Adult Swim's Metalocalypse follows the exploits of Dethklok, the Earth's most popular heavy metal band. This band is so popular that they've become one of the largest economies in the world. They fly around in a gigantic metal helicopter and employ thousands of hooded minions, dubbed 'the Klokateers,' to cater to their every whim while lounging around their compound, Mordhaus. When they're not delivering huge concerts to thousands upon thousands of fans who are willing to put their lives at risk or recording the most brutal albums in history, they're generally hanging around playing video games or drinking.
The band is made up of five members: vocalist and lyrical genius Nathan Explosion (voiced by co-creator and co-writer Brendon Small), second fastest guitar player in the world Toki Wartooth (voiced by co-creator and co-writer Tommy Blacha), the hateful bass player William Murderface (Blacha), fastest guitar player in the world Skwisgaar Skwigelf (Small), and former 'Snakes N Barrels' member Pickles the drummer (Small). Each band member has his own unique personality, whether it be Murderface's penchant for war and women hating, Toki's love of coke snorting clowns, Skwisgaar's holier-than-thou attitude and incredibly condescending manners, Pickle's penchant for booze and drugs or Nathan's love of all things brutal. Individually, they are strong, but as Dethklok, they are unstoppable!
So powerful are they that a covert group made up of powerful military types like General Krosier (Victor Brandt), Senator Stampington (Mark Hamill) and Vater Orlaag (Malcolm McDowell) have joined together to monitor Dethklok's every move. They know that if they don't periodically interfere that the band will become even more powerful than they already are and seeing as they're already the seventh strongest economy on the planet, they don't want that, particularly as it looks more and more like Dethklok could very well bring about the end of the world!
So the series is about a metal band and a bunch of suits who keep tabs on them? Yeah, basically it is. Well, that and ultra-violence. Each and every episode finds Dethklok getting into some sort of predicament usually resulting in fans, employees or would-be assassins getting killed in incredibly creative and gory ways. But if you saw the first season, you know that already. This season picks up right where the first one left off. A few characters from the first batch return here, like Dr. Rockso The Rock N Roll Clown, and some of the jokes that made the first season so fun carry over through this latest batch, like the whole coffee sponsorship gag. Even Nathan's love life from the first season has an effect on this latest batch, so while you don't necessarily have to have the continuity of Season One memorized, you will definitely get more out of the material if you watch it chronological order. Another interesting note about this second run of episodes is that we get a look at some of the band members' history. We meet Toki's father, Pickles' brother Seth, we learn some about Nathan's native heritage.
All of these crazy high jinks play out to a pretty authentic sounding black metal soundtrack courtesy of Brendon Small and while the lyrics can be tough to make out sometimes (they're sun in a low pitched, growly death metal style), they really do add another layer of satirical humor to an already hilarious show. If you can't understand what Nathan's grunting about during the musical bits, feel free to turn on the subtitles as if you miss out on the lyrics, you're missing out of half of the jokes.
While a pre-existing affinity for metal will probably help viewers enjoy the show more, it isn't required. There's enough clever dialogue, flat out strange and random lines and grisly sight gags to ensure that as long as you've got a warped sense of humor you'll find something to appreciate. That said, one of the things that really makes Metalocalypse work is that the writers are obviously heavy metal fans themselves and as such they pack in a lot of odd, quirky little references to real life bands (look for a cop named Officer Goatwhore!). These work as great little in-jokes and just add to the show's quirky, off the wall humor.
The episodes in this set, which make up the complete second season of the show, are presented in the following order:
Dethecution: After the events that took place the last time the band played, they're hesitant to get back in front of a live audience until their manager, Charles, tells them that he's found them the perfect gig - they'll get to choose how 200 inmates are executed and perform while those same criminals are put to death. Brutal!
Dethlessons: Toki is tired of always playing rhythm guitar to Skwisgaar's lead guitar and so he decides to take lessons from a strange, burnt out, reclusive guitar master. This gets Skwisgaar worried that his time as the lead guitar player in Dethklok is limited.
Dethvengeance: While some jaded fans of the band form a coalition against Dethklok, the band decides that the only way to capture the type of sound they want for their new album is to record directly onto... water.
Dethdoubles: When a Duncan Hills Coffee opening goes horribly wrong and ends in a shoot out, Charles decides that the band should use body doubles for the rest of their public appearances. What Charles doesn't bank on is the band members befriending their doubles.
Dethfashion: The members of Dethklok decide that they need to conquer the world of fashion in the same way they've conquered the world of metal. They bring on a mass murdering designer to create for them the most brutal clothing line of all... and then find out that they're all too fat to wear their own clothes.
Cleanso: Dr. Rockso The Rock N Roll Clown has hit rock bottom and is selling his body for drug money. There's only one person he can turn to for help, and that's Toki, who takes him in and tries to get him off of cocaine for good.
Dethwedding: Back in Wisconsin, Pickles' dirt bag of a brother, Seth, is getting married and he wants the band to show up because they're rich and they'll bring great gifts and pay for his bachelor party. Pickles doesn't want to go but the rest of the band can't resist the lure of family drama.
P.R. Pickles: Pickles decides to get out from behind the drum kit and let the public get to know him by hiring a strange public relations woman to help his star rise. It works, and after a few drunken interviews, the rest of the band members get jealous and decide to start their own public relations company.
Dethcarraldo: When Nathan sees a documentary on the Amazon jungle that explains the cannibalistic roots of his ancestors, he and the rest of the band decide to travel to the heart of the jungle and explore it themselves. Werner Herzog fans will get more out of this than anyone else.
Dethgov: When the governor of Florida is murdered by Dethklok fans for saying mean things about Nathan, an election is held and Nathan is elected in his place. He reluctantly accepts, puts the rest of the band in charge of the state, and turns Florida into the most brutal part of the country.
Dethrace: William 'Friend of Nascar' Murderface is ridiculed for playing the national anthem on his bass guitar with his penis and is rejected by the organization. He decides to create his own bigger and better racing event, while Skwisgaar and Toki try to learn to drive themselves.
The Revengencers: When an completely coincidental explosion occurs at another Duncan Hills Coffee shop, Charles talks Dethklok into performing a benefit concert for the injured unaware that the aforementioned group of jaded fans are planning to kill the band.
Klokblocked: When Nathan's ex-girlfriend leaves him, he's officially back on the market and ready to start dating again. He asks the band members to try not to act too odd around the girls he'll be bringing home but soon finds that they're acting a little too nice to his recent batch of lady friends.
Dethsources: Dethklok get angry with Charles when he won't get them more than $100,000.00 a week in allowance money so they hire a new manager who will hang out with them, get drunk with them, and more or less let them do whatever they want to show them the business side of things.
Dethdad: Toki learns that his father is on his deathbed and so he and Dethklok voyage back to Norway to see him off. Toki's obviously there for family reasons but the rest of the band are there to stall on their latest job - recording the new record.
Snakes N Barrels II Part 1: Pickles finds out that his former band are reforming and performing with a new lead singer, Rikki Kixx (voiced by Mike Patton!), the man who runs the sobriety clinic where they got clean. He freaks out and loses his temper and heads off to Los Angeles...
Snakes N Barrels II Part 2:... where he and the other band members crash the 'Sobertown USA No Drugs Allowed Rock N Roll Show' that Snakes N Barrels are headlining along with the man formerly known as Dr. Rockso.
Dethrecord: Dethklok is finally in the home stretches of finishing up their new album, just in time to save the world's failing economy.
Dethrelease: As the band plan's the release of their new album by hosting a massive release party at their compound, the Revengencers are launching their latest attack with the help of a group of women who want Nathan's seed. Like the final episode of the first season, this one ends on a bit of a cliffhanger...
Metalocalypse looks pretty good here and it's nice to see that the episodes are presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen (the first volume was not 16x9 enhanced). The series is intentionally pretty dark with a lot of blacks, browns and reds used so don't expect a particularly bright color palette here but color reproduction is pretty much spot on and there are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts. Some slight line shimmering shows up here and there but at least the picture is consistently clean. Overall, the video quality is very good.
Each and every episode in the set is presented in English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with optional subtitles in English, French and Spanish. A 5.1 mix would have been fun for a few of the more chaotic moments but for the most part the stereo track gets the job done well. Dialogue is clean and clear though some may have trouble with a few of the characters' accents or with deciphering the lyrics to some of the songs (the subs provide help here if you need it). The low end sounds nice and growly during the songs and channel separation adds some atmosphere to certain scenes when its required.
In a rather strange but amusing move, Adult Swim have once again opted to hide all the supplements for this release as Easter Eggs. Most of this material can be found easily enough by moving the menu icon around on the main menu screen near the logo at the top, or in the episode selection screen.
Hidden on the first disc are two extended bits from the Dethcarraldo episode (2:02 and 2:47), a video tour of some of the band's possessions that lay around Mordhaus given by Bone Face (4:48), a clip of Charles taking care of some business on the phone (11:31), a clip where Murdeface takes a call during a performance much to the dismay of the audience around him (8:20), a clip of Toki playing video games (0:44), a video for the Dethklok song 'Mermaider' from The Dethalbum (3:17), a clip of a man watching a newscast about Mordhause (2:42), and a clip of the band all hiding in the closet in the naming bands that they like (25:29).
Disc two contains a list of DVD credits (0:19), a 'Klokateers: In Memoriam' bit which is basically a slideshow honoring Dethklok's fallen soldiers (4:03), a conversation between the band and Charles about drinking (1:22), an extended scene from the band's attendance at the NASCAR race (1:27), a clip of Nathan reading Shakespeare's 'Titus' Andronicus' in the studio (23:45 - watch it all the way through, the ending is hilarious), a bit from the band's airborne concert (0:24), a clip of the lead Revengencer swimming... sort of (0:51), a clip of the group that monitors the band adjusting their gear (5:10), a clip showing a portable stereo playing the unabridged version of Toki and Murderface's recording session (14:02), and the video for 'Bloodrocuted' from the Dethalbum (2:22).
Both discs contain some eerie menus as well as episode selection and 'play all' options. The two DVDs are housed inside a fold out case that in turn sits inside a metallic slipcase.
One of the best animated series out there gets a nice second season release. Metalocalypse Season II: Black Fire Upon Us is as clever as it is over the top and the show looks and sounds great in this collection. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.