METALOCAPLYPSE: SEASON 4 – DVD review

For three seasons of the Adult Swim animated series “Metalocalypse”, viewers have followed the chaotic, clueless, blood-soaked parade that is the band Dethklok. The most popular band in the world, so popular they are the world’s seventh largest economy, the members of Dethklok grapple with the problems of fame, oral sex, accusations of racism, and album credits. Meanwhile, a shadowy cabal known only as The Tribunal plots against Dethklok and follows a mysterious prophecy foretold long ago…

Now Adult Swim has released the complete fourth season on DVD, where Dethklok finds out their true destiny, and The Tribunal’s ominous Falconback Project reaches a critical moment.

The series, created by Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha, is both parody and loving tribute to the world of metal, with a dark and somber tonal palette to the backgrounds and settings, but a swaggering, foul-mouthed attitude and slaughterhouse sense of humor. Band members Nathan Explosion, William Murderface, Skwisgaar Skwigelf, Pickles, and Toki Wartooth are masters of metal music, but simpletons in every other respect, kept out of the abyss of self-destruction only by the actions of their manager, Charles Foster Offdensen.

Because of their popularity and economic power, the band members answer to no one except their manager, and because of their total obliviousness, destruction and mayhem follow them wherever they go. A typical episode features a sequence of hyperbolic bloody violence, usually set at a Dethklok concert, where stage sets and props become inadvertent implements of destruction, and fans meet their demise in ingenious, Grand Guignol fashion.

As with most productions in the Adult Swim line-up, this is clearly not a show for every taste. The scripts are laced with constant profanity and sexual content, (‘bleeped’ in the on-air version by a trademark guitar squonk, but unedited in this DVD release). The gore is so over-the-top it borders on the surreal, and the writing is occasionally uneven and self-indulgent. In Season 4, this is readily apparent in the last few episodes as the season approaches its finish.

But the show has secured a cult following for a reason, and there is much to recommend for the adventurous here. The animation is generally first rate, with great care lavished on a consistent look for the world of Dethklok, and imaginative use of  “metal-ized” elements of Norse mythology. The scripts get a lot of mileage out of the characters’ various verbal ticks and accents, and the voice characterizations are often hilarious (see Toki’s mangling of verb tenses). Much care is put into the creation and production of the band’s music (three collections of the series’ music have been released under the Dethklok name).

The short, 11-minute running time for each episode is a departure from the 21-minute length of the third season episodes. Like the first two seasons, this increases the peaks-or-valleys effect, letting the viewer off the hook in the weaker episodes but nicely focusing the better scripts.

Episodes in this two-disc set:

  • “Fanklok:”: The band returns from their exile at the end of season three, and Nathan dates a Dethklok fan, much to the dismay of his bandmates
  • “Diversityklok”: The band is accused of racism, and Offdensen engineers a PR response that the band screws up in epic fashion. The closing sequence is a gem.
  • “Prankklok”: Dethklok’s new album ships out, and phone pranks occupy the band members’ time.
  • “Motherklok”: One of the best episodes in the season. Months after the destruction of their album and the resulting plunge in the world economy, the band builds a theme park and gives a free concert with predictable results.
  • “Booklok”: Toki writes a tell-all book after his envy of Skwisgaar reaches boiling point, and the rest of the band finds excitement with a defibrillator. The title of the book still makes me laugh.
  • “Writersklok”: During a bout of writer’s block, the band’s producer Dick Knubbler is fired, and female producer Angela is brought in (voiced by Janeane Garofalo)
  • “Dethcamp”: Toki goes to rock ‘n’ roll fantasy camp, and meets up with vengeance-minded former Dethklok guitarist Magnus Hammersmith
  • “Dethvanity”: After being named “brutalest looking” musician, Murderface gets cheap plastic surgery, and the band is named”#1 Ageing Rockers”
  • “Going Downklok”: The season reaches its lowpoint in a stridently unfunny episode, as the band goes under the sea to record their new album with producer Angela, and can’t have sex.
  • “Dethdinner”: The most annoying character in the show returns–heavy metal clown and coke addict Dr. Rockzo. Tensions among the band members mount, and reach a breaking point at a formal dinner.
  • “Breakup klok”: The band acrimoniously dissolves under the tension, and the world mourns the end of Dethklok as the band members fail spectacularly in their new ventures.
  • “Church of the Black Klok”: The band goes to play their final concert in Iceland, and is brought face-to-face with the leader of The Tribunal, his awesome powers, and the story of the Apocalypse of Metal.

Video:
This DVD release is presented in letterbox format. The digital transfer is good, and the animation looks vibrant. There is a sub-title track for the hearing impaired.

Audio:
Presented in Dolby digital, the audio is fine, and metal fans can turn the music sequences up nice and loud. No audio options are available in the set up menu.

Extras:
On Disc One:

  • “Nathan Reads Shakespeare 4”: Nathan Explosion spends 90 minutes (!!) not recording a book on tape of “A Comedy of Errors”, instead talking about anything else that comes to mind. Play this in the background when you do your Christmas cards.

A full helping of extras on Disc Two:

  • “Pickles Flyby”: For no apparent reason, Pickles floats in a clear cube through a series of backdrops used in the season, and comments in stream-of consciousness style.
  • “Stares Downs 1,2 and 3”: Toki and Skwisgaar engage in a best-out-of-three stare down
  • “The Prophecy”: A full version of the prophecy, intoned by director Werner Herzog, who also voices the leader of the Church of the Black Klok.
  • “Murder Thoughts”: Murderface contemplates what his new face might look like. Not nearly as funny as you might hope.
  • “Dr. Rockzo’s Greatest Hits”: An advertisement for the titular album. The song titles are great, if you can stand the sound of the Dr.’s grating voice.
  • “CFO Raps”: Offdensen raps about his job. Bone dry and funny
  • “Fan Art”: An interesting slide show of Dethklok fan art and loyal weirdness.
  • “The Dethgame”: Sharp, funny animated short featuring a Dethklok trivia-and-torture game show.
  • Special features credits page

Parting thoughts:
Not exactly everyone’s cup of tea, or pair of leather pants, but visual imagination, wild plotting, set-piece flair, and witty characterizations boost Metalocaplypse: Season 4. The animation is flavorful, and helps lift up even the weaker episodes.

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