In the Adult Swim series Metalocalypse, which recently began its third season by moving from a fifteen-minute spot to a half-hour one, Dethklok is so huge that they've spawned an economy larger than that of most countries, so famous that fans will do anything for them. While the live Dethklok, fronted by show creator Brendon Small, isn't quite so massive (nor does it's music drive fans to an epic demise), there's no denying that this band is adored. When WCS's Gustavo Turner spotted the line for last night's sold-out Palladium show early yesterday afternoon, we were impressed by the devotion.
Right before Dethklok began its set, I met a few of the people standing in the front row, pressed up against the railing separating the crowd from the photo pit. A few of the guys mentioned that they drove up to LA from San Diego for the show. A few more pointed to someone standing dead center and said I should talk to him. "It's his first concert!"
Armand Gutierrez made a goofy "metal face" for the camera. He's 21 and, yes, this was his first concert. He told me that his "love of cartoons" brought him out here. I asked if Metalocalypse got him into metal. He answered in the affirmative, he's been checking out more metal bands after getting into the show.
After I interviewed Brendon Small for LA Weekly, it seemed pretty clear that at least part of the writer/voice actor/shredder's goal was to introduce more people to metal and guitars. His plan seems to be working, though I should also point out that the progression is not necessarily Metalocalypse first, metal second. Dethklok's tour is a co-headlined by purveyors of psychedelic metal Mastodon and features opening sets from Converge and High on Fire. The kids that lined up at 2 p.m. got to see all these bands. Unfortunately, the show was scheduled so early (High on Fire at 6:30? WTF?) that those of us who hauled ass after work to get to the Palladium were only able to catch Mastodon and Dethklok.
There was no division between fans of the critically acclaimed, yet still underground, Mastodon and the TV show-spawned Dethklok. Metal is metal, the music is either "brutal" (translation: good), or it isn't. As I overheard people remarking throughout the night, both bands are brutal.
Live, Dethklok is a strange convergence of TV and music culture. They are probably the only band to show a commercial for merch before its set (hey, at least they're honest, bands need to sell t-shirts). The members of the group-- Small, drummer Gene Hoglan, guitarist Mike Keneally and bassist Bryan Beller-- play in front of a screen airing original animated videos featuring the fictional Dethklok members. They opened with the series' theme and worked their way through a lengthy list of songs that would be familiar to Metalocalypse fans (including "Murmaider" and "Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle"). During the encore, Small went into a voice actor freak-out, switching off between Nathan Explosion and Pickles, with a little Skwisgaar thrown in for good measure. For all of the presumed goofiness of this being a "cartoon band," there's no denying the fact that Dethklok is a very real musical entity at this point, formed by players with serious chops who can keep the mosh pit going for an hour-long set. There are people who love cartoons and people who love concerts and, for those who can never seem to decide which one they prefer, there's Dethklok.
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