The Metalocalypse Has Begun: A Look at Dethklok

"The World Greatest Culture Force"

"The World's Greatest Culture Force"

In late June, Ricky and I attended the Dethklok concert at the Nokia Theater in Times Square. What we saw there was one of the better concerts we’ve ever seen. It was, for lack of a better term, “brutal”.

If you are unfamiliar with Dethklok, you are more than likely unfamiliar with the show that spawned them, “Metalocalypse”, which can be seen on Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network. The basic premise is simple: it’s a cartoon about an extremely popular, fictional heavy metal band and their comedic exploits. But beneath that, you have a knowledgeable satire of the music industry and heavy metal culture. Now you’re probably asking yourself, “How did you go to a cartoon band’s concert?” I promise, I will get to that, but first let me introduce the band…

  • First is Nathan Explosion, featured in the center of the above picture. He is the singer of Dethklok, and is quite often regarded as leader of the band. He speaks with a very low gravelly voice, reminiscent of his singing style. He is based on Cannibal Corpse singer, George Fisher.
  • Then there is William Murderface, the bassist, featured far left. He is believed to be based on Black Sabbath bassist, Geezer Butler. He is self-loathing member of the band, and probably the most hateful.
  • Next is Skwisgaar Skwigelf, Dethklok’s lead guitarist, mid-left. He’s Swedish, an obvious poke at eastern Europe’s heavy metal culture. He has a massive ego because of his virtuoso guitar skills. He resembles Children of Bodom’s singer and guitarist Alexi Laiho.
  • Fourth is Pickles the Drummer, mid-right. He’s the primary alcoholic/drug addict of the band. Currently he resembles the balding/dreaded Devin Townsend of Strapping Young Lad. In an earlier band called Snakes N’ Barrels, he resembled Axl Rose.
  • Finally, on the far right is Toki Wartooth, the Norwegian rhythm guitarist. He is fairly generic looking, though is reminiscent of Willie Adler from Lamb of God or Fredrik Thordendal from Meshuggah. He is the most sympathetic character, and is happy enough simply being in the band, not wishing to contribute creatively. He is often portrayed as innocent and child-like.

Now that that’s out of the way, here is an excerpt from the show, as well as their music…

From the episode “Birthdayface”:


“Metalocalypse” is largely the brainchild of Brendon Small, of “Home Movies” fame. He provides the voices for three of the characters, all of the music, and writes the show along with Tommy Blacha. Despite a slow start, it has become impressively and increasingly popular. It even became popular enough to warrant releasing a full-fledged album, entitled The Dethlalbum, with Death/Strapping Young Lad drummer Gene Holgan. Not only was it critically acclaimed, garnering 4/5 stars on, but it reached #21on the Billboard Top 200. #21 may not seem like a lot, but it’s the highest any extreme metal band has ever reached.

Shortly before releasing The Dethalbum, Dethklok (Brendon Small, Gene Holgan, Mike Keneally, and Bryan Beller) went on a short tour around various colleges for a few months. After the successful album release Dethklok did a much larger tour starting in June 2008, which was so popular that a few dates even sold out, including the NYC show Ricky and I went to. This brings me to the heart of what I want to say.

A pic poorly taken with my phone. The animation for the songs can be seen.

It was probably one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had. I was among a sold-out crowd of people who couldn’t wait to see a band that doesn’t even really exist. So I had to ask myself two things, “Is it still a band about the show, or is it now a show about an actual band?” and, “Did they count on this to happen?” The first one is arguable, I would suppose the answer would be based on a measure of popularity and critical acclaim, and those can change quite rapidly. However, the second question is a lot more interesting. Did Brendon Small use this show as a way to sidestep into the music industry? I mean, the guy is a graduate of the Berklee School of Music. He more than likely at one point wanted his career to be in music, maybe he saw this as his chance. I guess no one can answer that but him, but it’s interesting to think about nonetheless.

“Metalocalypse” and Dethklok have completely and successfully broken down the fourth wall. Not only is the show funny, but the album is one of my favorites. In addition, the concert did a great job of bringing it all to life. It is truly one of the most innovative and witty shows on television. Even if you don’t love metal, give it a listen. You may find yourself intrigued by The World’s Greatest Cultural Force.

~ by Alex Stone on July 22, 2008.

One Response to “The Metalocalypse Has Begun: A Look at Dethklok”

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