Metal Blade Records was founded by Brian Slagel, who at the time was a record store employee in suburban Los Angeles, as a way to increase the recognition of local metal bands. The label's first release was a compilation album called The New Heavy Metal Revue presents Metal Massacre, and included Metallica, Ratt, and Black 'n Blue.
Metal Blade artists that have appeared on the Billboard 200 chart include the Goo Goo Dolls, Amon Amarth, Trouble, As I Lay Dying, Behemoth, the Black Dahlia Murder, Cannibal Corpse, Fates Warning (the first Metal Blade band to have achieved this), Lizzy Borden, Anvil, Gwar, King Diamond, Job for a Cowboy, Whitechapel, Armored Saint, The Red Chord, Unearth, Between the Buried and Me, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Corrosion of Conformity and Cattle Decapitation.
From 1985 to 1998, Metal Blade had a sublabel called Death Records, which released recordings by, and signed bands like D.R.I., Corrosion of Conformity, Mission of Christ, School of Violence, Cryptic Slaughter, The Mentors, Cannibal Corpse, Atheist, Angkor Wat, Loss for Words, Dr. Know, Beyond Possession, and Dark Funeral.
In 2010 Metal Blade Records joined the RIAA.
IronClad Recordings is an imprint.
On January 18, 2017 Metal Blade Records was inducted into the Hall of Heavy Metal History for their large contribution to the Heavy Metal library. Brian was inducted by special guest Kerry King of Slayer. On August 29, 2017, BMG Rights Management published The Sake of Heaviness: the History of Metal Blade Records, a book on the label's history, co-written by Mark Eglington and the label's founder Brian Slagel.