One of Cartoon Network's breakout successes on their late-night "Adult Swim" programming block was Brendon Small's 15-minute cartoon series "Metalocalypse," featuring a wildly-successful (but neurotic and inept) death metal band called Dethklok. While Dethklok is hailed on the show as the blackest, most brutal, most metal band ever, fans of the show, including a significant number of current and reformed metalheads, had to get their metal fixes from the brief snippets of songs played during the show and the end credits. The band's "Thunderhorse" was an unlockable track on the "Guitar Hero 2" game, but the rest of the songs were only available in excerpts of about a minute or less.
That changed in September 2007, when Dethklok released the Dethalbum. Instead of a simple soundtrack, the album includes full-length versions of the songs performed on the show, along with some new music by the band. Since the band is, obviously, fictional, the music is performed by only a few real musicians. Small does guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals for both growling lead singer Nathan Explosion and occasional vocalist Pickles the Drummer; Gene Hoglan (from Dark Angel, Death, Testament, and Strapping Young Lad) works the hell out of the drums; and heavy metal violinist Emilie Autumn performs as the entire symphony on "Dethharmonic." All the music and lyrics are written by Small, with some extra lyrics by Tommy Blacha.
The popularity of the band was apparently drastically underestimated by the studio (Williams Street, which also produces the show, is ultimately owned by Time Warner). The deluxe edition, which included extra tracks and some video content, quickly sold out, and the album debuted at #21 on the Billboard charts, making it the highest charting death metal album ever.
How is it? It's damn good. Damn, damn good. As a comedy album, it's an excellent satire of death metal, the music business, and the culture of celebrity. The song titles and lyrics are as cartoonishly over-the-top as one should expect death metal to be.
But it's hard to really consider this as a comedy album. Because even with the funny stuff in it, this album is METAL. It's hard, it's fast, it's unrelenting, it's brutal, and every song here is designed to flay the meat from your face and burn the marrow from your bones. Brendan Small has said, repeatedly, that he loves heavy metal, and he's put together one of the best pure metal albums I've ever heard. And because he's also a very talented songwriter, this is also an unbelievably catchy album. This one will have you banging your head, pumping your fist, and rocking your devil-horns from the first song to the last.
So whatta we got here?
- "Murmaider": A tribute to mermaids and murder. Probably the single catchiest song of the bunch. The checklist of murder weapons fills me with joy.
- "Go into the Water": Second of the band's ocean-themed songs, supposedly recorded in a submarine in the Marianas Trench.
- "Awaken": A rite to raise an ancient Finnish lake troll from its deathless slumber. Hard and driving, I can imagine listening to this in high school.
- "Bloodrocuted": Possibly the most perfectly named death metal song ever. Another good, solid rocker.
- "Go Forth and Die": Dethklok's version of a university commencement address. Depressing, yes, but also a great rocker.
- "Fansong": How does Dethklok feel about their fans? They hate them. Intensely. Hey, they're a death metal band. They hate everything.
- "Better Metal Snake": All metal bands have to do songs about fantasy swords-and-sorcery. This is the first part of Dethklok's fantasy trilogy. It seems that the way to winning medieval battles was having a better metal snake.
- "The Lost Vikings": Second of the fantasy trilogy. It's about a bunch of warriors who are actually lost and are too macho to ask for a map. The song sounds simultaneously heroic and pitiful, which is a pretty good accomplishment.
- "Thunderhorse": Part three of the fantasy trilogy. Mostly instrumental.
- "Briefcase Full of Guts": The most metal song ever about being a salesman.
- "Birthday Dethday": The most metal birthday song ever.
- "Hatredcopter": Pickles sings part of this one. He's very enthusiastic, but an exceptionally poor lyricist. As a result, this song is funny as hell.
- "Castratikron": A straightforward violence-drenched ode to murder, demons, and castration.
- "Face Fisted": One of the weaker songs on the album. It's full of the type of braggadocio that seems alien to the band. They don't threaten to beat people up -- they either beat people up, or they have their employees do it.
- "Dethharmonic": A song about Dethklok's absolute greed, performed along with a symphony orchestra. There's also a laser beam involved.
- "Deththeme": The "Metalocalypse" theme. Short but intense. Bang your head, rock them horns.
The deluxe edition includes a music video for "Bloodtrocuted" and a full episode of "Metalocalypse." It also includes the following tracks:
- "Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle": I like my commercial jingles like I like my coffee -- served black, brutal, and filled with blood and shards of painful metal.
- "Blood Ocean": This is my least favorite song. Repetitive and fairly pointless. Is it a coincidence that the song is taken from my least favorite episode of the show?
- "Murdertrain a Comin'": Dethklok sings the blues. Not actually very bluesy until famed bluesman Mashed Potato Johnson makes a guest appearance.
- "Pickles Intro": Really just a short intro for the next song.
- "Kill You": Sung by Pickles. This is a note-for-note remake of the song by Pickles' first band, Snakes and Barrels, a by-the-numbers hair-metal band.
- "Hatredy": A song about performing in comedy clubs. One of the show's best short songs, it suffers a bit when extended to full-length. Still pretty good, though.
- "Dethklok Gets in Tune": "I'm in here now." Dethklok tries to tune a guitar.