Record labels are most often known as the main source of publication, distribution or promotion of musical content. And, with that being said, the heavy metal scene is chock full of labels big and small, obscure and mainstream, and ones packed with many amazing acts that are fairly hard to follow. In this list, I will briefly discuss the top ten labels that I personally believe are awesome for individual reasons and are worthy of being appreciated by other enthusiasts such as myself. Focus will be on the more obscure and independent labels. Let's get into it.
-By: Dave Raffy
Musician, reviewer, fan & promoter
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This first one is relatively well-known if you're an avid metalhead, but I decided to list it anyway because of their stellar roster and solid service. Sumerian Records has established its popularity over the last decade or so and is now notable as a sort of mainstream label in the world of core music. With acts like After The Burial, CHON, Oceano and Veil of Maya on their roster and tons of releases as well as flashy merch to check out, this is surely one that all should be aware of.
Up next, we have one small-timer US indie run by just a few people. Chugcore Records is one label that specializes in distributing and promoting a wide plethora of deathcore and downtempo acts (mostly up-and-coming) from all over. In addition, the label also does frequent streams on their YouTube page and website and creates compilations, including one noteworthy donation campaign for a longtime heavy music fanatic who passed away from terminal illness.
Season Of Mist is a French black metal-oriented record label that's been kicking since the late 1990s. Now having an office in the US, this one has grown quite a bit and has housed outfits such as the likes of Carach Angren and Incantation, as well as bands from other genres including blackened death metallers Septicflesh and tech death band Archspire. It is also known for being a distributor of releases from other labels, helping to expand the scene as much as possible.
This one is a relatively modern label that I've grown to enjoy a lot due to its proclivity to undertake the most brutal and hard-hitting of the brutal death metal acts. Based in Germany, Rising Nemesis Records holds a ton of slammy goodness and techy fun to admire. The dudes handling the store itself have always been very cool to me...and they give out some pretty sick updates as well.
While this one is mostly a distribution label, it still has so much to offer if you're a death metal fanatic, similarly in the vein of our previous label. CDN Records constantly promotes online and it seems as though they're always holding such great deals and discounts on their webstore. Though it is situated in Canada, the label ships pretty much anywhere to my knowledge and has the latest releases from artists like Cerebral Incubation and Defeated Sanity. Be sure to join their mailing list.
Okay this is an oldie for most but still definitely earns a top spot on this list for several reasons. Earache Records is an English label that's been around forever (since the 1980s at least) and houses artists from both the grindcore and death metal realms of the extreme metal sphere. It's always been a great hit for the underground community, with bands ranging from Cerebral Bore to Napalm Death and more. Their site always talks about metal news and upcoming tours as well, so keep an eye out.
Rotten Roll Rex is another great label that emphasizes on brutal death, tech death and slam. The prices are relatively low, and there's a lot of variety in terms of releases. They distribute some stuff from other sources as well, so they could be good in your favour if you live in Europe, since they're a Germany-based label. They have some of their own merch shirts as well and give out grab-bags as well as freebies.
Cracking into the top three on this list is one that centers around the blackened and the death, with some post-metal inclinations here and there, too. Poland's Agonia Records is a hit if you're looking for more obscure bands in those subgenres and the other reason as to why they're highly recommended is that their website is fairly fleshed out and informative with tons of details about metal news, roster info, tour dates, new releases, upcoming updates, a newsletter and more.
Fearless Records is another long-running label that is noteworthy for its Punk Goes Pop compilation series. With a roster containing many acts from the metalcore, post-hardcore and pop punk genres such as At The Drive-In, The Plot In You and Wage War, this one has so much to offer in terms of promise. The site is always up to date and their merch line is outstanding.
Lastly, we have this little death metal badboy from Pennsylvania. Featuring a roster containing countless artists from all over the globe, Willowtip Records lands the top spot on this list for their diversity as well as undying commitment to the scene. Bands like Circle of Dead Children, Cephalic Carnage, Slugdge, and Wormed are or have been on this label, which shows a clear demonstration of brutality in its own right.