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Metalocalpyse: Dethklok - Dethalbum II

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Thursday, October 22, 2009 @ 5:29 PM


(Williams Street)

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While it is a bit sad that the best-selling death metal band in the world right now is actually a cartoon, it no doubt has introduced a number of people to extreme music who otherwise would have gone on ignoring it, which is a good thing. Right? And since death metal’s been laughed at/dismissed as cartoonish for all these years anyway, I guess who better to shove it into the collective piehole of the public than the animated juggernaut that is Metalocalpyse: Dethklok. At least the real people behind the cartoon band —¬ creator/songwriter/instrumentalist/vocalist Brendon Small and drummer Gene (Dark Angel, Testament, Strapping Young Lad, etc.) Hoglan — have some honest-to-goodness chops and an obvious affinity for the music that goes far beyond merely name-checking obscure bands like Burzum and Carpathian Forest or snagging members of Emperor and Arch Enemy to do guest voice-overs on the Metalocalpyse: Dethklok show, which is supposed to kick off its the third season on the Cartoon Network Nov. 8.

The not-so-cleverly titled second effort from DethklokDethalbum II — is actually a much more fully realized and, dare I say, serious effort than the 2007 debut, even though it essentially serves the same purpose of fleshing out the musical snippets that air during each episode (in this case from season two) into actual songs. But where Small took the sick joke aspect and musical excessiveness of death/black/thrash/power metal and ran with it over much the first album — albeit it with startling effectiveness — the focus of Dethalbum II is more on actual songcraft.

And the Berklee College of Music School-trained Small is a remarkably quick study when it comes to the nuances of extreme metal, such as they are. Dethalbum played like a collection of punchlines and over-the-top, widdly-widdly guitars and death grunt histrionics. The follow-up has the feel of a genuine album that could, for the most part, stand on its own, show or no, so well-crafted are the arrangements and convincing are the performances.

While “I Tamper with the Evidence at the Murder Site of Odin” and “Laser Cannon Deth Sentence” prove there are still laughs to be had here, the music backing them is dead on and, in some cases, quite spectacular, bolstered by the crisp, beefy production of Small and Ulrich Wild, who's worked with Static-X, Pantera, Deftones, etc.

"Deth Sentence," for example, blends hyperspeed brutality powered by Hoglan's spray gun drumming with symphonic grandiosity more effectively than many veteran black and power metal bands, maintaining a nice balance between heft and cheese. Ditto "Odin," which is riffier and weaves some nifty leadwork around and through, and "Bloodlines" with its tribal percussion and Small's epic "Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiife!!!!!" scream that shows he learned a thing or two from Cannibal Corpse vocalist George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, a frequent guest on the show.

The haymaker hooks at the core of the menacingly heavy "The Cyborg Slayer" and "Comet Song" could go toe-to-toe with Testament or Exodus, while "The Gears," "Burn The Earth" and "Dethsupport," with its insistent "Pull the plug! mantra, deliver the goods with balls-out aplomb.

There are some clunkers here, like the thudding, overlong "Black Fire Upon Us" or the leaden "Symmetry" and "Murmaider II: The Water God." But considering Small was an utter novice coming into Metalocalpyse: Dethklok when it kicked off in 2006, the mere fact that most of Dethklok's music doesn't come off sounding like some hackneyed approximation — a la Josie and the Pussycats or any other cartoon "band" you can think of — of the real metal deal is nothing short of miraculous. That's it's not only listenable and legitimate, but is as good and rocks as hard as it does here only makes Dethalbum II that much more astonishing.

* * * *

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