Monday, October 22, 2012

Dethklok - Dethalbum III (2012)

There was a time when the promise of a third Dethalbum installment seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream. It seemed as though the world's biggest death metal band had simply... ceased to be. But somewhere on a Twitter timeline, show creator and band main man Brendon Small set the gears in motion. One screen capture of a desktop, with a single folder marked "Dethalbum III" was all the world needed to see. Harvested from the episodes that have made up the four seasons of Metalocalypse, the twelve tracks presented are exactly what you would expect from the band you once pledged to die for. But can this last piece of the trilogy live up to the hype, and sales, of the first two?

In what became an internet sensation, "I Ejaculate Fire" serves as the opening track and first single. Musically, you get all of the Dethklok regulars. gene Hoglan's drum patterns are dizzying, with a constant thumping of kicks, snares, and toms. Small's guitar playing is key, though, as he variety of riffs and chord changes keeps the track balanced at all times. The vocals, a portrayal of frontman Nathan Explosion, have once again evolved slightly, losing more of that low growl in favor of a more blackened screech. An immediate highlight comes in the form of "Crush The Industry," a track that appeared almost in full on a Metalocalypse episode, and was quickly identified from the opening galloping drums and guitars. The darting notes in the verse are merely a build up to an explosive chorus, one that is almost too good for its own good. The rest of track, as good as it is - including a unique solo - can't measure up. But the all out blitz of "Andromeda" is the closest thing to pure death metal that you will get on the album, a three and a half minute pounding at the hands of rolling double kicks and rapid fire snares. Hoglan stars, punishing you at every twist and turn, while Small screams ahead on a gritty vocal track.

if there was one track that stood out from the rest, it would be "The Galaxy," a surprisingly melodic instrumental turned dynamic screamer. Reminiscent of the classic "Go Into The Water," it embodies so much of the Dethklok catalog, while removing the humor all together. But packed in to this five minute experience is a wealth of memorable riffs, but lead and rhythm, and what may be the best lyrical performance on the album. Provided in droves is the clip of Small growling, "This is the beginning," something that rings out long after the track is done. There is a heavier guitar groove on "Starved," though it takes a back seat to Bryan Beller's bass line. Following what is arguably the best track on the album does this one no favors, highlighting the more simplistic nature of it all. It isn't until the second half blast tat you get truly sucked in to what is happening around you. That isn't the case on the aptly titled "Killstardo Abominate," which is an absolute pummeling. Taken from the adventure of Pickles going to rehab, Hoglan does wonders in replacing the fabled drum machine, though executing the fabled hexikicks might be too much for even his legendary legs.

In the second half of the album, starting with "Ghostqueen," Small and company try to settle into to a more prolific, but balanced attack. Coming together is unison in flurry of stick swings, string slaps and picks, there is certainly a perfect opportunity to get your head moving here. You can hear the bass strings rumble and vibrate after every note is struck. But there are moments, specifically around the midway point, where the punk influence creeps through and takes things in a different direction. But somehow, Small manages to right the ship with what seems like a second tier solo, coming from a master of his caliber. When you name a song "Impeach God," you had better bring the fire. And with one of the best riffs on the album, the trio does exactly that. Even the echoing vocal effect used on the bridge growls is perfectly used and timed. And the lyrics, however tongue in cheek they may be, boast some of the best Dethklok writing to date. By the time you've gotten to "Biological Warfare," you have been treated to a myriad of styles and tempo changes. But this one throws things into a different gear, giving you a melodic lead riff, with a beautifully syncopated drum part that slows and speeds at will. And the bass work of Beller and guitar work of Small echoes that in every second.

The other standout track is "Skyhunter," also easily recognizable from the show itself. The track sees a more focused vocal track, layered atop catchy guitar riffs and a sea of kick drums that seems to go on forever. Small wastes no time unleashes flurry after flurry of guitar solos, culminating in a screaming bridge that shakes the walls around you. Much like the man he represents, Hoglan does wonders behind the drum kit. It would be hard to find the basis for "The Hammer," or what the intention of the track was. You find yourself in a more stripped down verse section, with more basic guitar parts behind crashing cymbals. Things ebb and flow along the course of four minutes, but there isn't that one moment where it all comes together in the way you expect. It wouldn't be a stretch to label this one as the weakest on the album. But the opening drum beat on "Rejoin" may immediately wash that away with memories of "Murmaider." And while this track is not a continuation of that saga, it does embody a lot of the darkness and evil. With no time left to hold back, the entire band gives their best shot, leaving you punch drunk from riffs, drums and a steady handed bass line. You end up with the perfect bookend for the album here, finishing on a strong point.

Fans of Dethklok, musically or otherwise, will find a lot to appreciate on this latest offering. The musicianship of the three men behind the curtain has met, if not exceeded, all expectation. But the one thing that is lacking is the presence of a signature track, one that will be mentioned by every listener as their favorite. It is missing a single song that embodies everything our favorite rascally goofballs have shown us over the years. There are highlights and, unlike its predecessors, "Dethalbum III" has some filler material that just doesn't live up to the name on the album cover. It isn't that any of those moments are bad, but they just don't pack that same brutal punch we have come to cherish. For a metal album, this is a gem. But for a Dethklok album, it is merely better than the acceptable.


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