1993 - 1997
Even with the struggles of countless night shifts and investing all his earnings back into the company, there was still widespread skepticism in the region about the label – this was the “pay” that Markus had to endure throughout the early years.
He doesn’t let the skepticism get to him, the doubt of others doesn’t even reach his mind. Markus’s eagerness and enthusiasm for NUCLEAR BLAST is far greater. By the beginning of 1993, Markus Staiger came to realize that a lot could be simpler and many things needed to be changed to keep within the existing situation. “Because I could think of nothing else day and night other than pushing NUCLEAR BLAST, I wasn’t really aware of the other things going on,” the company founder remembers today. He was totally focused on giving his all. “Together with my team, I have always tried to do the best possible job for the bands. Now and again there was a situation where, in the heat of the moment, I only noticed afterwards that things had gone rather well.”
And so, the NUCLEAR BLAST maker lived through the years 1993 and 1994. Somewhere between working weekends and countless night shifts came the breakthrough artists: HYPOCRISY, DISMEMBER and KATAKLYSM. The name of NUCLEAR BLAST slowly but surely made its way through the international press, soon resulting in the signing of THERION and AMORPHIS. Markus Staiger’s instincts proved to be fulfilling. Under his label, both artists carried on to become well-known in the scene.
A one-man company then grew to a firm with 15 employees and a branch in the USA – NUCLEAR BLAST America. “I never really expected THERION to do so well“, the Donzdorfer still recalls the success with delight. “The previous album Lepaca Kliffoth hadn’t done much but Theli went down really well with fans and press alike – they all loved the disc!”
Around the same time Markus takes another band under contract, one which proved to become a major success: IN FLAMES. Instinctively he feels that this act could become something very special. A year later the same thing happens again when he comes across a newcomer called DIMMU BORGIR. “I’m still very proud of both bands,“ says the discoverer of two absolute metal stars, not without reason. “They are just fantastic. When I got their NB debuts from the studio The Jester Race and Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, it felt like the earth had moved. It was obvious that both bands had created something special, but even so, I never dreamed that they would sell so well. The discs are still selling really well and have become an absolute milestone in Metal.“
With the initial success in Donzdorf, Markus Staiger reaped the benefits what Metal music has brought to him, and it no longer bothered him about what the town thought of his eccentricity, as the fact of the matter was that slowly but surely NUCLEAR BLAST continued to rise to the top. While folks in the small town at the foot of the Swabian plateau wondered about the young man and his unusual plans, Markus continued to concentrate on his goals. “When you’re a Metal fan and soak up everything that has something to do with this music, then you haven’t got much left over for other things,“ is how Markus today judges the situation as it was then. “Sure, now and again you realize that people are astonished and they wonder just how anybody can be so successful with Metal. But hey, these are usually the people who think that the world is made of commercial music anyway and they can’t imagine anything else.“
In 1995 GOREFEST’s Erase is the first to enter the charts and it is a sensation. The album climbs to no. 82 in the German hit parade, rewarding Markus and his team for their never-ending and extraordinary commitment. He’ll never forget it. “It was so exciting (cool)! Never in our wildest dreams did we think that such a hard band would reach the German top 100 sales charts. The charts were full of mainstream. It was great to see that more and more people were coming round to hard Metal.“
Regarding “hard“: even though the number of bands under NUCLEAR BLAST steadily increases because the work and the areas of operation increase at the same rate, Markus Staiger’s overtime situation doesn’t change much. As always, he works till he can’t any more and has to face the fact that he will never be able to do everything to his complete satisfaction. “It was often hard to realize that, regardless of how long and how much you worked, you couldn’t finish everything,” is Markus’s comment. “I always had so many ideas but wasn’t able to realize them all. That hurt. Especially when you approached the thing as a fan, as I did.“
In spite of all that and without being aware of it, Markus manages to move mountains. The year 1997 brings NB another big step forward. (For NUCLEAR BLAST it is even of historic character). One after the other, five releases reach the German charts: THERION with A‘arab Zaraq (no. 98), DIMMU BORGIR with their album Enthrone Darkness Triumphant (no. 75, as the first album of the Black Metal genre), CREMATORY with Awake (no. 54) and IN FLAMES with Whoracle (no. 78), as well as HAMMERFALL, the absolute surprise under the newcomers. The Swedes shoot from nothing to being 38th place on the German charts leaving the entire music industry totally astonished.
”HAMMERFALL was exciting: I can remember getting the tape,” grinned Markus. “It was a normal cassette and I thought right away: Hey, I’ve heard something like this before!” The ballad ‘Glory To The Brave’ reminded me a bit of an old Scorpions and the other tracks reminded me of Helloween ‘cause HAMMERFALL had their typical guitar lead-ins on it. But I didn’t expect it to take off like it did. It is still the best sold debut of all our bands.“
Around the year 1996, the collaboration between Relapse Records and Nuclear Blast America eventually ended and as a result, Nuclear Blast America became its own entity and Nuclear Blast GmbH set up its own U.S.A. branch: Nuclear Blast America, Inc.
In 1997, Nuclear Blast America, Inc. then made the move from Millersville, PA to start its own office in Tampa, FL.
By the end of 1997, NUCLEAR BLAST had around 20 employees and can send their 100 page mail order catalogue in 50 countries every 3 months. The label begins preparation for the next big step.