ADULT SWIM'S Metalocalypse has given birth to perhaps the world's preeminent parody band: Dethklok. In the series, death metal juggernauts Dethklok are the world's most popular band, yielding the planet's 12th largest economy and garnering the attention of a secret government think-tank known as the Tribunal. Characterizing the band as a dysfunctional yet triumphant train wreck of metal clichés, the series is piss-your-pants hilarious. In an art-imitating-life turn of events, the real-life incarnation of the fictional act is co-headlining a tour with Mastodon and being supported by metal stalwarts High on Fire and Converge.
A recent conversation with series co-creator Brendon Small has revealed that this Berklee College of Music graduate is a creative wellspring as well as a long-standing metal fanatic with a healthy appreciation for the genre he so lovingly lampoons. Citing Metallica, King Diamond, Exodus, and Death Angel as early influences, Small composes and plays guitar on all of the music for the series, which boasts a list of contributors that reads like a who's who of the metal universe—from members of Iced Earth to Dimmu Borgir. Small also ably engages in real-time axe shredding for the live performances.
This begs the question, how does an animated band perform live? Small explains that the mechanics of the performance arm of the band are that of a pit band playing to the projected animated image of Dethklok; think Gorillaz with enormous brass cojones.
As with any genre that takes itself too seriously, Dethklok's pole position in the metal dominion has its chat-room detractors. Of these humorless curs Small says, "This show is for the kind of people that would get the joke. I respect someone who gets the joke and doesn't like it more than somebody who just doesn't get the joke... they actually have something wrong with their brains if they don't understand humor. That person's more dangerous than anybody."
Metalocalypse's real-life success has upped the ante for Small. In addition to making the jump from 11-minute to 21-minute episodes, he is embarking on a seven-week tour with some of the heaviest hitters in the metal game. Though Small says that doing a tour while simultaneously completing the production of the show "doesn't make my job any easier," he remains optimistic. "So far our only goal with the show is to make it work and to be funny and to not be boring. It's a very simple goal. And that's the same with music. I want it to sound interesting enough that it gets you through the song. And then you'll maybe want to listen to it again."
When posed with the inevitable question about a possible Metalocalypse movie, Small explains that while he'd "love to do it," he has some reservations about quick releasing a film to cash in on the show's following. "I'd like to make it really good, not just kind of try to beat the clock." After that? Small says. "I keep increasing my role [in Metalocalypse] somehow when I'm trying to back off and get a vacation." I suppose if you can pull off simultaneously executing a tour with the biggest acts in metal, while doubling the length of your hit animated series, you deserve a vacation—especially when you're the 12th largest economy in the world.