Brendon Small, Dethklok’s creator, has built an empire out of a cartoon. But it’s not any old empire, it’s a great one. This started as a review of Dethklok’s show at the Showbox on November 23rd. Once writing began, I realized this wasn’t going to be a usual show review. Here is what flowed out on the page.
The Black Daliah Murder was well received while All That Remains showed they are true professionals. Their set was sharp, clean and well delivered. The anthem-like, Emocore sound of the newer songs being the only letdown in an otherwise strong showing. Sadly, Machine Head was unable to perform, due to frontman Rob Flynn needing emergency hernia surgery which cost him 9 shows. It was disappointing, but I hope to catch them the next time around.
But this review isn’t about them. It’s about Dethklok.
First off, they were loud. I mean…really fucking loud. Just like you’d expect Dethklok to be. The drums, bass and shredding guitars thundering through your chest like you’d been kicked by a horse.
The show wasn’t perfect, there were moments when overworked vocals became garbled, ruining the pleasure of pretending to keep up with the words. Also, once or twice, (quite specifically during The Gears) the guitar work lost itsÂ precision, falling intoÂ an ‘any song’ type of feeling and killing the shows momentum. But, I’d rather the miscues and imperfections than a canned, lip-synch type show. Which is a possibility when your stage show is pre-recorded videos of cartoon characters and imagery projected on the stage backdrop.
Because Dethklok is based on a cartoon, it gives Small a platform of unfettered, song-writing freedom. He has the power to write songs on any subject at all. Not being hemmed in by the reality of Â genre specific constraints, he wades into social problems and issues. With his tongue firmly in cheek of course.
In many ways, he has the kind of freedom a comedian has when it comes to subject matter. Songs like Dethsupport, Symmetry, Crush The Industry and others, take on soaring medical costs, women’s body issues and other big social issues. Yes, Small’s views come wrapped in cartoon skulls, absurd graphic violence and moments of hilarious idiocy, but I’d argue this approach is much more successful than others with the metal community. Hard line stands and preaching inevitably lead to predictable ‘fuck off’ responses with this crowd. Small’s approach has a chance to get through to the masses and bring change to a stubborn, ornery crowd.
The most obvious of these moments was the ‘Public Service Announcement’ by “Facebones”, Dethklok’s mascot, Â proclaiming the average metal show has 27 males for every 1/3 female. Yes, this is how it was stated, this is still Dethklok after all. The message was simple and straight to the point, if guys wanted to see that change they needed to change as well. The “PSA” shamed male asshole behavior with wit and comedy, all the while trying to make the metal community a better place for it. Any band that will call out its own community in an effort to make it more inclusive, has my praise, support and utmost respect.
When the chant of “Dethklok” was taken up even after the traditional encore, the tossing of the picks into the crowd, final goodbyes and the venue lights being turned on, Small stopped, looked out at the crowd with what looked like genuine astonishment and said “Wow, you guys really are a great crowd.” Spoken so plainly and honestly in his own voice (his singing voice being that of Nathan Explosion) it felt genuine. I think Seattle might have actually impressed him.
All told, it was a great show. Metal at its absolute best. Heavy, loud and served with a side of campiness, fun and self awareness.