"Relapse Records...the Justice League of Extreme Metal." - ALTERNATIVE PRESS
"One of the labels at the forefront of extreme metal, not just in terms of their
success, but more importantly in terms of the highly creative bands they continue to sign and promote." - TERRORIZER
"Motown. Sub Pop. Epitaph. Relapse. All labels that, during their heyday, gained the exposure and success required to transform their monikers into adjectives. After nearly fifteen years, the "Relapse Sound" is constantly being redefined and steadily improving, ensuring that the label will be an influence and a leader in the metal community for years to come. Relapse's heyday is now." - STYLUS
"Relapse Records has turned into what Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go were in the late 1980's and early 1990's; a consummate home to genre-blurring heavy fare" - BALTIMORE CITY PAPER
"We sign bands we like first and foremost," says Relapse Records President Matthew F. Jacobson, who has signed bands off of demos, out of garages (the DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN), and from basement shows (MASTODON). If there's a thread running through Relapse's steadfast musical vision and wildly divergent roster of artists, it's the desire to champion new, forward-thinking sounds for an audience who has come to expect releases that showcase nothing but the best the hard music world has to offer. Relapse's assemblage is largely comprised of compelling, exciting artists who either started or are near the pinnacle of their respective musical genres.
Based in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, Relapse Records is world-renowned for its diversity and dedication to decidedly left-of-center music. Relapse sidesteps the trends of the day. In the fourteen years since the label's inception, Relapse has established itself as a fan's label - one that combines an enthusiasm for providing extreme music fans with the highest quality, most well-packaged releases with a forward-thinking musical foresight.
With a current roster that includes, but is not limited to, universally recognized artists and genre leaders such as the DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, NEUROSIS, MASTODON, NILE, HIGH ON FIRE, SUFFOCATION, PIG DESTROYER and vidnaObmana, Relapse advances its unwavering resolve and aesthetic, providing both long time music fans, and enthusiastic new hard music devotees alike with an incomparable cross-section of today's most innovative
Founded in August of 1990 by Jacobson, Relapse Records began as a one-man operation based in an Aurora, Colorado basement. After convincing a friend's band to let him put out their record, he got some lacquers pressed in a basement. And with that 1990 7-inch single by VELCRO OVERDOSE, Relapse was born.
The next step would be to decide on an apt moniker for the newfound endeavor. Starting the label "more on a release-by-release basis than with any far-reaching plan", Jacobson was just happy to be partaking in a labor of love, but part of him saw a future beyond putting out regional hardcore and death metal. "I wanted a name that would fit for metal and heavy music but wasn't limited," he says. "Instead of a name like Metal Head Records or Kill Your Mom Records, and I wanted something that would not limit our musical scope."
After establishing Relapse Records as the brand, Jacobson diligently went to work, networking constantly while calling on a host of like-minded contacts established during his days as publisher of the fanzine Horrendified. As Jacobson continued disseminating news and information about the label, he began securing recording deals with some of the top underground acts of the day, most notably INCANTATION and SUFFOCATION.
As Jacobson continued to spread the word about his fledgling label, he established contact with soon-to-be partner Bill Yurkiewicz. Finding that their musical tastes and aspirations for releasing music were remarkably similar, the two novice record moguls aligned to expand the scope of their interests.
Jacobson and Yurkiewicz issued their first five records as Relapse and found that they had quickly amassed an army of enthusiasts. With continued growth came a mail-order / wholesale operation that, by 1992, would become the most all-inclusive underground distribution service in America, carrying an exhaustive supply of extreme music recordings, merchandise and publications from around the world.
In 1991, after considerable development, Relapse relocated operations to the remote hub of Millersville, Pennsylvania. Accomplishments accrued and improvements and advancements were achieved on a near daily basis. SUFFOCATION's now-classic debut, Human Waste was released to critical acclaim, as were albums by Finland's AMORPHIS and U.S. death metal acts MORTICIAN and DECEASED. Soon, Yurkiewicz and Jacobson -- both huge fans of post-industrial experimental music, electronic ambient and noise - started Relapse label offshoot Release Entertainment to issue music within the aforementioned genres. In the midst of these growing developments, Relapse distribution and mail order services continued to grow in both size and scope.
"The mail order thing...we used to go to shows at a place called G. Willikers in Pennsauken, New Jersey. It's where all of the underground shows were held, so we'd go there and we'd sell records out the trunk of our car -- imports and whatever else we had. Just the other day I found out first mail order catalog, it was one piece of paper, one side had three columns and the other side had a letter to the people and a play list of the three people in the company." - Jacobson on the early days of Relapse's wholesale / mailorder.
1994 saw the release of the now-classic Tales from the Thousand Lakes album by AMORPHIS. The album, Relapse's best selling to that point, had wide-reaching effects and influence over the worldwide underground metal scene. With sales rising over 100,000 copies it helped the fledgling label transform into a burgeoning enterprise.
Perhaps more than any other time frame, the years 1995 / 1996 and their developments raised both eyebrows and awareness as to Relapse's growing success and evolving intentions. With its reputation well established, but primarily as a death metal and grindcore imprint, a single signing raised Relapse's profile and spearheaded the direction it would take.
"Relapse signed NEUROSIS from Alternative Tentacles, and that really marked a new direction for the label," says Albert Mudrian, managing editor at Philadelphia's Red Flag Media and a longtime supporter of extreme music and the author of a soon-to-be-issued book on the history of grindcore and death metal, entitled Choosing Death. "Here was a band with serious underground credibility in punk and hardcore circles. Bringing NEUROSIS into the fold really opened eyes to Relapse as more than just this label churning out death metal. Once Relapse achieved that level of 'sophistication,' they were always one step ahead of what was happening with the extreme music underground.
The signing of grindcore magnates BRUTAL TRUTH, and the addition of one-time Amphetamine Reptile noise mongers UNSANE and TODAY IS THE DAY to the label's roster further advanced the label's aesthetic and proved that it was also an outpost for extreme fringe artists outside of the death metal circles.
In 1995, Relapse launched its web domain, www.RELAPSE.com. Updated and improved daily, RELAPSE.com gave label fans immediate access to breaking news, tour dates, artist information and -- via an online e-store -- Relapse's vast bounty of music-based merchandise. RELAPSE.com would subsequently receive top praise from fans and internet evaluators for its fluid design, informative modus operandi and operator-friendly reception. The addition of extras such as mp3's, browser / player skins and popular message board continually advanced the site in the years following its launch.
The 1996 unveiling of the RESOUND Music Resource Guide provided fans with direct access to all things underground in terms of (anti)art and (counter)culture. Part music tome, part mail order catalog, RESOUND delivered what fans of the subterranean had long been asking for; an all-in-one compendium featuring music, merchandise and breaking news otherwise thought unattainable beyond the web-based RELAPSE.com. Produced and designed entirely by Relapse's in-house RESOUND team, the free publication saw worldwide distribution via Relapse's customer mailing list and ever-present street team. Today, RESOUND continues to proliferate and proselytize, nearly always available at the local record store, tattoo shop or music venue.
In 1997, Relapse extended its international sway with a German distribution deal and the opening of a promotions office in Berlin.
In 1998, two more signings would not only continue to invigorate and re-shape Relapse's roster, but the landscape of extreme music the world over. New Jersey's DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and South Carolina's NILE joined a respected Relapse roster and immediately turned their respective genres inside out, combining unreachable musical abilities with hyper-advanced interpretations of how music was to be played.
DILLINGER merged new-school hardcore, progressive metal, and free jazz into a furious din that was the perfect embodiment of intensity, cathartic rage, urgency, and forward thinking. The band's wealth of ideas, superhuman playing abilities, silent confidence and devastating live performances made fans everywhere, while at the same time invoking wave after wave of entry level imitators. The band's 1998 EP Under the Running Board and 1999 full-length Calculating Infinity exploded upon their release, both met by astounding, yet requisite fan and critical acclaim.
NILE's Relapse debut, the 1998-issued death metal classic Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka took the metal world by storm, immediately raising the bar for death metal bands musically, lyrically and conceptually with its brutal attack, exotic instrumentation, symphonic Middle Eastern passages and haunting chants. Six years, countless world tours and two full-length releases later, NILE sits amongst the genre's pillars, having solidified their place in the pantheon of metal's elite.
Relapse continued to advance in terms of forward-thinking promotion and its desire to both expand and unify the numerous cross-sections of the heavy music community when it became a sponsor to many of North America's largest annual heavy music festivals including The New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, Milwaukee Metalfest and subsequent New Jersey "March Metal Meltdown" weekend festivals. The first label of its kind to take the initiative with regards to substantial grass roots cross-promotion of fundamental heavy music events, Relapse did so with glowing enthusiasm. That enthusiasm immediately translated to the attending music fan's involvement and enjoyment, as previously hard to obtain information about the festivals flowed freely from a multitude of Relapse-issued origins. Relapse also sponsored and provided talent for a "Relapse Stage" at the fests, introducing attendees to a large variety of talented and diverse artists.
In mid-2000, Relapse relocated its headquarters to suburban Philadelphia, leaving behind the once advantageous, but then limiting confines of rural Lancaster, PA. Operating out of an expansive location that provided increased access to fans and venues in both suburban metropolitan Philadelphia and the entire east coast, Relapse's move proved to be an immediate betterment, setting the stage for an upswing in both recognized presence and the transferal of new ideas.
Coinciding with the label's 10th Anniversary, Relapse announced the opening of the first Relapse Records retail store. Located on the corner of Fourth and South streets in Philadelphia, Relapse's initial retail foray opened its doors to the public on Friday, June 1st, 2001. The "Relapse store" further allowed Relapse to become a bigger part of the music scene, not only in Philadelphia, but the entire East Coast, while providing music fans friendly, knowledgeable service and a selection of musical items second-to-none.
In 2001, Relapse expanded and diversified its roster yet again; bolstering its stable with the addition of several notable heavy rock acts. The signing of Oakland power trio HIGH ON FIRE and Richmond, Virginia quintet ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY upon the demise of respected music label Man's Ruin cemented Relapse's stature as the label for fans of diverse, heavy music regardless of classification. Later that year, Relapse welcomed highly touted Atlanta quartet MASTODON into its fold.
In November of 2002, Relapse announced plans for the label's first music festival. Comprised entirely of Relapse artists, the Relapse Contamination Festival took place on January 18th and 19th, 2003 at the Trocadero Theatre in the label's hometown of Philadelphia. The unique event united various elements of the city's counter culture with the label's left-of-center roster and forward-thinking ideals; the festival's program guide contained information regarding many Philadelphia areas of interest (museums, dining locales, etc.) that housed potential appeal to attendees. Relapse notables NEUROSIS (with MASTODON as main support) headlined the first evening of the event and the DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN (with HIGH ON FIRE as main support) headed up the second night's lineup. Other Relapse / Release artists that performed over the course of the weekend included BURNT BY THE SUN, CEPHALIC CARNAGE, ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY, PIG DESTROYER, BONGZILLA, TODAY IS THE DAY, DYSRHYTHMIA, DAYLIGHT DIES, THE END and 27.
The Relapse Contamination Festival met with a rousing response and exceeded the label's initial aspirations. The event drew in excess of 2,500 attendees, overselling the venue's 1,200 person capacity for both evenings. Press accolades regarding the event abounded -- both pre and post festival -- with notable journalists the world over attending and covering the show(s) on behalf of their respective publications. Media-giant MTV called the Contamination Festival "one of the greatest 2-day concerts of all time," while major Philadelphia newspapers lauded the hometown label's resourcefulness and creativity. The Relapse Contamination Festival was recorded in 5.1 Surround Sound, captured by a seven camera, 48-track audio / visual crew and packaged in a deluxe 2xDVD package, available now.
Relapse's ever-burgeoning profile has recently attracted large-scale media attention. Relapse artists now grace the soundtracks to both television programs and top video game titles, with a handful of the label's finest recently appearing on the popular Tony Hawk's Underground game cartridge and on MTV's highly-rated new series "Viva La Bam". MASTODON's "March of the Fire Ants" video, from their acclaimed album Remission quickly became a favorite on MTV2's revamped Headbangers Ball, catapulting the band into the living rooms of countless metal fans, where it remained in steady rotation months after its debut. On the heels of the video's success, MASTODON was invited to appear in-studio as co-hosts of Headbangers Ball, and did so alongside host Jamey Jasta, on Valentine's Day, 2004.
In March, 2004 long-time music monthly Alternative Press Magazine named its "25 Most Important Bands in Metal". The list, determined via a poll of musicians, writers and other metal experts by the noted magazine, was unveiled to find Relapse artists garnering six of the twenty-five coveted positions. Relapse's DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, MASTODON, HIGH ON FIRE, NEUROSIS, PIG DESTROYER and NILE joined an impressive list of the magazine's leading heavy music acts which also included heavy music forerunners LAMB OF GOD, the MELVINS, HATEBREED, OPETH and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE among others.
The April 2004 re-launch of RELAPSE.com unveiled an entirely new look and feel of the oft-visited portal and propelled Relapse's site to the forefront of modern web design. With a streamlined look and feel, the all-new RELAPSE.com took its place at the pinnacle of music-based internet domains. The all-new site delivered a state-of-the-art online e-store, customer friendly navigation, expanded audio and visual features and upgraded functionality. Constant modifications and betterments ensure that RELAPSE.com will always be amongst the most cutting-edge, informative label websites existing today.
2004 has proven to be a breakthrough year for Relapse, the year beginning with The return of extreme metal legends SUFFOCATION to the label and the signing of former Epitaph artists ZEKE. Summer, 2004 saw high profile releases from the DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and MASTODON wow heavy music fans. The releases were immediately met with enthusiastic critical acclaim and the fan response was equally as impressive. THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN's Miss Machine CD debuted at at #106 on Billboard's Top 200 chart, shifting 11,392 units in its first week of sales. First week sales have garnered DILLINGER the #2 position on Billboard's Heatseekers chart as well the #4 position on Billboard's Indie Chart. Miss Machine instantly became the highest charting record in Relapse's sales history. Released only weeks later, MASTODON's Leviathan album immediately appeared on the Billboard chart, entering at #139. Both records have seen continued impressive sales figures in the weeks since their release.
As the world of heavy music continues its staggering upswing, Relapse further cements its reputation for surpassing fans' expectations. With an undying dedication to the development of its artists, a wealth of forward-thinking, creative ideas and a zealous cross-promotional panache, Relapse Records is indeed forging the future. Hearing is believing!
"Independent metal has never been so healthy and diverse." - SPIN
"... the best in metal, heavy rock and grindcore, all from the staple label in that scene, Relapse Records." - MTV.com
"One of the labels at the forefront of extreme metal, not just in terms of their success, but more importantly in terms of the highly creative bands they continue to sign and promote." - TERRORIZER