“WE WEREn’T sCARED OF GRUnGE”
WITH THEIR TRIBAL METAL, BRAZIL’S SEPULTURA BECAME ROADRUNNER’S BIG SUCCESS
that the landscape was changing and they had to move beyond the boundaries of extreme metal. Under orders from Cees Wessels to “abandon that world”, Monte began searching out different sounds – starting on his doorstep in New York.
“The label started to seriously branch beyond thrash with Type O Negative, Biohazard and Life Of Agony,” he says. “All bands that had their roots in New York hardcore, before moving far beyond it.”
All three bands were coming at things from different places. Brooklyn’s Biohazard were rap-metal hardmen whose violent street-level worldview of life was laid out on their Roadrunner debut, 1992’s Urban Discipline.
Life Of Agony were the young pups of the hardcore scene, with singer Keith Caputo using the band as cathartic release for his tumultuous family background and mental state. Type O Negative were something else entirely, a unique hybrid of hardcore, metal and goth that was the brainchild of towering frontman Peter Steele, former singer with controversial race-baiting 80s metal outfit Carnivore. What bound the bands together was Roadrunner, and the sense of community that came with it.
“Monte would come and see us, although he didn’t sign us immediately because he wasn’t sure about our vocals,” says Life Of Agony bassist Alan Robert. “He took a lot of convincing. But once we were on the label, it was great. We knew everyone there personally and hung out. It was the easiest, coolest place to work, and when it all took off it was really exciting to see other bands getting success.”
1992 saw those success stories simmering. But it wasn’t until the following year that they reached boiling point.
The first half of 1993 was fairly quiet for Roadrunner, but all that changed in August with the release of Type O Negative’s third album, Bloody Kisses. The band’s first two records, 1991’s Slow, Deep And Hard and 1992’s faux-live The Origin Of The Feces, interspersed Sabbath-esque dirges with bursts of face-pummelling hardcore.
But Bloody Kisses was where they turned everything up to another level, combining heaviness, melody and Peter Steele’s
fathoms-deep croon. This was the true birth of goth-metal.
“They were doing so much that was different with heaviness and melody on Bloody Kisses that it just deserved to be heard by so many people,” says Alan Robert.
Remarkably, it was. The album’s two big singles were the brilliantly blasphemous Christian Woman and gothic tour de force Black No.1. In their original form, they were both lengthy epics, but significantly edited versions that wisely focused on the songs’ innate catchiness were soon picked up by radio. This was Roadrunner’s first taste of success.
“Those songs gave us our first hit singles,” says Monte Conner. “Once we got our hands on those Type O hits, we were determined to break through that wall and put Roadrunner on the map at rock radio. Our radio guy worked his ass off to get us in that position.
It would take two years for Bloody Kisses to sell 500,000 copies in the US and become Roadrunner’s first Gold record, but as the label had neither the budgets nor the infrastructure of a major, that was still some achievement. Plus, they had plenty more up their sleeve.
Where Type O Negative were a surprise hit, the success of Sepultura’s fifth album was less of a shock. The Brazilians had been gradually easing themselves away from guttural thrash metal since the start of the decade, but Chaos A.D. – released in October 1993 – was something else. While it was still brutal, it added groove, ambition and, on the percussive Refuse/Resist and Kaiowas, the first flowerings of the world music influences that would come to full fruition two years later on Roots.
“This was the album where the band transcended the death/thrash genre and simply became a timeless metal band,” says Monte. “When I signed them in 1988, did I foresee that growth in ’93? Of course not, no one could have.”
So confident were Roadrunner in the album that they launched it with a huge party at Caerphilly Castle in Wales. Journalists and radio producers were flown in from around the world to be wined and dined with Brazilian food and drink. The evening’s entertainment even included a dance troupe from the band’s home country. “It cost a fortune,” laughs Monty. “But Cees was not going to let the label’s greatest achievement to date go by without making a huge deal of it.”
Their faith paid off. Chaos A.D. reached Number 11 in the UK and became the first Roadrunner album to break into the US Top
40, peaking at Number 32.
“It was the most important period of our lives,” says Andreas. “We were coming into
Pearl Jam follow exceptional Ten another brilliant