This Is Spinal Tap pulled the curtain back on the
excesses of rock, a comedy so close to the truth that many
people thought it was real. Since then, that band has had
to work hard to keep up with the ridiculousness of it all,
one reason (besides other more legitimate acting careers)
they disappear for long stretches of time.
Thank heavens, then, for Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha, the men behind Dethklok. In their Adult Swim series Metalocalypse, the two take metal to its logical fantastic extreme. Viewers find themselves immersed in a world not too unlike our own, except for one crucial detail: Dethklok's image isn't a pose, isn't showmanship - it's their reality.
Living in a huge stronghold called Murdhaus, the band has been completely divorced from any reality that strays from their image. They travel in an armored helicarrier/group transport straight out of Hell, and hooded servants cater to their every need.
It would be best if they stayed walled away, but they also the most popular band in the world, impinging upon day to day life as one of the largest economies in the world. Small and Blacha have a great time poking at heavy metal's self-importance. Guitarist "Murderface" performs a solo that has to be seen to be believed, and mercifully, it's only shown from the back. In Dethklok's world, a delay between albums causes a huge jump in global suicide rates as fans would rather die than have to wait any longer.
Being a Dethklok fan comes with great risk, yet almost everyone in this world is one. Hordes gather in the arctic for the performance of a special coffee jingle, and in less than a minute, it's a corpse strewn ice field.
If anything makes Metalocalypse only for the strong-hearted, it's that tendency to get graphic in its depiction of cartoon violence. Skin melts from muscle, characters get vividly eviscerated and if there's a chance to show someone vomiting blood and bile, the show never misses it. It's metal, baby.
And metal gets the joke. Both James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett voice minor characters, and various music companies have endorsed the band. You can't really rock unless you've got endorsements. We've learned that from Guitar Hero.
It isn't just about the music, though it's actually fairly impressively written by Small. A lot of the humor comes from the band trying to behave like normal people, shopping at "food libraries" and attempting employee evaluations. Band member Toki Wartooth would like to come across as actually caring, but clearly all that head banging has done some serious damage to things like, oh, a sense of morality.
At least lead singer Nathan Explosion knows who he is. Simultaneously amoral and loyal to the band, Explosion looks and sounds suspiciously like Glenn Danzig, destroying everything pretty in his life. Voiced by Small, it's an impressive creation, especially contrasted with Small's previous work as himself in Home Movies.
So why Metalocalypse? The series also has a slow-moving
arc that allows for individual episodes to be viewed and
enjoyed, but clearly builds towards something appropriately
ridiculous and cataclysmic.
A secret cabal of governments - that might be the Pope,
if Moebius designed him - allies to either herd the band
toward saving the world or destroying it. This element (always
narrated by Mark Hamill as "Senator Stampingston") adds
a level to the satire; I'm not entirely convinced there
isn't such a group trying to control Armageddon.
If only KISS would save us…
It's another one of those Williams Street studio shows that has a quirky comedy rhythm, and that extends to the bonus materials. All of them - all of them - are hidden as easter eggs, which only befits a band that endorses a spiked, chained cell phone with a plan designed specifically to eat up minutes. Yet if you explore, you will be rewarded.
Long live Dethklok! Because I really want a Season Two...
Metalocalypse - Season One