Metalocalypse creator Brendon Small can claim a most unique approach to writing, playing, and producing the heavy metal music that is the 2009 CD “Dethalbum II” and that is metal by design. Small, unlike any other artist, isn’t writing for himself; he writes for what should be the appropriate sound for Dethklok
- the animated metal quintet described on the show as the greatest band on the planet. Whatever sounds, tones, phrases, styles, and tempos Small considers as qualified for Dethklok
music is put in, even if it appears to be typical, stock, or worse - borrowed. Of course, that is the advantage of writing under this parameter - done poorly and it is Dethklok
and the show Metalocalypse that will be criticized and perhaps suffer - Brendon Small will not. Done well, and Small is a genius with comparable metallic flare. With that being said, “Dethalbum II” is a very well designed, expertly produced, and skillfully played metal album.
Even though Dethklok
is purported to be a Scandinavian metal band, Small has expanded the overall style of the music to include shades of thrash (“Comet Song”, “Murmaider II: The Water God
”), death (“The Gears”), symphonic/epic (“Volcano
”), black - both traditional and contemporary - (“Laser Cannon
”) and even punk (“Dethsupport”) and 90’s metal (“Symmetry
”). Commonalities linking the album are tempo (no slow songs - mid-tempo to fast and aggressive) and tone - of which Small and superstar guest drummer Gene
, SYL) are both masters of. The drums are thunderous, while the rhythm guitars are full-bodied, and razor sharp. All of this is enhanced by the production: “Dethalbum II” is a well recorded album. Nothing
is muffled, and everything is picked up - you can actually hear the picking on the high lead notes on “Black Fire
Upon Us” for example.
Lyrically, some of the themes are closely tied to the show, and to a fault it can lessen the overall value of a given track if one is unfamiliar to the series-connected context, but for the most part it’s the music that is the driving force of “Dethalbum II” and to be fair some songs do have lyrics that provide excellent socio/political commentary (“Dethsupport”) while others sport a contrived prose that is simply essential if not complimentary to the music it is coupled with (“Bloodlines”, “Black Fire
Still, there is a stangeness to the project that can not be ignored - again referring to the original premise of “Dethalbum II” - which is two fold. One is a complete lack of persuasion in the music as orchestrated by Small. There are no hooks and no discernable chorus lines that instantly resonate with the listener (“Laser Cannon
“ is a most noteable exception with is machine gun-like delivery of the word ‘die‘). Second, is what appears to be a more personal agenda on the part of Small to showcase his musicianship (which is very good; it should be stated) over staying within the confines of the characters that make up Dethklok
. Pound for pound, there are more dubbed dual leads, duets, lead line defining themes, and overall lead work than any other output by any other instrumental track. Debatable to be sure, but the result is a sound less likely by Swisgaar Skwigelf and more like Brandon Small. Had there been perhaps a guest lead guitarist to emulate “the fastest guitarist alive” on a couple tracks, this alternative motive may not be so noticeable.
Regardless, Brendon Small and Gene
Hoglan play perfectly together, and under the creative umbrella that is Dethklok
, these tracks more than appropriately serve the animated series very well. They are great sounding tracks that perfectly signify and emulate what great metal is all about, making “Dethalbum II” one of the best conceptual metal projects to have come out in 2009.