Metalocalypse Paper


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My "Metalocalypse" paper for the PCA/ACA 2010.

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Metalocalypse Paper

  1. 1. Haight-Angelo 1 Jessica Haight-Angelo Animation: Cultural Memory & Identity PCA/ACA 2010: St. Louis, MO 31 March 2010 The „Klok is Ticking: “Metalocalypse” and the Culture and Crisis of the Modern-Day Celebrity Dethklok is the most popular, and brutal, band in the world; a modern-day Beatles, if the Beatles played harmonic death metal or was monitored closely by a secret team of government agents. Dethklok may also have supernatural powers. The band is currently ranked as the 7th largest economy in the world (“Dethrelease I”), previously surpassing Belgium at 12th place (“Murdering Outside the Box”). Dethklok, a five-man American/Scandinavian hybrid, simultaneously magnifies and destroys everything it touches, though it seems collectively unaware of its full impact. Similarly unbeknownst to the band, Dethklok's exploits are tracked via the American cartoon, "Metalocalypse", a late-night Cartoon Network staple and the brainchild of Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha, both actors and musicians in their own right. While the boys of Dethklok remain generally clueless beyond a vague understanding of dollar signs and an appreciation for the good life, this paper seeks to examine their meteoric rise to fame, through the lens of the fourth wall. Dethklok's fans commit ritual suicide to pay homage to their idols; buy five-thousand dollar concert tickets during a non-fictionally fictional recession; and become infamous through their exploits as the band's stalkers. Though exaggerated, Small and Blacha seem to be drawing upon observations of real-life celebrity worship to flavor "Metalocalypse" not only with authenticity, but also with a warning: Celebrity
  2. 2. Haight-Angelo 2 culture is rough, for everyone involved. Thus, this paper is a case study of pop culture through the insulated view of a cartoon metal band; insulation that is nonetheless required as a side effect of its immense fame. Bloodlines: Breaching the Fourth Wall The roots of Dethklok are deeply entrenched in the manure of scores of death metal bands that came before it. Not only do creators Small and Blacha base characters and events off of real-life metal musicians; said bands are often invited to contribute voice-over work to “Metalocalypse.” As Small offers in an interview with Slagter, "All the people we involve in the show are from bands that I really dig a lot: Nevermore, Cannibal Corpse, Arch Enemy, King Diamond, Metallica, Exodus, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Strapping Young Lad, Amon Amarth, Finntroll -- people that we reference are people we care about." Notably, in the pilot episode of the series, band front man Nathan Explosion rattles off Cannibal Corpse lyrics after commandeering the intercom at a local grocery store. At the same time, Small laments, the show would not function as well with a “Simpsons”-esque treatment of celebrities: “It kind of stops the story ... The fun is, having the audience figure out which parts King Diamond played, and we actually get them to act and have some fun and be funny and not be themselves. This is a world where it's only Dethklok … it's not really the real world, where you run into Don Knotts and Tim Conway" (Slagter). “Only Dethklok,” indeed. The show‟s opening credits offers brief insights into the five band members: Skwisgaar Skwigelf, “taller than a tree,” Dethklok‟s blond, Swedish lead guitarist; fellow Scandinavian, the Norwegian Toki Wartooth, “not a bumblebee,” or so he would
  3. 3. Haight-Angelo 3 have fans (and Skwisgaar) believe as he fights for dominance as the band‟s rhythm guitarist. Next in each episode‟s roll-call is William Murderface (“Murderface, Murderface”), whose name says quite a lot about his personality; Murderface plays bass guitar, sometimes with his penis. Rounding out Dethklok‟s other American members is Pickles the drummer (“doodily doo, ding dong, doodily, doodily doo”), and Nathan Explosion, lead singer and the band‟s predominant songwriter. Ironically, Nathan is a man of few words when he‟s not on stage, which lends credence to the fact that he merely names himself in the “Deththeme.” Perhaps to preserve the show‟s “only Dethklok” essence, Brendan Small is reluctant in interviews to name any of the characters as strict archetypes of any one person. However, when pressed, he offers in the same interview with Slagter that Nathan is modeled after George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher from Cannibal Corpse, as well as Conan the Barbarian. Skwisgaar is modeled after Yngwie Malmsteen; both are Swedish "classic guitarist[s]," with all the cockiness and arrogance that comes with their band personas. Similarly, Pickles' inspiration is Devin Townsend. As Small says, "he was going to be more Rob Halford looking, but he looked too handsome and slick. So we did pages upon pages of hair experiments on Pickles, and settled on a new look, which is the dread-over' (Slagter). Murderface is similarly a combination "Ralph Bakshi/early Filmation 'Masters of the Universe' kind of drawing"; the art style, ergo, is intentionally "comic-book-y and movable” (Slagter). In a separate interview with Robair, Small says that Murderface is "a combination of Nick Nolte and Captain Caveman." Similarly, the character of Dr. Rockzo, "Metalocalypse's" token rock-and-roll clown, is supposed to be an amalgam of every kind of front man from the hard-rock era, from Paul Stanley to Axel Rose, Steven Tyler, and all that stuff" (Robair). In yet another interview with Diver, Blacha adds that Dethklok is "just a wonderful goulash of awesome archetypes.”
  4. 4. Haight-Angelo 4 Beyond the characters, various real-life events have inspired “Metalocalypse.” As Slagter points out, the boys seeing Dr. Twinkletits in the episode “Performanceklok” is a direct reference to Metallica's seeking and using a band therapist. In the season three opener, “Renovationklok,” the band declares that “there‟s no recession for metal; the recession is an asshole,” a reference to the American economy in the fall of 2009 when the episode first aired. Similarly, many references are simply nods to metal bands that Small cites previously, offering them a place in Dethklok‟s world, even if the bands themselves do not exist. In an interview with the Goats of Pandemonium blog, for example, Murderface doesn't know who "Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse, or ... Vrangsinn of Carpathian Forest" are. On the other hand, Dethklok frequently goes to a burger restaurant called “Burzums,” wherein “Burzum” is the name of a one-man metal band. Similarly, a grocery store close to Mordhaus, the band‟s home is called “Fintrolls,” a nod to the aforementioned band, Finntroll. Interestingly, though “Metalocalypse” often breaches the fourth wall, so to speak, Small is adamant that the show and the band remain separate entities. In this sense, Dethklok does not realize that “Metalocalypse” the show exists. They would not even recognize the title, which is bandied about by a top-secret government-run Tribunal as a code word for the proposed destruction of the world (metaphorically or literally, it has not yet been made clear) per Dethklok‟s immense popularity and power through their music. In addition, interviews with Small show overwhelmingly that he is first a metal guitarist and second a TV show writer, in spite of his success with the Adult Swim show, “Home Movies” well before either “Metalocalypse” or the two real-life Dethklok tours occurred. "The whole reason Dethklok exists is so that I have an excuse to play guitar" (Ailes), Small offers plainly in an interview; in another, he shrugs that “I kind of hate comedy'" (Palopoli). Often, Small doles out pearls of wisdom
  5. 5. Haight-Angelo 5 involving his guitar inspirations and expertise. The two Dethklok tours in which he has performed, for example, are a way for him to “to escape from my responsibilities on the show" (Bowar). Very rarely will Small discuss the inner-workings of the show. However, he does begrudgingly admit that he cares about the story line in an interview with Bowar: “I find that unless you're telling a story while you're showing music, the music gets boring, even if it's the coolest music in the world.” Then, in more typical Small-speak, he offers that “I just want to make sure it doesn't suck. That's all my goal is. Make it not suck" (Ailes). The overall result is, at best, a well-planned piece of performance art; and at least, a void that speaks to Small‟s low opinion of his own creative efforts and/or the show itself. Lending credence to the latter notion is how Small describes himself and Blacha as "the weirdo Adult Swim guys who are just indie-rock goofballs who don't even like music or anything" (Ailes). Lack of dialogue about the show itself aside, or perhaps to make up for it, when Small isn‟t being interviewed about his guitar know-how, he is speaking literally as the band itself. Small and Blacha, who together do all of the voice work for the main cast of “Metalocalypse,” are frequently interviewed by metal magazines and blogs as Dethklok; occasionally, they will acquiesce to recorded phone interviews, answering questions in the boys‟ distinct voices. Notably, on rare occasions when Brendan is coerced into discussing individual band personas and show characterization, it often syncs up with what Dethklok has said about itself. For example, Small has gone on record as attributing Nathan's (and thus, his own) vocals largely to "a combination of 'chocolate milk and Cooler Ranch Doritos'" (Palopoli). Similarly, Nathan's predilection for "potato chips and chocolate milk" is offered in an interview with IGN: "I can go for days smoking and drinking and killing myself staying awake, but have a glass of chocolate milk and a handful of potato chips and I'm good to go." This sentiment was later expressed in the
  6. 6. Haight-Angelo 6 show itself; in "Renovationklok," the boys deal with the brutal reality of major debt, caused, in part, by creating a private, band-only theme park called Dorito Land, filled with nothing but Cooler Ranch Doritos dispensers. Nathan seems to share many of Small‟s own opinions and quirks, more so than any other Dethklok character. As much as Small characterizes himself as an anti-music “goofball,” it is clear that he deeply loves metal music, a passion which Nathan shares. "Death metal is about the idea that you're going to die,” Small offers. “Dying is brutal, metal is brutal. But there is a lot of other shit that's brutal that you experience every day of your life, that isn't death, but it makes your life brutal and horrible and fucked up. Things like humidity, going to the dentist, hangovers ... that's why people relate to the brutality of metal is because their lives are filled with a whole bunch of torturous torments ... mundane and boring things can be torturous things as well. That's my comic angle on it, at least. I don't think that's actually true" (Landau). For Nathan, naturally, there is no "comic angle": "We don't advocate violence," he tells Wood in an interview. "We advocate brutality. There's a big difference ... Violence doesn't necessarily surround you every day, but brutality does. Going to the dentist - brutal. Being stuck in traffic - brutal. Flying coach - brutal. These are the things that kill you slowly, and we latch onto that brutality and show it to the world." Given Small‟s backpedaling, ergo, it is obvious that the show is at least partially a vehicle for his meta-opinions about the nature of metal. "[M]etal is about credibility" (Ailes), Small affirms. "The cool thing is when I hear about people who want to learn more about metal because of the show. They figure out the (musicians) we put on the show, and what bands they're in, they just discover the world (of metal) a little bit more ... Usually I hear, 'I don't like metal, but I like Dethklok.' Or, [I hear from] metal people who like metal but also like Dethklok" (Slagter). In addition, part of the allure of death metal, Small says, is its rather obvious
  7. 7. Haight-Angelo 7 "obsession with death": 'There's stuff that's worse than dying ... If your pants don't fit, that's fucking brutal. That's a death-metal song'" (Palopoli). Also: "Death is funny, in a horror movie way. You're going to die one day. It's the ultimate slapstick. That's kind of funny. To me" (Diver). Notably, Nathan also expresses his amusement in an IGN interview that "we are rich and we will die eventually." Beyond metal, perhaps to separate the show even further from the music, Small downplays “Metalocalypse‟s” connection to “Spinal Tap,” in that they both notably “satiriz[e] … extreme metal stereotypes” (Palopoli): "The thing is that Spinal Tap is the ultimate music comedy project," Small explains. "This show will never be anything as good as that and unfortunately Spinal Tap nailed it so early that we had to do things to not be like Spinal Tap. It's a band … on its way out, and we went the other way and made it the best entertainment act on earth, to make it less Spinal Tap-esque" (Landau). In addition, Small says, "We didn't want to do a show that makes fun of metal, we wanted a show that makes fun of celebrities ... We make fun of band dynamics -- or any kind of family dynamic, or work dynamic" (Slagter). In this sense, despite the Goats of Pandemonium Metal Blog's affirmation that the show "can only be fully understood by true Metal fanatics," it is clear that Small and Blacha's intention was to create something much more universal than those already acclimated into the insulated world of death metal. "Metalocalypse" as a treatise on celebrity culture, then, is the crux of its creation. In an interview with Gearwire magazine, Small offers: "'At its core the show is about celebrity-ism, and the kinds of people we look up to, and could possibly be dangerous'" (Wallace). Small cites the importance of "fake reality" in understanding the role of celebrities in “Metalocalypse” (Ailes), which he says flourishes under reality television and celebrities like Paris Hilton, who
  8. 8. Haight-Angelo 8 are not specifically famous for anything other than being famous. "We just wanted to make sure that people knew that our show was like, it's not so much about metal, it's about celebritism … Like helpless, ridiculous, narcissistic idiots that whether or not we want to, we're giving them our attention. But on our show they get to be about something cool. And they do have talent and they can make music. But we're still shitting on America and celebritism" (Ailes). Adding to this, Small explains that the name Dethklok came about because it "sounded very cool and very stupid to me at the same time … That's our recipe for doing things here. If it's cool and stupid, it's in. Period. Question mark. Period” (Slagter). In the same vein, a previously-copyrighted band called “Deathclock” forced Small and Blacha to choose an alternative spelling that nonetheless adds to the overall „stupidity‟ of the band itself. In this sense, Slagter's description of Small's contribution to the entity that is Dethklok as someone who "shreds" both "celebrity stereotypes" and guitar riffs is perhaps the most accurate assertion of the relationship between the two. In addition, Slagter says, "the show is simultaneously a love letter to Small and Blacha's favorite musical genre and a parody of insulated, delusional fame." Similarly, Erica Landau describes the band as a hilarious collection of "genre clichés," and offers that the show is subtle ("if you can call mass slaughter subtle") "social commentary about society's obsession with celebrity." Thus, "Metalocalypse" "fearlessly lampoons the music business" (Slagter), and the very existence of the modern celebrity itself.
  9. 9. Haight-Angelo 9 Fansong: Dethklok‟s Immense Popularity External effects: How the world reacts to Dethklok Whereas Small allows Nathan to speak for him on the nature of metal, the creators' collective opinion of celebrities is most apparent via the interest that the aforementioned Tribunal takes in Dethklok itself. The Tribunal‟s own origins are rather mysterious, a combination of government agents and military personnel; at the helm is the most mysterious persona yet, known only as Selatcia. At the mid-way point for the show‟s third season, Selatcia has taken significant steps towards bringing forth the Metalocalypse, though he does not make his intentions clear to the rest of the organization, which largely regards Dethklok as a danger to be apprehended and controlled. “We must watch them,” he tells the Tribunal simply when proposals of offing the band‟s members are broached. Increasingly, dissention forms in the ranks, leading to the death of Cardinal Ravenwood, upon plotting to kill Dethklok in the season one finale (“It Has Begun”). Ravenwood is replaced by Vater Orlaag, another holy man who seems to be much more closely aligned with Selatcia. Similarly, General Crozier, who plots alongside Ravenwood, is reduced to dreaming about Ravenwood‟s gruesome death for the majority of season two, until Selatcia brainwashes him entirely in the season two finale (“Dethrelease I”). “I still need you,” Selatcia rasps. At present, fans have only briefly glimpsed General Crozier in season three; however, it is notable that Selatcia has both the Church and the United States military in his pocket; a military wherein half of its members are nonetheless “rabid Dethklok fans” (“Birthdayface”). Rounding out the Tribunal‟s staples is Senator Stampingston, who routinely summarizes reports of Dethklok‟s goings-ons to the others. Stampingston‟s loyalties are unknown; unlike
  10. 10. Haight-Angelo 10 Selatcia and Ravenwood, he does not appear to have any mystical powers, nor is he part of Ravenwood and Crozier‟s alliance in season one. In addition, the Tribunal often invites various “experts” to speak on the nature of Dethklok‟s myriad cultural impacts. In the season one episode, “Birthdayface,” for example, a “birthday expert” called Dr. Gibbons offers insights into Murderface‟s deviant behavior and personality, noting that his rage is the product of intense self- loathing, which he expresses through “bodily mutilation, tattooing, alcohol abuse, and coprophilia.” Often the celebrity experts have complicated names and only appear for one episode. Notably, Dr. Gibbons returns in the season two episode “Dethrace,” recast as the resident “Murderface expert,” wherein she describes the object of her expertise as “possibly bipolar.” As the experts are relatively interchangeable, their advice to the Tribunal is fluid, often syncing up with the Tribunal‟s own theories regarding Dethklok‟s potential to harm the general public, which the Tribunal routinely admits to censoring and controlling. (In “Dethtroll,” for example, the band summons a troll in Finland, in which the Tribunal limits media interest by simply destroying evidence of its existence.) Often, members such as General Crozier are inspired to act against Dethklok per the experts‟ advice; as a rule of thumb, he is usually waylaid by Selatcia. Notably, Dethklok has no collective acknowledgment of the Tribunal. In part, this seems intentional on the Tribunal‟s behalf: A group dedicated to monitoring and possibly taking Dethklok down would want to reside nominally in the shadows. On several occasions, the Tribunal manages to infiltrate the band‟s inner-sanctum, still completely unbeknownst to the boys. The possible exception is Charles Foster Ofdensen, the band‟s manager, who also seems to be and know more than he lets on. In the episode “Dethrelease I,” it is revealed that Charles trains and commands Klokateers, servants for Dethklok, as their own military force in a portion
  11. 11. Haight-Angelo 11 of Mordhaus that the band does not seem to know about. In addition, like the Tribunal, Charles monitors and intervenes in public outcries against the band (“Tributeklok”), and seems to control who comes and goes from Mordhaus‟ underground dungeon, which the boys also do not seem to be aware exists. In the episode “Dethvengeance,” a young male fan is arrested (kidnapped) by Klokateers in his parents‟ home for illegally downloading Dethklok music on his computer. While discussing the abduction, the Tribunal notes that Dethklok recently received a nod from the United Nations to act as its own police force. Almost certainly, such legislature is Charles‟ doing which, as with most of his work regarding the band, the boys are completely unaware of. Paradoxically, Charles seems equally intent on keeping the band happy, and also on keeping tabs on the Tribunal, which many fans have proposed that he secretly works for. In this sense, the Tribunal‟s ability to have one of its own infiltrate the Klokateers; or to arrange for Dr. Rockzo, the rock-and-roll clown to bring back information about Mordhaus, the multi-level fortress that Dethklok calls home seems too easy. At the same time, most of the Tribunal‟s agents end up either dead or disfigured; ironically, those who survive often declare loyalty to Dethklok and are absorbed into its employment hierarchy. In the episode “Dethwater,” for example, Dick Knubbler, sent to spy on the boys during their time spent in a military submarine to record an album, loses his eyeballs due to the intense pressure of the ocean. In spite of this, Knubbler tells off General Crozier, and returns in subsequent episodes as a creative consultant for the band‟s record label, newly equipped with robotic eyes. While Dethklok is unaware of the Tribunal‟s existence, and though it is largely insulated from the world at large, the presence of Dethklok to the general public is nonetheless notable. Greasing Dethklok‟s wheel is its marketability: Dethklok‟s album sales, merchandise, and the money the band receives from endorsements are matched by none. As a report to the Tribunal in
  12. 12. Haight-Angelo 12 the season two finale offers: “The entire world economy is now completely dependent on Dethklok” (“Dethrelease I”). Whether Selatcia is secretly at the helm of this popularity, and/or whether Dethklok‟s alleged connection to the ancient Sumerian prophecy mentioned by the Tribunal in the show‟s pilot episode (“The Curse of Dethklok”) gifts them with extraordinary powers with which to (unwittingly) control people remains to be seen. At the very least, it is notable that in “Performanceklok,” the boys‟ eyes glow hungrily with supernatural light as they watch Dr. Twinkletits get attacked by wolves. While never explained or substantiated, this certainly lends credence to the idea that that Dethklok is collectively more god than man. Perhaps even more telling than record sales are the emotions behind the dollar signs, however; if Dethklok has the power, supernatural or otherwise, to collect a fan base from former spies and enemies of the band, it follows that Dethklok‟s uncompromised fen are equally rabid in their appreciation. Even the Klokateers are amassed from the frenzied masses; in the season two episode, “Dethsources,” Charles Ofdensen invites a batch of Klokateer-hopefuls to prove that they are more than “worthless scum” by fighting one another to the death with their bare hands. After an intense weekend of increasingly „brutal‟ tests, the remaining new recruits are branded with a tattoo of a gear on the back of their necks; a mark of their loyalty to Dethklok, and symbolic of their collective role as „gears‟ in Dethklok‟s wheel. That the Klokateers‟ quarters of Mordhaus are rat-infested and almost entirely inhospitable (“Dethsources”) does not seem to deter this loyalty, either, nor the fact that Klokateers are expected to perform menial and gruesome tasks such as clean the band's toenails. In a particularly extreme example, Dethklok‟s personal chef, Jean-Pierre, is “sewn back together wrong” by the band after being ejected from its private plane into a propeller; though barely more than a patchwork human being after the series pilot, Jean-Pierre stays in Dethklok‟s employment, yet fiercely loyal.
  13. 13. Haight-Angelo 13 As various fans often express on the show, they are perfectly willing to “die for Dethklok”; and often, they do just that. Before all Dethklok concerts and public appearances, fans are required to sign “pain waivers” releasing the band from all legal complications of fans‟ deaths, which are often extremely violent and/or freak accidents (“The Curse of Dethklok”). In season three, Charles Ofdensen also debuts “paternity waivers,” required for all persons who have any and all contact with Skwisgaar, who, due to his extreme promiscuity, often impregnates fans. In addition, fan suicides between album debuts (“Dethwater”); in-fighting amongst fans for the chance to date individual band members (“Klokblocked”); and incitements of public violence and mayhem as a tribute to Dethklok (“Birthdayface”) are all commonplace. Fan entitlement is also common; while many fans remain nothing but “regular jack-offs” or “dildos,” a few manage to make themselves known to the band itself. A particularly extreme case is Lavona Succuboso, whose plan to obtain Nathan‟s semen by force in order to create a superior race of mini- Explosions fails only because Murderface throws himself in front of Nathan before the tool Lavona plans to use can reach its target destination (“Klokblocked”). Naturally, fans that prove themselves to be particularly dangerous or invasive are carefully monitored and controlled by Charles and the Klokateers. Even Dethklok‟s most ardent enemies begin as metal fanatics. Of particular note are the Revengencers, helmed by Edgar Jomfru, whose brother Eric is killed on Charles‟ order, after the brothers threaten to upload a top-secret Dethklok song on their Web site, aptly titled “Die for Dethklok” (“Mordland”). Later, Edgar teams up with his fellow music pirate, the unnamed Internet music downloader to form the Revengencers, which grows via Dethklok fans being captured and brainwashed using, ironically, Dethklok‟s own music for the reprogramming process. Together, the Revengencers strike a deal with Lavona Succuboso to bring Dethklok
  14. 14. Haight-Angelo 14 down. The fruits of the group‟s efforts culminate in a full-scale attack against Dethklok at Mordhaus during an album release party (“Dethrelease I”), which members and agents of the Tribunal also infiltrate. Midway through season three, the fates of Edgar Jomfru, Lavona Succuboso, and the music pirate are unknown. Internal Effects: How Dethklok Reacts to the World In the episode “Mordland,” Dethklok is cajoled into participating in its annual Fan Day event at Mordhaus, which many fans have cleaned out their life savings and robbed banks in order to attend. As the episode title suggests, this turns the band‟s home into something of an amusement park attraction, a fate worse than death as far as the boys are concerned. Their collective opinion of such matters is aptly expressed in “Fan Song,” which plays at the end of the episode: “You people out there give us something more than just record sales / You give us something to hate, / And we hate you, you brainless mutants," Nathan bellows. "You're a bunch of banks that I'd like to rob," and then "Spend you on an impulse / And zero you all out.” Unfazed, Dethklok‟s fans eat up the verbal abuse; in some way, Dethklok‟s outpouring of anger validates and encourages them even more. At the same time, songs like “Fan Song” offer insight into the physical, mental, emotional and social toll that extreme celebritydom takes on the band. Murderface isn‟t the only member of Dethklok known for the unhealthy treatment of his own body. In “Mordland,” Nathan pukes blood at the breakfast table, upon which it is revealed to gleeful fans that he is due for a liver transplant that has become all but routine in the course of entertaining them. Similarly, though Pickles the drummer is known for his stereotypically Irish- American penchant for alcohol consumption, and though he partakes in more recreational drugs than the rest of Dethklok combined, at times, he consumes even more illicit substances than
  15. 15. Haight-Angelo 15 usual in response to fan drama. This is particularly notable in the episode “Dethkomedy,” where Pickles bombs on stage during an attempt at improv comedy. In the same vein, though Murderface practices scarification, coprophilia, and a host of other unsavory fetishes, he is particularly anxious at taking the lead during the Nascar Theatrical Hybrid Event for which he is at the helm, and enlists Pickles to supply him with drugs. However, Murderface is unused to the particular concoction that Pickles assures Nathan is something he commonly consumes “whenever I have to do a thing” (“Dethrace”), and is all but useless in either promoting or overseeing his own event, spending it instead drooling and scooting ineffectually around on the racetrack. Alcohol and drug consumption are the chosen form of pain management for all of the band‟s members; likewise, when Toki‟s father dies in season two (“Dethdead”), he increases his drinking so much that the other members are forced to re-evaluate their vow never to involve themselves in one another‟s personal business because “expressing feelings makes you gay” (“Renovationklok”) to admonish him to ease up. Similarly, Skwisgaar drinks angrily on the rare occasions when his former beauty-queen mother, Serveta Skwigelf is around, embarrassed both by her behavior and by that of the men ogling her (“Dethmas”). Beyond alcohol- and drug-use, the boys‟ penchant for throwing tantrums, despite all being roughly in their thirties is so commonplace that Charles has a picnic table permanently attached to the floor (“Dethecution”) to prevent Nathan from throwing it. Emotionally, the band often reacts to the outside world collaboratively; though they claim not to be friends or care about one another, the show is subtly homoerotic and humorous because of the close level of comfort that the members of Dethklok have with one another. Often, the boys relax after concerts and public appearances by sitting closely together in a hot tub in their
  16. 16. Haight-Angelo 16 living room; they eat most meals together, and individual members‟ attempts to attract interest in side projects and solo work – Murderface‟s side band, Planet Piss is notable, as well as Pickles‟ brief hiatus from Dethklok to perform with his old glam-rock band, Snakes „n‟ Barrels – is often facetious, at best. Like a litter of puppies, the boys function best when they are together, and rather helplessly when apart. At the same time, Dethklok is highly dependent on its servants and persons like Charles to keep them both safe and functioning at all. As Brendan Small laughs during an interview, “they're treated more like superheroes [than musicians], though they lack the ability to do anything besides bring the metal. Even preparing a single meal on their own is a disaster” (Palopoli). Small references the series pilot, wherein prior to Jean-Pierre‟s sloppy reconstructive surgery, the boys attempt to go grocery shopping, but only succeed in making a mess at the store itself, and then forgetting to bring the food home that they‟ve painstakingly picked out. Slagter offers his own take on such events: “Sequestered in an iron, gothic castle dubbed Mordhaus, the Dethdudes are blissfully unaware that even the slightest offhand decision or action on their part can have devastating consequences, depicted in the cartoon's sequences of over-the-top, blood-spattering gore.” In some ways, requiring the band to become more self- sufficient would help Dethklok‟s hodge-podge of man-children to mature. At the same time, with fans like theirs, high security and self-imposed isolation seem to be necessary evils of being superhero musicians. The boys‟ fragile mental states and collective innocence are nonetheless notable, however. After the Tribunal‟s homicide attempt in the season one finale of the show, the season two opener “Dethecution” introduces the band as reeling from what they believe are “fan attacks.” Charles even notes aloud that it is the moodiest he has ever seen them; nonetheless, he makes a show of stepping up security in acquiescence to their wishes to be better protected.
  17. 17. Haight-Angelo 17 Similarly, the boys display classic symptoms of depression during this time, though this issue is more widely addressed in the episode “Bluesklok,” wherein the boys suffer from what an expert for the Tribunal calls “celebrity depression,” for which the only cure is the use of gurus or spiritual guides back to what Dethklok has come to regard as „normal‟. In “Bluesklok,” this takes the form of Mashed Potato Johnson, a Blues musician who sold his soul to the Devil for fame. Similarly, in “Dethkomedy,” the boys learn to hate themselves and their audience from an unnamed, yet kitschy comedy guru who dresses like a pirate and shoots himself in the head after declaring that he “can‟t teach „em no more.” Interestingly, the band‟s most notable bout of depression following season two also results in its most obvious growth and maturation. One of the casualties of the Revengencers‟ attack on Mordhaus is Charles, who is shot unexpectedly with an arrow, caught off-guard in his careful monitoring of the unfolding events. When season three initially resumes, the opening episode declares that Charles has died. Without him, the boys are forced to handle Charles‟ meticulous managing of his Chief Financial Officer duties for Dethklok by themselves, with disastrous results. Upping the ante is an old grudge against the band by their record label‟s new CEO; just as Dethklok is being forced to admit defeat and sign many of their previous rights and royalties over to their label, Charles returns, mysteriously “revived,” and resumes command of his post with almost suspicious seamlessness. While Charles‟ absence, which the season three opener notes encompasses nine months, is the biggest hint yet that Charles is more than he seems, the band is also forced to confront its habit of overspending; renovating Mordhaus, which is nominally destroyed in the Revengencers‟ attack; and their own depression over losing Charles, whom they seem to increasingly regard as a father figure. Though many things go back to normal upon Charles‟ reappearance, the band seems to be taking steps towards maturity in
  18. 18. Haight-Angelo 18 season three, including trying to get back to their roots by performing in a Dethklok tribute band (“Tributeklok”); being concerned with their health (“Dethhealth”); and examining their pasts (namely, Skwisgaar, in “Fatherklok”). Thus, Charles‟ absence has forced the band to change in order to survive, whether they want to or not. Mental maturity aside, Dethklok‟s immense popularity will almost certainly require them to forever have a consistent separation from their fans. Thus, the band‟s sociability is both hampered and carefully compartmentalized. The boys seem nominally disinterested in serious romantic relationships; the sole exception is Nathan, who briefly dates Rebecca Nightrod, a fellow celebrity, and continues calling her his steady girlfriend, even after she trips down several lengthy flights of stairs and falls into a coma (“Girlfriendklok”). When they “break up,” it is only because Nathan learns that Rebecca, still coma-ridden, is “cheating” on him with a tennis star. After that, he begins going on casual dates, which the other members of Dethklok inevitably cock-block him from developing into a serious relationship (“Klokblocked”). The rationale for this is two-fold: When Rebecca and Nathan initially begin dating, the band stages an intervention for Nathan that involves tying him to a chair and beating him until he agrees to break up with her for “ruining the band dynamic.” At the same time, Nathan‟s habit of bringing girls around offers the band a safe and easy outlet for socializing without any effort on their parts; exasperated with them, Nathan nonetheless resumes sharing his fellow band mates‟ apathy for finding love following Lavona‟s attack on him in “Klokblocked,” after which he has not yet made any additional efforts to date. Though the rest of the band members do not seem to be seeking romance, they make their appreciation for women known well enough. Skwisgaar, for whom paternity waivers are required in order to keep him out of constant lawsuits, is most notable for his love of groupies, both young
  19. 19. Haight-Angelo 19 and old – Skwisgaar proclaims his love of elderly women frequently. In “Renovationklok,” Pickles is shown sleeping alongside a couple of groupies who eventually fall out of Mordhaus, not realizing that Dethklok‟s home is floating up in the sky as a security precaution following the Revengencers‟ attack. (Notably, Mordhaus continues to remain air-bound following Charles‟ return; once again, Charles not only fixes Dethklok‟s messes, but increasingly seems to be acknowledging their attempts to grow up.) As for Toki and Murderface, on top of being frequently left out of the band‟s creative processes, neither the bassist nor rhythm guitarist seem to have much luck with women; notably, Toki appears to simply be shy, whereas Murderface is simultaneously aggressive and off-putting, largely due to his personal hygiene habits, which are commonly considered disgusting. The band‟s less romantically-inclined social engagements are even rarer. Murderface and Dick Knubbler are increasingly shown working together, both on Murderface‟s side band, Planet Piss, which has yet to get out of the demo-recording phase, and collaborating on a Christmas special, for which Murderface obtains funds from the Christian Church to produce. Though Knubbler is something of an unsavory character – as the Tribunal notes in “Dethwater,” he is known for his casual drug-use under the moniker, “Magic Ears,” and has had numerous run-ins with law enforcement prior to his work with Dethklok – he proves to be loyal and non- exploitative to the band. On the other hand, the aforementioned Dr. Rockzo, the rock-and-roll clown, is routinely loathed by all of Dethklok with the exception of Toki, who claims in the season one episode “Dethclown” that he has always felt an affinity for clowns. Toki‟s alliance with Dr. Rockzo, who routinely mistreats and lies to Toki, exploiting the rest of the band in the process, is the cornerstone for several misadventures. Though Dr. Rockzo is often down, he always seems to find a way to resurface and wreak his unique brand of havoc on Dethklok.
  20. 20. Haight-Angelo 20 Notably, bad habits and unsavory personality traits are not exclusive to either friends or enemies of Dethklok. In “Metalocalypse,” most of the characters are deeply damaged in some way. In this vein, whereas Dr. Rockzo is very harmful and annoying to the band, his recreational drug use-cum-addiction is shared by Pickles‟ old band, Snakes „n‟ Barrels. In spite of this, Pickles is nominally on friendly terms with Snakes „n‟ Barrels, resuming his role as lead singer for a reunion tour in season one. Unfortunately, the Tribunal hires an expert to convince the drug-addicted band to consume an experimental drug called “Totally Awesome Sweet Alabama Liquid Snake,” which causes no end of damage on more than one occasion (“Snakes „n‟ Barrels I and II”). Still, Pickles‟ old band remains characterized as goofy protagonists, whereas Dr. Rockzo is decidedly more antagonistic. The members of Dethklok also have strained relationships with their families, which have similarly lent drama and flavor to the show. Estranged for years in an arrangement of their own making, the band is horrified when a Larry King-esque reporter reunites them with their families (“Dethfam”). In subsequent episodes, what originally appears to be merely a random and wacky composite of relatives becomes a rationale for both previous and future behavior on Dethklok‟s behalf. Toki‟s father, for example, is a holy man who lives with his wife in an abandoned Norwegian village; they never speak even a word, and when they‟re around, neither does Toki (“Dethfam”). Later, Toki‟s father dying of cancer is the impetus behind Toki‟s overconsumption of alcohol (“Dethrelease I”); and when Dethklok‟s mothers (and Murderface‟s grandma; as a baby, Murderface witnessed the murder-suicide of his parents, and was subsequently raised by his grandparents) impose themselves on the band at Christmas (“Dethmas”), Toki does not speak to his mother, who remains as silent as ever, even after her husband‟s death, but is not plagued with the same inability to talk during the episode. In this sense, the viewer can assume that
  21. 21. Haight-Angelo 21 Toki‟s relationship with his father is extremely damaging. In the season three episode, “Fatherklok,” this becomes a point of conversation, when all of the band members, sans Nathan declare that their lives have been negatively affected by their dads. This culminates into Skwisgaar taking a hiatus from the band to search for his own father. Like many growth spurts that Dethklok has, either alone or together, the band‟s lives collectively resume a sense of normalcy once they have exhausted their latest pet project; that is, they are generally very short- lived. Notably, Charles is never around when Dethklok‟s families are. Though an entire holiday special is being prepared at Mordhaus in the “Dethmas” episode, for example, Charles remains sequestered away (presumably, in his office), save for a single meeting with the band about their fourth quarter earnings (which, he says happily, are “kick ass”), while Dick Knubbler presides over the event itself. In nearly all other social engagements, Charles is frequently noted to be watching from the sidelines, ready to step in to protect or save the boys – his boys – if needed. In this sense, Charles is a surrogate parent when the boys‟ actual parents aren‟t around, taking care of the messier parts of the music business so that they don‟t have to. Charles‟ rescuing Dethklok from signing a damaging contract with their record label in “Renovationklok” is but one instance of his business expertise being put to work. Similarly, in the episode “Dethstars,” the band is exploited by a movie producer who demands that the boys suck it up when they are horrified after seeing a raw cut of the film, which is absolutely terrible. “It's a 500 million dollar shit sandwich, and you're all gonna take a bite and you're gonna smile cause you love how it tastes!” the producer, Grishnack tells them, upon which Nathan frowns at Charles to “take care of this.” At the end of the episode, the ship on which the movie premiere occurs, as well as Grishnack and the only copy of the movie itself mysteriously go down in flames; an ironic touch for an event
  22. 22. Haight-Angelo 22 centered on a movie called “Blood Ocean.” Clearly, Charles does not mind getting his hands dirty. Increasingly, Dethklok seems to recognize Ofdensen‟s importance to the continued success and security of the band. Simultaneously, Charles attempts to inform Dethklok about its own goings-ons, both from a financial perspective and, presumably, in regards to all of the secret military action that takes place under their noses. In the episode “Dethsources,” the band is angry that Charles neglects to explain things to them, completely disregarding that when he attempts to, their short attention spans only allow them to listen to his first few words before losing interest. In response, the band hires Melmord Fjordslorn to act as a secondary CFO. Increasingly, Melmord ingratiates himself to Dethklok by smoking weed with them and letting them do whatever they want with their money; simultaneously, his interactions with Charles become increasingly problematic, culminating in a brutal fencing match that leaves Fjordslorn dead and Charles as the reigning CFO. (The boys never actually learn that such a fight takes place; in an infamous deleted scene from the season two DVD set, however, Charles mentions to them vaguely that Melmord was fired for being a pedophile, and then craftily segues into proposing a night of partying with the boys to show that he „gets‟ them. The clip ends with Charles drunkenly text-messaging Nathan a knock-knock joke.) Prior to the physical altercation, Charles warns Fjordslorn that nothing will keep him from working with Dethklok, except for death. Though Charles is triumphant over Melmord, the admonishment is eerie, late-season two foreshadowing. When the Tribunal attacks the band at the end of season one, Charles fights an assassin in Crozier‟s employment, uttering that Dethklok is his “bread and butter.” The line seems semi-sweet and simultaneously self-serving. It is not until the sentiment comes full-circle from the mouth of Nathan in “Dethrelease I” that it becomes
  23. 23. Haight-Angelo 23 more than curious posturing: “That‟s my bread and butter you‟re fucking with,” Nathan growls at the same assassin before hitting him on the back of the head with a plank of wood. The last shot of season two entails the five band members, huddled together around their fallen manager and staring up at the remains of Mordhaus, which is on fire. It is a testament to many things: Their closeness as a band, whether they want to admit it or not; also, the loss of their security, via both Charles and their home‟s lengthy hiatuses. Though reluctant to share their feelings, the band nonetheless has them; they are part of a complicated system of emotional frailty, obtuseness, and careful reaction to its intense fame and scrutiny from the outside world that, together, is something uniquely Dethklok. Conclusion In some ways, Dethklok is so far removed from the gamut of “regular jack-offs” that it is a wonder they can function at all, albeit while being coddled by their manager and waited on hand and foot by servants. On the other hand, part of the charm of “Metalocalypse” is watching Dethklok fumble its way collectively through life, towards (perhaps) a destiny greater than even anything they have already conceived. Thus, as much as the show is a handy vehicle for Brendan Small to display his musical prowess, the death metal component of “Metalocalypse” is merely a happy accident. In the end, the members of Dethklok are celebrities, and “Metalocalypse” is a show about those celebrities, and all of the inane and incredible things they do. In addition, per the mysterious and conflicting goals of the Tribunal, “Metalocalypse” ensures that fans will have plenty to ponder regarding why said celebrities do the things they do, and how their fans should feel about it.
  24. 24. Haight-Angelo 24 Works Cited Ailes Drew. "Brendan Small Interview." Lambgoat Web site. Internet. 7 April 2008. 31 March 2010 <>. Bowar, Chad. "Dethklok Interview: A Conversation with Vocalist/Guitarist Brend[a]n Small." Web site. Internet. 11 November 2009. 31 March 2010 <>. Diver, Mike. "Death, Metal, Death Metal: Metalocalypse Unveiled." Drowned in Sound Web site. Internet. 2 August 2006. 31 March 2010 < unveiled>. IGN Staff. "Interview: Dethklok - A Q&A with the World's Most Popular Heavy Metal Band, Soon to Have Their Own Adult Swim Series." IGN TV Web site. Internet. 14 July 2006. 31 March 2010 <>. Landau, Erica. "Q&A with Brendan Small, Co-Creator of 'Metalocalypse' and 'Guitarist' for Dethklok." Miami New Times Blogs. Internet. 6 November 2009. 31 March 2010 < p>.
  25. 25. Haight-Angelo 25 Palopoli, Steve. "Secret of the Klok: Dethklok Mastermind Loves Metal, Hates Comedy." Metro Active Web site. Internet. 18 November 2009. 31 March 2010 <>. Robair, Gino. "Metalocalypse Now." Electronic Musician (EM) Web site. Internet. 22 January 2008. 31 March 2010 <>. Slagter, Josh. "Meddlesome Metal: Q&A with 'Metalocalypse' Co-Creator." Internet. 30 November 2007. 31 March 2010 < >. Wallace, Joe. "Being Dethklok: 'Metalocalypse' Co-Creator Brendan Small (Part One)." Gearwire Web site. Internet. 24 January 2007. 31 March 2010 <>. Vikingfist. "The Metalocalypse Dethspecial Featuring an Interview with W. Murderface." Goats of Pandemonium Blog. Internet. 15 June 2009. 31 March 2010 < metalocalypse-dethspecial-featuring-an-interview-with-w-murderface/>. Wood, Mikael. "Drawn and Quartered." Revolver Magazine. Internet. July 2008. 31 March 2010 <>.