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Brendon Small did not create this album under Dethklok's name because it is not a Dethklok album: it is a product of Metalocalypse. I believe this is a crucial idea to keep in mind when approaching this album. At times, the music becomes painfully goofy. I consider myself an avid fan of Metalocalypse, and the absurdity of this project became a little too much for me at times. That being said, the album has definite musical merit and really is an impressive feat, albeit with definite flaws. Anyone who isn't a fan of the show may find those flaws too glaring to really enjoy the music.
For those who are unaware, this album is the soundtrack to the Doomstar Requiem, a 47 rock opera created for the TV show Metalocalypse. If you don't know what Metalocalypse is, you should walk away as this is a terrible place to begin. Those who know Metalocalypse will immediately realize the largest issue of this album, "How do you create a musical with a cast of characters with deliberately ridiculous voices?" For the most part, the answer is, "With a sense of humor," and the results range from hysterical to grating. Amazingly, Small actually crafts decently melodic singing voices for characters that, while still distinctly obnoxious and recognizable, blend really well with the instrumentation. During "The Crossroads," Murderface's trademark nasally lisp complements the suspenseful orchestration, while he, Pickles, and Nathan achieve a wonderful harmony in "Some Time Ago..." Pickles voice in particular deserves special recognition for its delightfully rough and dramatic tone, especially in "Blazing Star," which will sound familiar to any fan of the episode "Rehabklok." Special recognition is also owed to George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher who provides a phenomenal growl for the main villain that even a non Cannibal Corpse fan like myself could find spectacular. At times Brendon, who provided around 50% of the vocals, is less successful. The first sung lines of the album are particularly painful, and I was greatly disappointed to hear Offdensen singing with such tense, unpleasant vocal quality. While the vocals are hands down the weakest part of the album, I urge any listener to give the music a chance past the off-key beginnings, as Brendon develops the various parts into much cleaner roles during the second half. Still, you shouldn't expect the musical to take home Tonys anytime soon.
Underneath the shaky vocals, the instrumentation creates an astounding foundation for the album. Brendon's typical shredding guitar work is present and makes a triumphant appearance in "The Duel." In addition to the usual kickass melodic death metal sound that Brendon and Gene Holgan have developed for Dethklok, Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead) composes a phenomenal fifty-piece orchestra that defines the dramatic movement of the musical with really powerful melodies. If you're into classical music, the last track on the album, "Doomstar Orchestra," is a quite moving piece. Throughout the rest of the album, Brendon carefully complements the rousing violins with thick riffs and pounding drums. The best example of this is "En Antris Et Stella Fatum Cruenti" where the guitar and drums mark a delightful staccato with the orchestra before Fisher's vocals tear through the scene. Dethklok is not symphonic metal. Nevertheless, the music here is a powerful testament to the ability of classical music and metal to coexist in a single dramatic statement.
The overall vibe of the album is difficult to describe. In many ways, this is not a metal album. Some songs ("Magnus and the Assassin," "Blazing Star") are solid metal pieces with powerful riffs and vicious vocals. When Nathan provides full, honest-to-god metal vocals, they are perfectly executed. It is a full, scathing texture that Brendon has improved upon in every album and carries so much raw power that can be heard in "The Depths of Humanity." More often though, the songs are cheery, even cheesy, to fit the humor of the musical. Somewhat of a "Thriller" parody, "Givin' Back to You," is practically a pop song that is admittedly quite catchy. If you go in expecting all metal, all the time, you are going to be disappointed. In no way should the non-metal pieces be discarded though. The clean melody that Brendon delivers in the voice of Ishnifus builds to several fantastic climaxes, such as in "Training," and the pop quality of the songs often contribute to their humor, such as in "Abigail's Lullaby," where Raya Yarbrough cheerfully describes their gory doom. I will reiterate that this album is intended for fans of the show. The tongue-in-cheek take on a musical will seem idiotic to anyone who doesn't appreciate the usual humor of Metalocalypse and the campy music will put off anyone expecting an actual metal album.
For what the album attempts, it does a remarkable job. The lyrics are funny, the music is appropriately intense at moments, and the album covers a wide range of genres with a definite metal background. The overall vision of the album is simply not going to work for some people though, and the attempt is not perfect enough to be appreciated for sheer musical merit. For a straightforward melodic death metal sound, stick with regular Dethklok. If you are interested in the usual light-hearted approach to metal Metalocalypse provides, this album also provides just enough musical innovation to be truly entertaining and I strongly recommend it. Better yet, watch the musical!
Also, if nothing else you should listen to "A Traitor Amongst Them" just to hear how terrible Mark Hammil is at singing.