Dethklok - Dethalbum Review
by Mark Hensch
When Cartoon Network's Adult Swim dropped Dethklok: the Metapocalypse a little over two years ago, I had no idea that one of death metal's most interesting bands would emerge from its weekly 15-minute clips. In an excellent case of corporate synergy, the powers that be decided to let show creators Brendon Small and Tommy Blancha turn their tongue-in-cheek death metal worship into an actual double-disc album. The end result is a disc where the line between fact and fiction is terribly blurred; despite playing songs that are meant to be goofy and absurd, Dethalbum features stellar work from the show's musicians and former Strapping Young Lad skinsman Gene Hoglan. Funny, epic, brutal, melodic, and slamming all at the same time, the Dethalbum wears a wide range of metal traditions on its sleeve and pretty much makes the best out of all of them. Truly, the Metapocalypse has begun!
And so it does with the hilarious "Murmaider." This belly-laugh inducing death metal anthem chugs along with such seriousness it won't seem like a joke but check out the lyrics and see if such ideas still seem plausible. The grooves, however, are slow and immense, their pulverizing power giving the song some hefty clout. The fantastically epic "Go into the Water" could win most goose-bump inspiring cartoon riff ever; plodding yet graceful, the fiery leads build perfectly into some fantastic crescendos. Having listened to this a hundred times or so now, it still surprises me every time the main licks kick in and basically shred one's face off.
The faster "Awaken" finally kicks the album into speedier gears, its fun yet unhinged neo-classical guitars blistering and blazing all over the speakers. The pummeling double-bass gallops with all the fury of a war horse, while melody after melody smoothly cuts across the board with all the finesse of a pro-chef's cutlery. Newly made single "Bloodrocuted" is something special indeed; the song mixes growled rhymes with open-ended percussive force. The song swings with haymaker punches of sound and pretty much never lets up. When it finally launches into its deep, low-end freakout, it is almost a given a mosh pit will erupt right there in the room.
The glacial "Go Forth & Die" is the kind of mid-paced yet catchy beatdown popularized by Amon Amarth. In all honesty, this is the first song on the album I didn't immediately enjoy. At first, its churning riffs will seem repetitive and bland, but over time this changes. With repeated listens I have actually found that this repetition is to the song's benefit; when it slowly morphs into a towering knot of tremolo-picked menace, it seems that much more mind-blowing after all the previous lack of variety. The wickedly funny "Fansong," meanwhile, swirls in on layers of eerie clean chords before exploding into a chugging slam-dance. Slow, pummeling, and cathartic, the song is an utterly gnarly expression of pure hatred towards death metal fans.
Speaking of death metal, Dethklok decides to blacken theirs a bit on the strange "Better Metal Snake." Labyrinthine tremolo-melodies twist like snow flakes on skin, their fluid patterns chilling and cold. The song's chorus is an epic, thundering sing-along, every bit as much Cannibal Corpse as it is Dimmu Borgir. The galloping melodic death metal ballad that is "The Lost Vikings" feels like an overly patient Amon Amarth chugger, and doesn't initially kick into third-gear. A goofy, shimmering guitar solo mid-song saves some face, and though a bit long in tooth, one can do much worse than this.
"Thunderhorse," on the other hand, totally annihilates everything in its path. As perhaps the most visible of the Dethklok songs (it spawned the first music video and was also included in the multi-system Guitar Hero II), I was worried that by now it would be a bit old. Thankfully, this is never the case. This is shredding, balls-to-the-wall, melodic/symphonic death metal of the highest caliber, with generous guitar work and insane progressions.
"Briefcase Full of Guts" has the melodic, sickly groove of the Black Dahlia Murder. The harsh, deranged notes work perfectly well with the putrid, noxious riffs, and this one is a short-but-sick Gorefest. "Birthday Dethday" is Dethklok's (unsurprisingly) gut-busting take on birthdays, the likes of which sounds like a mix of Entombed, Cannibal Corpse, and even early Motorhead. It makes for a rip-roaring good time, and yet never sacrifices its party theatrics for the sake of brutality.
New cut "Hatredcopter" showcases a whole new world of possibilities, both comedic and serious. The song begins with blasting, murderous death metal; soon, it transitions into up-tempo groove/thrash that almost necessitates a mosh pit. In the biggest twist of the album, drummer Pickles unveils his odd yowls, a sort of clean Mid-Western shout that works extremely well. Throw in a pulverizing yet catchy breakdown, and this song has it all.
"Castratikon" is an up-tempo romp through neck-snapping catchiness and more of the band's signature neo-classical, brawny freakouts. Another new cut is next, with "Face Fisted (aka New Phrygian Song)" stepping up to the plate. It kicks off with a bone-shattering breakdown highly similar to early Strapping Young Lad; when the song throws in actual death metal riffing, one is almost physically impelled to headbang no matter what. Overall, this is easily the most powerful and brain-bashing of the new tracks. "Face Fisted" is definitely worth checking out. Disc 1 closes with "Dethharmonic," a cross of orchestral and death metal that would make Dimmu Borgir blush, and the snappy, goofy theme-song for the entire show, "Deththeme." Both are pretty cool add-ons, and much different from the majority of the other cuts.
Disc 2, in comparison, seems short and a little bit of an after-thought. "Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle" is still the first Dethklok song ever brewed, that wonderful blend of ferocious guitars and spirited leads; it makes for potent stuff. The rest of the stuff, however, is hit-or-miss. "Blood Ocean" is just alright, but its mix of shout-along lyrics, chugging death metal riffs, and sinister tremolo-melodies seems rehashed from other songs on disc 1. "Murdertrain 'a Coming" features goofy sound bites from the show's voice actors, a blues breakdown, slowly eviscerating riffs, and sick guitar work. Overall, I'd call it the best song on Disc 2. "Pickles Intro---Kill you" is a largely pointless and boring sound-clip, but "Kill You" itself is pretty rad. It is meant to be an old-school power ballad ala the Glam Rock days, and turns into a fun, breezy guitar festival. "Hatredy" is a massive, slow, and loud monster of a song. The long, stupid, and unfunny outro that is "Dethklok gets in Tune" doesn't really add anything to the album besides a chance for the voice actors to all appear and mess around, so it is best avoided.
Overall, this is an excellent album. Considering this is an outright joke band, the amount of quality music over the two-disc Dethalbum is pretty absurd. As to why a person should look into, what have you to lose? Dethalbum features memorable songs, lots of laughs, brutal riffs, manic guitar work, and slamming percussion from one of the foremost independent skinsmen in the world. I'm predicting this to be the sleeper hit for 2007 in the extreme metal field.
2. Go into the Water
5. Go Forth & Die
7. Better Metal Snake
8. The Lost Vikings
10. Briefcase Full of Guts
11. Birthday Dethday
14. Face Fisted
1. Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle
2. Blood Ocean
3. Murdertrain 'a Coming
4. Pickles Intro---Kill You
5. Kill You
7. Dethklok Gets in Tune
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Dethklok - Dethalbum
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