(TheBRHM.com) In the late 2000s, there was a spotlight on metal and it seemed to come out of nowhere. See, the genre never died, the mainstream attention just moved on to other genres of music. During that time, you had bands that either stayed the course, faded out, or tried to adapt to what was trendy in music in the 1990s.
When the late 2000s rolled around, you had more platforms and new technology. Music that would’ve been a bit of a chore and a little more to get could be listened to online. Hell, music could be purchased online as well.
In 2005, Uranium became Metal Asylum as Fuse became available in more cable packages. The following year, VH1 promoted “Metal Month”, That Metal Show aired on VH1 Classic in 2008, and in 2009 we got Brutal Legend on the gaming front. The late 2000s was an interesting time for metal and the mainstream.
Also in 2006, Williams Street—the studio over the Adult Swim block of Cartoon Network—released the show Metalocalypse. Rated TV-MA, Metalocalypse was created by actor/comedian/animator/voice actor/musician Brendan Small and detailed the life and times of the fictional band Dethklok.
In addition to a bunch of side characters, Small also voiced main characters Nathan Explosion (lead singer), Pickles the Drummer (drummer), Skwisgaar Skwigelf (lead guitarist), and Charles Foster Offdensen (band manager/financial officer).
In the series, Dethklok is the most popular musical act on the planet. They’re worth billions and their fanbase is so loyal and rabid that they sign “death and dismemberment” waivers before entering shows. The early episodes often featured self-contained stories that ended in some kind of violent misfortune for bystanders and featured characters.
As the series went on, this death metal band would find themselves in conspiracy and danger tied to their act being a significant part of the world economy. It’s a wild setup for a band in a subgenre that has never been mainstream globally.
“The Dethalbum” and the Jump to Virtual Band
The series’ first season went off very well and the following year we were treated with both the second season Metalocalypse and the Dethalbum, both dropping in September 2007. Looking back at it, the marketing of the show was pretty simple—all they needed for an album of music featuring the band.
Fortunately, the creator of the show is a multi-instrumentalist and the studio was able to get known names in rock and metal as session musicians for the cartoon and the album. What we got was a pretty next-level approach to getting the show over.
Mind you, it required extra talent but that was the natural direction of the program. Williams Street always implemented music into its projects. The Metalocalypse project was slightly different in that since music was integral to the storylines.
In the first two seasons—but particularly in the first—there were episode-specific tunes. This made easier to compile The Dethalbum since the majority of the album is simply songs from the show such as “Murmaider” which opens the album or “Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle”on the deluxe version.
It was an album purely for fans of the show who would be in on the jokes. However, this wasn’t a parody album. It’s very much a soundtrack album with a few songs that weren’t on the show. However, it was viewed very favorably because of the legit musicianship.
Sure, the show poked fun at metal fans, cliches, and memes but there was some fun but legit musicianship going into the project. I’ve used “fun” a couple of times but that’s the best way to describe the show and Dethklok’s music—fun.
The lyrical themes on The Dethalbum are outlandish and over-the-top but Brendan Small and friends created something where you have to at least appreciate the talent.
Dethklok Becomes a Band
For a while, it seemed as though the band would only remain virtual. It would be hard to get the guys together for a tour or festival. They all had different projects and tours going on and getting together for a Dethalbum between seasons looked like the play.
However, the band was a touring entity at the end of 2007 with most of the studio musicians hitting the road. Dethklok went on to produce two more Dethalbums heading into 2012. In that time, Dethklok performed tours supporting the show and albums as well as festival and award show appearances.
Up until 2014, Dethklok was a welcome presence in metal because fans and musicians had gotten to a point where we can laugh at ourselves and the ludicrousness of some things in the fandom. Metalocalypse came at the right time and was the right mirror to point at Metal.
I guess the best way I can sum up the show was as a metal message board in animated form—with the worst parts removed. It’s rare that anything from a message board makes it to mainstream media and becomes a thing in pop culture.
Have you heard Dethklok’s music or watched Metalocalypse? What were your impressions on both and do you see the show returning now that Dethklok is an active band again?
Let us know down below!
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.