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Nuclear Blast: Metal record label’s 30-year history

As Nuclear Blast blow out the candles on their 30th birthday cake, we travel to Germany to celebrate the rise of one of metal’s most enduring and influential labels

There are many excellent places to watch a thunderstorm break on the horizon, but 50 feet off the ground in a steel gantry at a Bavarian metal festival isn’t one of them. In any other situation, the cracking thunder, forked lightning and sheets of biblical rain heading towards us would be an impressive spectacle. Right now, the threat of imminent death by electrocution or drowning is putting a bit of a dampener on the situation.

Still, it’s a fitting backdrop to today’s entertainment. The Friday of the Summer Breeze festival has been rechristened the Blast Bash to mark the 30th anniversary of powerhouse German label Nuclear Blast. The whole of the main stage bill is given over entirely to NB bands, from Battle Beast, Hatebreed and Epica to Children Of Bodom and Teutonic thrash icons Kreator. The storm heading our way has got nothing on the one that’s been happening onstage all day.

At ground level, a 49-year-old blond-haired man is watching everything unfold with a quiet pride. This is Markus Staiger, the man who founded Nuclear Blast 30 years ago in the small town of Donzdorf and has successfully steered it through the sort of choppy waters that have holed so many other labels. Like the rest of the 40,000-strong Summer Breeze crowd, Markus is a huge music fan. What separates him is that he happens to run one of the most successful metal labels in history. One that started out as a strictly DIY operation run from his parents’ house to put out records by US death, grind and hardcore bands has branched out in unimaginable ways, musically and commercially. Today, 30 years after he started it, Nuclear Blast is one of metal’s biggest players.

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