Album Review: Dethklok - "Dethalbum III"

What makes Dethklok unique among gimmick bands (which is not an insult, merely a fact,) is that the “band” plays the role totally straight. Most metal fans’ exposure to the blend of comedy and metal comes through bands like GWAR or Haunted Garage, who make no secret of their over-the-top motives. Even the mighty Spinal Tap played up their persona, skillfully reveling in and mocking the signature characteristics of metal.

Yet, in Dethklok’s reality, they are the biggest musicial entity in the history of creation, a veritable cultural, economic and political tent pole, which is very serious stuff. As impossible as it seems, Brendon Small and company play songs like “I Ejaculate Fire” with dead-on conviction, which not only lends the alum a strange credence, but certifies that these songs are not half-assed.

This is a credit to the agile mind of Small, creator of Dethklok in both musical and televised form. His dedication to the minutiae of album creation is exemplary, particular when his mind is also busy writing an entire television season and playing the parts of five separate entities.

At its base, "Dethalbum III" is a loving homage to the triplet riff and the layered harmonies that Small holds so dear. Each song boils down to the stars of the show, which are the agile and adaptable riffs that Small employs to create a sense of urgency. As though his guitar was set to fire three-shot bursts, Small gallops his way through almost every track, letting his songs be carried by riffs which dictate the album's cadence.

There is an added injection of melody in this go around for Dethklok, as Small not only hammers his riffs home, but accentuates them with catchy and inventive measures. The album is at its soaring best when it allows the guitar to be front and center, above all other pieces. There’s three-song set on the back half beginning with “Biological Warfare,” which is a multi-faceted showpiece, which carries the weight of the entire record on its back and makes the strongest collective statement. The opener to the trifecta is followed by “Skyhunter,” which bleeds with speedy-riffs and borrowed-from-power-metal high flying melodies. Lastly comes “The Hammer,” which Small allows to live up to its name by spreading out the music and allowing open space to pop the up and down nature of the riff. This window offers the best glimpse of the talent of Small and by extension, Dethklok.

It is curious in retrospect to hear these songs that are amped-out cousins of the songs on this year’s “Galaktikon” release, and to go back and hear that second group of songs as it could have been on “Dethalbum III.”

Like all vanity and purely inventive projects of this nature, "Dethalbum III" carries some faults. The emphasis on repetitive drum smashing for “Ghostqueen” makes the song difficult to listen to. It may be a fine piece, but it’s mentally taxing to shed the ever-present pounding during the verses. “Killstardo Abominate” has a decent riff, and a very nice solo, but neither are really allowed to breathe properly beneath the miasma of other noise on the track.

It probably merits some mention that it took me an awful long time to compose this review. Some of my lethargy toward putting pen to paper is likely do to me overcoming an illness this past week, but some of it is also because I simply couldn’t think up that much to say about Dethklok. Much of what was said about “Galaktion” in terms of its construction and melody and rhythmic sense could simply be repeated with a less space-y and more metal-y overlay. It’s possible that Small lessened the impact of this latter release merely be releasing the former.

“Dethalbum III” is a solid experience with no major flaws, but also falls short of revolutionizing the music/comedy/television mixture or inventing something new. But let’s give credit where credit is due; it’s commendable that Small, his compatriots and his creations have made Dethklok into a successful band in the first place, let alone that they are superior to many modern death metal acts the world over. “Dethalbum III” may not enhance that, but it certainly helps solidify it.

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