Wow, I am really, really late to the party with this one, but I love heavy metal, I loved their first album, so I really think I’d better get with it and review this one.
Dethalbum II by Dethklok
Let’s recap: Cartoon Network runs a late-night programming block called “Adult Swim,” devoted to more grown-up cartoons like “Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law,” “The Venture Brothers,” and “Robot Chicken.” One of their recent hits has been “Metalocalypse,” a show created by Brendan Small and Tommy Blacha, focuses on death metal band called Dethklok, which is, amazingly and awesomely, the most popular musical act in the world, with the 12th largest economy in the world, billions of insanely devoted fans, and the menacing attentions of world leaders terrified of their influence.
The band members include brooding lead singer Nathan Explosion, Swedish guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf (the fastest guitarist in the world), Norwegian guitarist Toki Wartooth (the second-fastest guitarist in the world), self-loathing bassist William Murderface, and balding, dreadlocked drummer, Pickles. That’s all, just Pickles. The entire show parodies heavy metal, but it’s very affectionate parody — metal fans and musicians love this show, and a lot of performers — band members from Metallica to Cannibal Corpse — have signed on to do short, silly cameos in the cartoon.
Well, a couple years ago, Dethklok released an album called “Dethalbum.” Yes, a fictional band releasing a real CD. Most of the music was provided by Brendan Smalls, with Gene Hoglan of Dark Angel, Death, and Strapping Young Lad working the drums. It was a fantastic album, and it was actually the highest-charting death metal album ever. Smalls and Hoglan even took a few other musicians on the road, performing (behind a screen) as Dethklok in live shows.
So now they’ve made a sequel — “Dethalbum II.” Smalls again provides all the vocals, guitars, and keyboards, with Hoglan back on board as drummer. It didn’t beat the first album’s record showing on the charts, but its respectable showing would seem to indicate that there’s still a lot of goodwill for Dethklok among the world’s metalheads (and Adult Swim fans, who probably picked up quite a few themselves).
Is the sequel as good as the original “Dethalbum”? No, probably not. The first record benefitted from having some of the band’s best-known songs from the cartoon series, including “Birthday Dethday,” “Awaken,” and the epic “Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle.” The new album doesn’t have any songs of that caliber.
The new album is also a lot less funny, with a ton more emphasis being placed on pure metal. This actually ends up harming it in comparison to the first one, because a lot of what made it stand out was the gleeful lunacy of a band that sang about how much they hate their fans, about murderous mermaids, about Vikings who get lost because they won’t ask anyone for directions.
The original “Dethalbum” had song titles like “Bloodrocuted,” “Briefcase Full of Guts,” and “Hatredcopter” — and while those are fairly silly titles, they’re also absolutely true to the death-metal spirit. The new album’s titles are relatively tame in comparison, with the notable exception of “I Tamper with the Evidence at the Murder Site of Odin,” which is an epic and fantastic title for a song that, while pretty darned good, isn’t really epic or fantastic.
Is this a bad album? Absolutely not. Again, it’s a vastly more metal album, and if you love heavy metal, that’s great news. Lots of the songs here are great rockers — “Bloodlines,” “The Gears,” “They Cyborg Slayers,” and “Murmaider II: The Water God” are some of my personal favorites and are guaranteed — like, to be honest, most of the other tracks here — to get your head banging good and hard. Smalls’ devotion to heavy metal thunder is pitch-perfect, and Hoglan is a monster on the drums — if you can stop thrashing around for a few minutes to actually listen to him, he’s a revelation. If the cartoon Pickles can drum anywhere near as awesomely as the real-world Hoglan, Dethklok isn’t paying the dude near enough.
So it’s not as good as the first album — big deal. Being almost as good as the most popular death-metal album ever is still pretty fantastic. “Dethalbum II” is a brutal, merciless, metal-clad fist-to-the-face, and you should go out and buy it.