On Dethklok: A Conversation

Adult Swim's Resident Death Metal Band Release an Album—We Put on Our Corpse Paint and Take a Listen

Your hosts:

Nate Patrin: A "rap/club/garage-rock fan who is simultaneously open to and bewildered by modern metal. My knowledge of the genre stops around 1987, running along the Sabbath-Metallica continuum before leaving me with some patches of nu-stoner stuff and psych/prog weirdness—bands like Comets on Fire, Drunk Horse, Baroness, and every metal dilettante's favorite, Mastodon."

Cecile Cloutier: "As an accidental metal-head, my musical taste winds around current metal trends like some crazy kind of macramé-plant-hanger-cum-DNA-diagram: Judas Priest, yes; King Diamond, nope; Metallica, yes; Pantera, nope. I was scared of black metal until I discovered Immortal's corpse paint was mostly a tribute to Kiss. So, my knowledge of current metal is enthusiastic but lumpy."

Metalocalypse: A series of short cartoons on Adult Swim that chronicle the career of Dethklok, a fictitious Scandinavian-American metal supergroup, who are callow, self-centered, psychopathically violent, and indifferent to human suffering. Hot with the coveted 18-34 male demographic, dude.

CC: So what are your first thoughts on hearing Dethklok without pictures?

NP: I always seemed to gather from what metal I've listened to that a lot of it already has a sense of humor in itself, so I don't think it's just a situation of Dethklok being a comedy metal act alone.

CC: What metal are you listening to? I read Terrorizer magazine and am on the floor because people in there take themselves so seriously, i.e., any interview with Nile.

NP: You know how under-qualified I am to judge this as metal qua metal? My first thought was "Wait, Nile Rodgers?"

CC: Nile is the Egyptology band.

NP: Do Nile have songs about mummifying dudes and pulling their brains out through their nasal cavities to be fed to the jackals? Because if not, that is a golden opportunity lost.

CC: I don't know. I never listen to them because it's like having my brain pulled out of my nasal cavity.

CC: "The Lost Vikings" is HEE-larious. It sounds like what I've been listening to for the last three years. Except for the part about losing the map. That's killer.

NP: Yeah, and they don't bother asking for directions.

CC: I know! Gods help them.

NP: Most of the Dethklok material I liked hinged on the context of episodes, though even without the accompanying plots it's great to hear mundane stuff in a metal context—"Briefcase Full of Guts" being brutal and dark in a business setting ("ABK: Always Be Killing" floored me), or the collegiate references in "Go Forth and Die" ("Move in with your parents/Back into the dark/Landed where you started/Bachelor of Arts")

CC: There are a lot of putzes in Dethklok lyrics. The guy in "Hatredcopter" worries about losing his job. The narrator in "Face Fisted" has to go change his clothes before he can fight.

NP: The syntax in "Face Fisted"—holy crap!

CC: It's a parody of every Pantera song—like someone scrambled Phil Anselmo's brain with a knitting needle and then made him write songs.

NP: "Not me hurt when stairs fell down," "You throwing rock at me/Hit eye and it no hurt me." Was that "written" by Skwisgaar [Swigelf, lead guitarist] or something? Man.

CC: Pantera: "Respect! Walk! Are you talking to me?"

NP: There's also their over-the-top rich-folks condescension, like the tax-dodger lyrics in "Dethharmonic" or the fans-as-contemptible-cash-sources stuff in "Fansong." I wonder if [producer Brendon Small] was targeting anyone specific with that.

CC: I think Small and [producer Tommy] Blacha are skewering a bored rock-star attitude. I'm surprised anyone from Metallica would show up [band members have done voice-overs for Metalocalypse], since half the time Metalocalypse feels like Some Kind of Monster taken to a crazy extent. Either Metallica are clueless, or they have a much better sense of humor than I'm crediting them for.

NP: You can tell it's the kind of thing that's done by someone who loves the genre enough to be completely dumbfounded by its excesses.

CC: You can't get that level of detail without loving it. The one-man-band creation of this disc is even black metal, as most early black metal bands started as one or two guys in the studio. Even though it's just Brendon Small and extreme metal drummer Gene Hoglan, it really has a nice, full feel to it. I can almost hear Skwisgaar and Toki [Wartooth, second guitarist] playing.

NP: Yeah, it's pretty seamless.

CC: And "Go into the Water" works as a great, fantastical metal song.

NP: It's not half-assed or parodic, composition-wise. And the way they merge it with incongruous things, like the blues song "Murdertrain A' Comin'" (from the bonus disc), is brilliant.

CC: I choked on the lung I coughed up laughing at Skwisgaar playing the blues in that episode.

NP: How many people who aren't metal fans follow the show (and, subsequently, the band) because there's lots of cartoon eviscerations and the whole thing is just hyperbolically ridiculous?

CC: Do you have to know anything about zombie movies to find Shaun of the Dead funny?

NP: Well, it helps, but...probably not.

Dethklok

The Dethalbum
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