After murdering hundreds of its fans — mostly by mistake — a death-metal band named Dethklok has become the 12th largest economy in the world (just above Belgium). This billionaire act is so powerful that a secretive think tank known as the Tribunal, made up of high-ranking military and religious leaders, is seeking to destroy it. Though they're incredible numbskulls (even by metal standards), the band members have managed to thwart the Tribunal's assassins and continue to rock for their rapacious fans. Of course, Dethklok is a cartoon group created by Tommy Blacha, who wrote for Da Ali G Show, and Brendon Small, who was responsible for the television series Home Movies. Their animated program Metalocalypse, filled with wanton violence and mayhem in every episode, appears on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming. Despite its absurd premise, brutal 11:45 p.m. Sunday screening slot, and scant 11-minute episode length, the year-old Metalocalypse has become to death-metalers what Hee-Haw once was for hillbillies — a cult series that parodies a music genre while also giving the necessary attention to its merits.
As with Hee-Haw's Kornfield Kounty gang, it's hard not to have a favorite member of the Dethklok crew. An all-powerful band of fierce metal warriors, Dethklok is led by singer Nathan Explosion, a burly fellow who howls, grunts, and converses in the Cookie Monster–speak favored by death-metal vocalists. The band's two Scandinavian guitarists are Skwisgaar Skwigelf, the agile lead who is also a member of the nude Civil War–themed Depantsification Proclamation, and Toki Wartooth, whose Barney-like innocence has inspired adoration by children the world over. William Murderface is the moody, lisping bassist sporting stomach tattoos that read "Pobody's Nerfekt" and "This Mess is a Place." Pickles the Drummer was once the singer of a glam band called Snakes 'n' Barrels (modeled hilariously on Guns 'n' Roses), which has occasioned derision from his bandmates.
The humor in Metalocalypse works because the show cleverly spoofs the minutiae of the subgenre. All members of Dethklok have their own endorsement deals. Nathan has his own barbecue sauce. Pickles authorizes coins called Pickles' Nickels for the United States Treasury, while Murderface hawks a brand of doorknobs called Murderknobs. Skwisgaar starred in an instructional guitar player infomercial, but became incensed when his producer couldn't get him real dragons for the show. In this way, the underground world of extreme metal collides ridiculously with consumer banality.
Of course, not every death-metaler will find Metalocalypse funny. The show mocks a style of music that almost never laughs at itself. (Humor is very threatening to death metal's gloomy, carcass-strewn landscape.) However, rockers with a sense of irony have embraced the show, leaving comments on Dethklok's MySpace page like "If only the real world was as metal as the one you guys have created." Even icons like King Diamond, James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica, and George "Corpse-grinder" Fisher of Cannibal Corpse have all given their approval, in the form of being guest voices on the show. And the franchise has recently spawned limited-edition action figures of Deth-klok, a DVD of the first season, and The Dethalbum, which features music written and performed by Brendon Small.
There may never be another TV show about death metal for heshers to adore, but for now, thank Lucifer there's Metalocalypse.