Dethalbum IV / Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar

rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Gardener Of Vengeance
02. Aortic Desecration
03. Poisoned By Food
04. Mutilation On A Saturday Night
05. Bloodbath
06. I Am The Beast
07. Horse Of Fire
09. Satellite Bleeding
10. SOS
11. Murmaider III

There has been an extended silence, but "the most successful entertainment act on the planet and the seventh largest economy" is set to return in a big way. DETHKLOK, the humorous and insane band featured in Adult Swim's animated series "Metalocalypse", is back with its first batch of new music in nearly a decade. What's more, "Dethalbum IV" arrives alongside a new, full-length animated movie, "Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar", and its accompanying soundtrack which includes additional songs as well as the motion picture's score. Musically, DETHKLOK remains as tight as ever, and the movie is impressively gargantuan, predictably ridiculous and visually powerful.

The beauty of "Metalocalypse" clearly rests surface level with its immediate, low-brow drollery. It's very SPINAL TAP — a tapestry of rock 'n roll cliches and tropes. Successful musicians, underground hometown heroes and artists at every level in between balance the chase of fame and success with domesticated life. For those musicians who do strike commercial gold in the real world, the trappings of hanging onto fame are referenced. In the case of our hero, frontman Nathan Explosion, he surprisingly aspires to capture the lifelong love of Abigail, an obvious reference to KING DIAMOND.

Passionate musicians, fans and all arms of the machine behind the scenes can appreciate the struggles and sacrifices, but at the end of the day, such first-world problems are chosen; hence the critique and mockery of egotistical rock stars. Everything in the movie is crafted by metal lifers who have a sense of humor and poke fun at the metal industry. In spite of the lofty, self-important perceptions of some musicians, a song will never save the planet.

However, in the realm of "Metalocalypse", yes, DETHKLOK can save the world if they can write the perfect song that will prevent the horrific metalocalypse which would otherwise come forth via the Doomstar and its army, a blatant nod and wink toward "Star Wars". The unit's ridiculously, unintentionally comedic bassist, William Murderface, is essentially hypnotized by nefarious forces of the "dark side," so to speak, in several ways, including betraying vocalist Nathan Explosion by attempting to weaken his confidence.

DETHKLOK, in reality, includes the show's co-creator Brendon Small and drumming metal legend Gene Hoglan. The album, "Dethalbum IV", is consistent with everything that the unit has doled out previously: an intense, intricate display of extreme metal mastery that most bands will forever be incapable of composing and performing. The music isn't anything particularly inventive or forward thinking, and the new material is essentially a relatively updated take on what they have released before. But the music is worthy because it is hook-laden and ripe for fist-pumping madness. "Poisoned By Food", for one, harbors an overwhelming melodic metal majesty that's undeniable, in spite of or perhaps because of the underlying and obvious lightheartedness.

Album opener "Gardener Of Vengeance" is no less absurd. It rides high on an upbeat but relentless thrashing assault propelled by driving yet controlled percussion. Triumphant vocals set the tone for the unhinged insanity driving through the entire album. The fluid, Olympic-level gymnastic guitar work on "Aortic Desecration" showcases the ensemble's jaw-dropping talents without losing focus on the violent objective.

The faux darkness of the subject matter isn't matched by the music, not by the standards of extreme metal aficionados: it's palatable and comprehensible for mainstream audiences. DETHKLOK and "Metalocalypse" have been juggernauts because of the tailored appeal to the metal masses, and it's a perfect fit for tried-and-true metalheads who don't mind an escape from heavy metal's typically serious nature.

The film is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the band and cartoon's dramatic return. "Dethalbum IV" and "Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar" aren't likely to be revisited frequently, but they are probably going to be looked back on as an important return of an iconic metal mainstay that digs deep into the psyche of the common world. The impact that the cartoon and band have made shouldn't be understated. People who would never have heard of death and black metal have been introduced by virtue of the iconic madness at hand, and the show and band have been an entry point for countless folks. There's value in gatekeeping, but newbies should never be mocked for embracing our precious music and culture.

For metalheads who can laugh and poke fun at themselves, and for those who don't typically listen to heavy metal, DETHKLOK — the new flick, album and upcoming tour — are set to ignite your love for all that's trü and metal. Perhaps the carnage won't be as bloody and real as what's depicted in the cartoon, but the multi-media machine will soon assault audiences with a blend of animation, comic relief and metal mayhem as DETHKLOK is set to tour North America alongside Japan's pop metal unit BABYMETAL and guitarist JASON RICHARDSON.

Author: Jay H. Gorania
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