June 23, 2008

Adult Swim’s ‘Metalocalypse’ Comes to Life With Dethklok Tour

By Dave Wedge, Boston Herald

Jun. 23--Death metal is usually serious business.

But Emerson College alum Brendon Small figured there was room alongside all the upside-down crosses, pentagrams and bloody goat heads for a little humor.

Turns out he was more right than he ever imagined.

"I didn't know whether people would dig it or not," said Small, creator of the animated black metal band Dethklok, from a recent tour stop in Tempe, Ariz. "You just do what you like, and if people like it, great. But the show found its audience really quickly."

To say people "dig it" is an understatement. With Small on guitar, bass and vocals and Dark Angel/Strapping Young Lad drummer Gene Hoglan adding percussive brutality, Dethklok's debut CD "The Dethalbum" made its debut at No. 21 on the Billboard 200.

Dethklok isn't a conventional band. These Scandinavians are the animated stars of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim show "Metalocalypse," in which Dethklok are the richest rockers in the world, with the band members' combined wealth making them the 12th largest economy on Earth. The group -- Skwisgaar Skwigelf, Toki Wartooth, William Murderface, Pickles the Drummer and vocalist Nathan Explosion -- is a sociopathic combo of Spinal Tap and GWAR: their fans literally kill for them, incited by Dethklok's evil music to create mayhem and chaos around the world.

Small, who also attended Berklee College of Music and worked as a stand-up comedian in Boston for years, brings his animated apocalypse to the Palladium in Worcester tomorrow. It's a multi-media tour de force in which Small and a full band play behind a massive TV screen that shows the cartoon musical marauders plying their death metal trade.

"My whole goal was 'How can I make this live outside of the TV show?,' " Small said. "I didn't want to embarrass the audience by trying to dress up like (Dethklok). We don't look like them. The only thing that makes this band cool is that they don't exist."

Small admits he took inspiration from the world's other most famous animated band -- Gorillaz -- but says he wants to build upon what that act started.

"The Gorillaz did it, and I wanted to do it more -- make it more fun," he said.

The show and the accompanying album ratchet up death metal stereotypes to absurd levels. The cartoon rock stars are binge-drinking, drug-dabbling egomaniacs who fly in a giant aircraft called the Hatredcopter. They sing of death, destruction and the end of the world on gore-a-thons with titles like "Bloodrocuted,""Briefcase Full of Guts" and "Inner Child Tied and Beaten in My Trunk."

For metal fans, it's a welcome dose of humor in a genre not known for smiles.

"It's a really fun show," Small said. "If you love metal, you're going to love this. If you love animation, you're going to love this. Even if you don't like metal, I think you're still going to love this."

Dethklok, with Chimaira and Soilent Green, at the Palladium, Worcester, tomorrow. Tickets: $22; 800-477-6849.

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