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Dethklok: Show Review (UCLA’s Ackerman Grand Ballroom, Los Angeles)

Every indication was that the Los Angeles stop of cartoon metal band Dethklok’s first “live” tour last fall was going to be a disappointment. Long before the first distorted chord had been played, the noxious odor of corporate branding stunk up UCLA’s Ackerman Grand Ballroom: gaudy Virgin-sponsored projection screens flanking the stage, a Guitar Hero III booth off to the side, an obnoxious commercial for the Dethklok CD The Dethalbum running on continuous loop during set breaks. Nobody in the audience was scary looking, a sure sign that this was one metal show not intended for the metalheads. And by the chants of “Don’t quit your day jobs!” and “Dethklok! Dethklok!” that Trail of Dead endured during their insultingly short opening slot, it was apparent that a lot of the college kids in the audience were there just for something to do.

Just as well, though, because this concert didn’t much highlight the music anyway. The four live musicians on stage ripped through choice selections from The Dethalbum, turning the tame recorded versions of “Birthday Dethday,” “Awaken,” and “Briefcase Full of Guts” into convincingly raw metal performances. And yet the live band was shrouded in darkness the entire time, literally overshadowed by the giant projection screen behind them, which broadcast seizure-inducing music videos during every song and animated shorts with the Metalocalypse cast of characters between songs. The show’s creator and frontman, Brendon Small, kept audience interaction to a minimum, saying only the obligatory “What’s up, UCLA?” and admitting at concert’s end, “I’d like to have sex with each and every one of you.”



The majesty of The Dethalbum is that its solid thrash tunes (dubbed “Sweet Blowjobby Metal” by Metalocalypse mascot Facebones in one animated sequence) are solid enough to stand alone from the TV show that birthed them. So it was extra frustrating that the concert producers insisted on funneling all attention on the cartoon itself, especially considering the caliber of the musicians bringing Dethklok’s music to life. Small grunted the tongue-in-cheek lyrics and ripped out stunning guitar leads simultaneously, smooshing together Dethklok vocalist Nathan Explosion and lead guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigell into a single, slowly balding figure. Drummer Gene Hoglan brought the same faultless death-metal chops that earned him respect with Death and Strapping Young Lad. And guitarist Mike Keneally (who replaced Steve Vai in Frank Zappa’s late-’80s touring band) and bassist Bryan Beller (part of Keneally’s band) had no problems segueing into heavy metal from their normal jazz-rock-fusion activities.

The pieces were in place for this live show to justify the band’s fictional status as the most popular metal band on the planet, but it wasn’t to be. Everything was in service of Metalocalypse as a cartoon rather than Dethklok as a metal band. Of course, the show’s core audience is made of college kids, not metalheads or even music fans, and Small has never attempted to hide that fact. He gave a winking salute to his audience with “Go Forth and Die” (“Move in with your parents/ Back into the dark/ Landed where you started/ Bachelor of Arts”), accompanied during the show by images of skeletons in grad gowns falling into freshly dug graves. Even the decision to distribute free tickets to UCLA students felt like a calculated ploy to appeal to the Metalocalypse college audience and nobody else.  



The animated sequences were hilarious, just like the TV show. The songs and musicianship were great, even better than on record. And so the big problem with the live Dethklok experience was one of concept, not execution. The live Dethklok experience had the potential to knock down that fourth wall between fiction and reality, and instead it was a glorified, louder version of a Metalocalypse episode, powered by the Cartoon Network’s clever marketing department. Maybe that was enough for the hundreds of students in the audience. But thank god they didn’t have to pay to get in, because as a live concert, this one felt pretty empty.


Band: http://www.myspace.com/dethklok
Label: http://www.williamsstreet.com
Show: http://www.adultswim.com/shows/metal

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Show Review

excellent review. i was wondering what the hell these shows would be like.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/wrecktech/sirchompalot.jpg wrecktech

Well, I don't know about the concert at UCLA, but I did see Dethklok at UC Berkeley on Nov. 2, 2007 and I liked it just fine. Dethklok rocked the house.

I should point at that I flew from New York to Berkeley, CA just to see Dethklok. And I am no college student. Part of the reason I wanted to go to the Nov. 2nd concert was that it was my birthday, my 52nd birthday.

One of the attempts of the concerts was to blend the real show with the animated one, ala Gorillaz. Heard of them? That's another animated band. So the live shows blends the real time music with the animation on screens. And it works just fine.

We fans do know the difference and we love both. The real musicians do the animated ones justice and rock as hard as Dethklok.

Dethklok will be doing a bigger tour later this year as per them. I can't wait! And there are a lot of fans out like me. And, yes, some of us are metalheads.

Holly Kim

Living in Texas, I did not get an opportunity to see dethklok's first tour. However, all reviews from avid fans of dethklok that attended the concerts were very positive. It is interesting to read reviews from passive fans who only know the show from seeing it while they wait for InuYasha or Tom goes to the Mayor to begin. For those of us who were just getting by with what we had - The Scabs - Dwayne's band from Home Movies, Dethklok is a blessing. Rest assured that I will attend multiple Dethtour 2008 shows when they come around. Metal rules, you suck, go die.


Yo, I'm the dude that reviewed this show. So just for the record, I'm far from a passive Metalocalypse fan. I don't even have cable, and I've never seen InuYasha or Tom Goes to the Mayor, so I bought the DVD set rather than forgoing my fix. I love the show, and as you can tell from my review of the Dethklok CD (http://www.prefixmag.com/reviews/dethklok/the-dethalbum/16334), I also dig the music.

My problems with the live show were due to the feeling I got that it was more about the cartoon than the music or the live presentation of the music. The musicianship was great, so why not showcase that instead of shrouding each person in darkness and putting cartoons up as the only visual stimulus? And as I pointed out, this show was stuffed with marketing, waaaaay beyond the standard "our merch table's in the back. Help keep us on tour" rap.

That's it. And now, I'm off to continue hating metal, sucking and dying!

/site_media/uploads/images/users/narfish/HeadbangSquare.jpg narfish

Etan is still my hero... even if he's sucky and dead.


Sorry to the reviewer of this show but, i am a massive metalhead, even though i hate that term. I saw Dethklok twice on this tour, flew out for one of them. And i have to disagree completely. This show, as well as the band itself, have made leaps and bounds to bring this type of music to the masses. I've played in two deathcore bands and i have noticed that this whole experience has brought people to the other existing bands of this style. Without this bridge, no matter how commercial, the real, deal playing in the basement bands across the nation wouldn't have as wide an audience. So, in closing, see this band if you get the chance.


I just saw dethklok last night at the marquee theatre... my guess would be that this is review is crap because last night i saw DETHKLOK headline over two of my favorite bands and they stole the show... max capacity crowd went nuts for this show at ASU's Marquee Theatre... Dethklok played for just under and hour and was musically flawless... Brendon is getting his stage experience and opening up to the crowd while everyone else is just so goddamn amazing at what they do... Moshes countless body-surfers and endless headbanging marked one of the best metal shows i've seen since i moved to Arizona... This review doesn't reflect their current set and should be updated for some of the newer shows


I just bought tickits to catch Dethklok in Kansas and I'm a 42yr old metalhead/muscian who lives in St. Louis. I can't wait to see the show and I didn't expect that they would try to represent themselves as Dethklok as far as looks go. I love the cartoon and I just want to see Brendon shred live. Who gives a crap what they do as far as advertising! I know from experience that it sucks to travel and play for little to no pay in this niche market. I'd sell out for a few bucks and so would you! Go Forth And Die!!!


How about you review the show, not what you felt it was about? It's a metal band based oin a cartoon, of course it's gonna be cartoon-heavy. But let the music speak for itself, which you hinted was fine, but spent VERY little time talking about it. Oh well. You should be at Pitchfork.


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