Saturday, August 28, 2010

Metalocalypse - An introduction to brutality, Hanna-Barbera Style.

Originally published by

I’ve never been the worlds hugest death metal fan, in fact I’ve always thought it was all a bit silly, all that face paint and posturing seems a bit pantomime to me;

CROWD – “He’s behind you,”
LAD IN LEATHER AND SPIKES – “Oh no he isn’t,”
CROWD – “Oh yes he is,”
LAD IN LEATHER AND SPIKES – “So he is, and he’s soaked in the blood of a virgin, which is why his matches are damp and he can’t get a decent flame going on the corner of that Carpathian Church.”

So when a friend was idly skipping through their two million cable channels and stumbled across an episode of Metalocalypse I was filled with literally micrograms of excitement.

I’ve never had anything against death metal - in fact some of my best friends have been in black metal bands – but have always reviewed the black metal albums I’ve been sent as being part of a great joke nobody has let me in on. Well thanks to Metalocalypse now I get the joke. Apart from the truly deranged disciples of death metal (who actually take it seriously) I’m now of the firm belief that all fans adore the grunting vocals and obscenely fast guitar solos in a slightly ironic way. Metalocalypse has captured this perfectly.

Metalocalypse is an animated show vaguely in the visual style of Hanna-Barbera; imagine Captain Caveman but with a death metal soundtrack and surprisingly graphic and with bloody cartoon violence. The show centres around a band called ‘Dethklok’ who just happen to be the biggest band in the world, by an unfathomably wide margin. Dethklok aren’t just big enough to fill arenas, they’re so huge they play entire Islands, own a fleet of space helicopters and record albums in giant submarines a mile under the surface of the ocean! The band have an army of black hooded roadies as big as, well, as big as an army. In fact Dethklok are so super massive they rank as the seventh largest economy on earth.

Wherever Dethklok play legions of their fans die, whole swathes of their roadie army are wiped out (it’s okay, they have many spares) and an alarming amount of apocalyptic devastation ensues. Of course you might assume that as this is a cartoon we’re talking about there are no consequences to deal with. Were you to make such an assumption you’d be totally wrong. In one episode bassist ‘William Murderface’ nearly kills a fan by head butting him for interrupting his penis bass solo, and that victim of dark death metal brutality turns out to be a prince, and returns with his royal family to demand Murderface signs his plaster-cast. Now how’s that for cause and effect, totally lifelike I’d say.

None of the members of Dethklok (William Murderface, Skwisgaar Skwigelf, Nathan Explosion, Pickles, and Toki Wartooth) are particularly likable - although the childlike Scandinavian guitarists certainly have their endearing moments – but just like when passing a motorway accident one cannot look away.

One of the aspects of Metalocalypse that surprised me the most was the music – rather than being a tired necessity to augment proceedings it’s actually pretty damned good. Most of the lyrics are unintelligible to me, but the few that shine through stick in my head with all the staying power of a kebab stain. After watching one episode (much to the delight of those who dwell around me) I spent the next few days mimicking Floridian Nathan Explosion’s gruff vocals from a coffee advert Dethklok perform;

"Do you folks like coffee?
Real coffee, from the hills of Columbia?

The Duncan Hills will wake you
From a thousand depths
A cup of blackened blood
Die, die
You're dying for a cup."

So does Metalocalypse offer insightful comment on this crazy modern world we live in? Does it offer up cruel (but right on) satire in the vein of South Park? Nah, to paraphrase Homer Simpson ‘it’s just about a bunch of stuff that happens.’

I’m still unsure as to whether Metalocalypse has mass appeal in the same way as the Simpsons, but it certainly steps beyond the necessity to needlessly shock in a Family Guy style, but much like ‘This is Spinal Tap’ it does depend on a certain level of existing knowledge on the theme.

I couldn’t possibly condone the use of Bit Torrents or anything illegal like that, but if you were a naughty sort who uses such badness I would recommend finding the episode ‘Murderface’s Birthday,’ it’s a great starting point for your black adventure.

1 comment:

  1. That episode about Murderface goes by the titles of either Dethday or Birthdayface.

    Yep, I am a fan, since the first episode in August 2006. The show and the band have quite the following. Yep again, there is a flesh-and-blood band headed by Brendon Small, drums by Gene Hoglan, and touring musicians of Mike Keneally (rhythm guitar) and Bryan Beller (bass). They've toured 3 times- small college tour 2007, multi-city tour 2008 and bigger tour 2009. Sold out most dates.