Testing his metal

Brendon Small dishes about the success of “Metalocalypse” and Dethklok’s tour.

by Spencer Doar

What: Dethklok with Machine Head and The Black Dahlia Murder

When: 7 p.m., Wednesday

Where: Myth, 3090 Southlawn Dr., St. Paul

Cost: $32

Ages: All ages


The animated television show “Metalocalypse” is a satire of the cult of celebrity through the lens of a death metal group.

The band, Dethklok, is so popular in the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim show that it’s essential to the success of the world economy.

“We wanted to take the genre and not necessarily poke fun at the music or lifestyle, but say, ‘What if a death metal band were celebrities?’”**** show creator Brendon Small said. “A lot of television is about celebrities trying to get through their days.”

Getting through the day is difficult for Dethklok. The only success members have is with their music, everything else is an exercise in futility and unwitting buffoonery.

The fantasy of Dethklok’s success in “Metalocalypse” is now being paralleled in real life.

“The last [Dethklok album] was in the top 10 — how about that?” Small said. “It’s nice to have a job that works.”

Small’s job not only works, it breeds more work — though Small wouldn’t tell it that way.

Small, the show’s executive producer, creator, lead guitarist and voice of many of the characters, finds himself touring with musicians as Dethklok yet again.

“[The live show] is a pre-animated, hour-long original piece that’s accompanied by the sound of Dethklok,” Small said. “Dethklok is there in animated form.”

Small, together with drummer Gene Hoglan, bassist Bryan Beller and guitarist Mike Keneally, performs the melodic metal like a pit orchestra, while the animated Dethklok appears projected on a large screen.

“People that normally would be moshing stop moshing and look at this gigantic thing that is happening,” Small said. “It’s a real compliment to the animation and the story.”

The animation is busy and stimulating, with gore and hyperbole seamlessly supporting Small’s macabre humor. Such adult-themed material makes it hard to imagine Small created “Home Movies.”

The music of Dethklok is heavy and in-your-face, with wailing, driving guitar riffs spattered with flourishes of Hoglan’s thunderous double-bass. The deep rumble of the Small-voiced frontman Nathan Explosion provides the lyrics.

The result is a multi-party interplay of Small’s creation. The music makes the TV show better while at the same time being essential to the believability of the fictional group.

Seeing performers capable of playing as Dethklok symbiotically aids the animation at work, breeding a very metal sort of mayhem.

“What happens first is the story of the episode, then I write the music,” Small said. “Basically the TV show is a demo of the song.”

The tour supports Dethklok’s third album and the release of season four of the show on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, while also generating hype for the show’s upcoming fifth season.

“There’s a certain amount of story I want to tell,” Small said. “Season five is going to be a longer narrative.”

Since Small likes changing things up, that may mean returning to the half-hour format of season three, rather than the quarter-hour episodes of season four. Regardless, Small will keep it fresh and interesting, if only for his own sake.

“I’m only excited if stuff is new to me — if I start repeating myself then it’s a job,” Small said. “The next thing I do will not be like ‘Metalocalypse’ whatsoever.”