 2007, Roadrunner released the label’s first record with Megadeth. United Abominations debuted at #8, which was the band's highest chart position in over 12 years.Endgame also kicked off in the Top 10 two years later and was #1 on the Hard Rock Charts.
Black Stone Cherry, Airbourne and Porcupine Tree further displayed Roadrunner's diversity, as Slipknot delivered another gigantic commercial success. In 2008, All Hope is Gone became the band's first #1 album in the U.S., going gold or platinum in no less than seven countries. Theory of a Deadman's third album, Scars & Souvenirs, went platinum in the U.S. and Canada that same year.
Roadrunner linked up with Rob Zombie for Hellbilly Deluxe II and began relationships with Korn, and veteran bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Ratt.
The latest albums from Stone Sour and Killswitch Engage each debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 and Nickelback's newest radio monster is already certified double platinum in two countries. Meanwhile, Roadrunner has continued to release watershed albums from Opeth and Dream Theater, develop new radio acts like Young the Giant, tap into fresh underground talent like Gojira and collaborate with established artists likeRush.
Firmly ensconced in the Warner Music Group family, Roadrunner now operates with the fierce devotion of an independent-minded label backed by the muscle of the largest American-owned music giant, home to everyone fromGreen Day and Metallica to Avenged Sevenfold and the Deftones.
With honesty, integrity, passion and a commitment to excellence remaining the driving forces, Roadrunner Records remains an inseparable component in the careers of some of the most important, innovative, meaningful and irrepressibly hardworking rock bands of the modern age.