posted on 10/2012 By:
Metalocalypse is a phenomenally funny show with one of the best soundtracks around, provided by Brendon Small and an all-star supporting cast (Bryan Beller and Gene Hoglan). They execute the music of the fictional melodic death metal band Dethklok, and have done so on three Dethalbums since 2007. The songs on each record often correspond with episodes of the show, and the accompanying imagery is often hilariously violent, complete with hordes of Dethklok fans being set ablaze, hearts ripped from chest cavities, and eviscerations galore. The first two Dethalbums managed (for the most part) to be enjoyable and thoroughly “metal” listening experiences without being directly supplemented by the show’s imagery, but Dethalbum III seems like a rush job. It’s technically proficient, maybe even the most technically impressive Dethklok album yet, and it’s clear that Small can write some solid “metal” riffs, but this album is far from being a hotbed of creativity.
Galaktikon is a far better example of Brendon Small’s songwriting prowess, but I have to keep reminding myself that the music of Dethklok was supposedly “created” by beloved Adult Swim characters in a fictional world that Brendon Small himself conceptualized. Because of this, it’s damn near impossible to criticize what he’s chosen to pen for Dethalbum III, since the argument could be made that each choice, “good” or not, was deliberately in keeping with the virtual band’s “artistic development”. Still, Brendon Small is an accomplished musician in addition to his highly successful pursuits in other media, so I’m judging this album based on its musical merits, since this is a record review and not an assessment of how the songs fit into the context of the Metalocalypse universe.
The songs are all well executed (how could they not be, with players like Beller, Small, and Hoglan?) but Small’s vocals have never been his strong suit, and the riffs are at their most stock and recurring. Every line is delivered the same way, and after three albums, maybe it’s time for “Nathan Explosion” to switch things up a smidge. I know that Dethklok is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but even the comedy present on previous albums falls mostly flat on this third endeavor. The album reminds me of visiting the local Redbox and seeing movies with Oscar winners that went straight to DVD. Even some of the best actors can’t save a doomed film, and that’s what happens on the Dethalbum III. Just as great actors are limited by the confines of a poor script, the players here are severely underutilized and restricted by unoriginal and seemingly uninspired material. The performances seem dialed in, and musicians far less talented than those used on the album could have played this material and yielded the same sonic results.
I realize there are fictional characters to be taken into account, and perhaps that explains some of Small’s compositional choices, but why enlist the phenomenal Beller and Hoglan if their skills won’t be put to use? It makes sense when gathering publicity for touring and promotional reasons, but not particularly for recording purposes. However, having seen Dethklok in concert, I can attest to the fact that most people’s eyes stay glued to the screens behind the live band, and affixed to Nathan Explosion, Skwisgaar Skwigelf, Toki Wartooth, William Murderface, and Pickles.
That’s another thing to consider: inspiration. Where does one gather true inspiration when making a comedy album that seeks to parody metal while still creating memorable and well-crafted music? That seems to be a struggle throughout this record, and while I understand the challenge of putting genuine emotion behind songs with titles such as “I Ejaculate Fire” and “Killstardo Abominate”, it’s still an issue. Of course there are moments that are clever, effective, and catchy, but Small’s problem has never been his comedic creativity. Dethklok’s fictional space is still vibrant and entertaining, but the music on this album limps painfully when not being carried along by its stronger counterpart (the show itself). Even good riffs on tracks such as “Starved” and stagnate after tedious repetition and muddy tone. Other tunes, like “Impeach God” bludgeon the listener with the same motif over and over again, adding tiny variations to the melody but keeping the same rhythm during almost the entire song. The song clocks in at three-and-a-half minutes but seems to go on for much, much, longer. Small comes up with killer chords at times, but they quickly fall prey to monotony due to a severe lack of melody. There are some polyrhythms here and there (“Ghostqueen”), but they’re nothing special, and it seems like a last-ditch attempt to vary things up.
In the end, Dethklok / Metalocalypse fans will probably enjoy this album, although it lacks the spark of the first two releases. There are shred-tastic guitar solos all over the record (“Skyhunter” has a wicked one about a minute-and-a-half into the track), but infectious hooks are few and far between. Without the narration, context, and visual aspects of the show, Dethalbum III struggles to make an impact based on the music therein.
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