Metalocalypse: Season 2 – Black Fire Upon Us

Metalocalypse: Season 2 – Black Fire Upon Us (2008)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Mark Hamill, Brendon Small, Tommy Blacha, Victor Brandt

Picture if you will, the prospect of Beavis and Butthead standing on the threshold of Hell with Josie and the Pussycats, the members of Spinal Tap and the creators of the animated high fantasy classic film Heavy Metal, with Cannibal Corpse serving as cabinet to a presidency by reclusive black metal prodigy Xasthur.

If you're a full-on metalhead, undoubtedly you're familiar with Cartoon Network's outlandish Metalocalypse, a series of 11-minute blasts of idiocy, gore and raging death metal brought to you by Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha. The unthinkable global popularity of Dethklok as the world's most hedonistic metal band and also one of the planet's richest group of individuals is a comical lampoon of not only the horror and metal genres, but especially big business—particularly the music business.

Dethklok is a mixed crew of American and Scandinavian death metallers who acknowledge their fame and fortune only through the irresponsible way they live their debauched lives filled with carnage, destruction, money pissing, a Jim Jones fanaticism from their fans which usually ends up in the latter's ghastly deaths, and of course a ton of cued thrash song breakaways .

For those of you uninitiated by this outrageous series, Dethklok (whose lineup consists of Nathan Explosion, Pickles the Drummer, William Murderface, Toki Wartooth and Skwisgaar Skwigelf) is managed by a clean-cut "suit" named Charles Foster Ofdensen, who acts as limited conscience to the band that would just as soon take their time recording their latest album as stuff firecrackers down each others' pants. Ofdensen is constantly scorned as "the man" by his childish clients, but his only self-serving motives are to protect Dethklok from would-be attackers, assassins and succubae, sometimes taking as much perverse pleasure as the band in watching grisly deaths spurt before them.

Forcing their audiences to sign "pain waivers" to absolve them of any negligence which assuredly occurs, the fact Dethklok leaves bloody carcasses in the wake of their live gigs is a huge running gag of the series. Playing out like every fantastical death and black metal album you've heard from Slayer's Reign in Blood to Death's Scream Bloody Gore to Cannibal Corpse's The Wretched Spawn, Metalocalypse flings as much over-the-top skin-melting and limb-tearing grue as it can possibly get away with.

Like South Park for more hardcore viewers, Metalocalypse recognizes the same demographic following heavy metal is equally infatuated with horror films and animation. A perfect marriage of blazing speed metal, jughead nihilism and more gratuitous sanguinary spraying than what coats Dead Alive, Metalocalypse through two seasons has pushed the envelope to the point of tearing it straight down the middle. Seriously, did anyone ever expect death metal to transcend Headbangers Ball and Fuse, much less You Tube and Decibel magazine?

Monitoring Dethklok's activities is a covert underground council known as The Tribunal, which consistently mulls over ways to put a stop to Dethklok's rampaging ways, or in the case of General Krozier, plotting full-scale offensives upon the band. Led by an enigmatic principal known as Mr. Selatcia, The Tribunal fails time and again to stop Dethklok's insurmountable bloodshed, much less convince their worldwide throng of fans they are being led like sheep to the proverbial slaughter.

Voices of the characters are fielded by Small and Blacha as well as Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell and Victor Brandt. The big to-do about Metalocalypse's propensity to "keep it real" is courtesy of voiceovers from a slew of real-life metal personalities such as King Diamond, Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield of Metallica, Jeff Loomis and Warrel Dane of Nevermore, Silenoz of Dimmu Borgir and Devin Townsend.

In Season 2 of Metalocalypse, more metal practitioners come to the round table of doom such as Mike Patton of Faith No More/Fantomas/Mr. Bungle/Tomahawk, Mike Amott and Angela Gassow of Arch Enemy, Samoth and Trym Torson of Emperor and Zyklon, Ihsahn of Emperor, Gene Hoglan of Strapping Young Lad/Death/Dark Angel/Testament, ex-Megadeth slinger Marty Friedman and returning for more chaos, George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher from Cannibal Corpse.

While The Tribunal gambits and stumbles with the same futility as Pinky and the Brain, Dethklok mauls through its second season in lowbrow fashion, peppered with continuous profanity (which is largely bleeped out with guitar twangs), breast and phallic humor and of course, unchained gore.

It helps if you really know your stuff in death and black metal to pick up on subtle hails to the genres such as a store named "Finntroll's" and "Marduk's" (both fan-favorite extreme bands) as well as the episode where Nathan Explosion preposterously usurps the mayor's seat in Florida. As Florida is considered a hotbed for contemporary death metal bands such as Cannibal Corpse and The Absence, Explosion's control of the state (a notoriously Republican one, at that) and his eventual screw-uppery makes it all the more hilarious in hindsight.

Additionally, Metalocaplyse takes swipes at inbred controversies within metal and music performance in general. In one episode, when Toki's abusive father is on his death bed, the band reluctantly accompanies him to Norway to pay final respects. Of course, everyone but Toki is bitching up a storm along the way about their unfinished album, much less their desire to do something more leisurely than travel cross-continent to watch someone die. Dig the implied charade here of a death metal band trying its damnedest to avoid a naturally-caused scene of death. Stopping in a town Toki grew up near, the band wanders into a black metal record store where the proprietor is painted in ghoul makeup and playing his own demo tapes filled with cacophonous screeching and howling you can only appreciate if you're deeply familiar with the form. When he calls Toki and Dethklok sellouts, you have to roar in laughter considering a sound as excessive as Dethklok's puts most people in real life off faster than limburger. In some ways, this subtle jibe is reflective of the attitude some black metal fans take where nothing else but certain dialects of blackness is "brutal" enough, as Dethklok is fond of saying.

In turn, Dethklok—and Metalocalypse by attrition—asserts its brutality by taking potshots at glam metal with persnickety segments in which the rise and fall of eighties pop rock, aka "hair metal" is torched at will. As Dethklok's Pickles is the former drummer to a Guns 'n Roses clone unit called Snakes 'n Barrels, their portrayed lewd and lascivious path of self-destruction is equivalent to GNR, much less Hanoi Rocks, Van Halen or even Warrant. Dethklok is naturally too heavy to associate itself with the hairball past and Metalocalypse has a field day sending David Lee Roth-types down the crapper of drug and booze ingestion, even in a clown-themed spoof band. As Mike Patton's apparently cleaned-up character Rikki Kixx attempts to tidy up rock 'n roll with a substance-free stance, you can only imagine Nathan Explosion's temperamental response to that.

The slosh-mouthed Murderface really champions himself in this season even as he continuously serves as the butt-end of the group. His position as bass player is relegated to a near scab position where his sense of self-worth is routinely up in the air. At one point, his bandmates harass the bejesus out of him with accusations of being a homosexual (where nearly every frame thereafter finds Murderface in precarious evidential circumstances, the most riotous his being caught eating a long sausage on a stick). In another episode, Murderface tries to write his own song after being derided by the band for his lack of original input. A grown-up Beavis, if you will, Murderface's moronic demeanor and follow-the-leader persona comes into private question when he attempts to organize a merged metal and car racing event, then freezes like an amateur at his press conference. Murderface is all-talk and all dupe, no matter how hard he tries to be the coolest member of the band or as he calls himself with saliva-laced melodrama, "a warrior." His shame goes to no limit in the attempt to avow himself, even playing bass with his exposed penis onstage.

As Season 2 of Metalocalypse ends in a bloody free-for-all in which newly-introduced characters, nemeses and even Charles Foster Ofdensen are all offered up on a dripping serving platter to the oblique apocalypse of this series, Nathan Explosion experiences a rare moment of redemption which leaves us in question to just how serious the underlying plot is going to delve in the third season which has already been given a green light.

No doubt Explosion would just as soon walk from the whole messy affair and listen to Celtic Frost's To Mega-Therion in his private chambers with a supermodel his bandmates haven't gotten to first servicing him while the world comes to its final end…