Season four of the Adult Swim animated metal series is a departure from previous seasons mostly because it's clear that creator Brendon Small is reaching some kind of end game for the actual "Metalocalypse" that gives the show its title. The added continuity and feeling that one of the characters might--gasp--grow in the course of this season add to the sense of disorientation, even as the slightly shortened season remains as funny as ever.
Plus, with the release of The Dethalbum III, it looks like Small and the real-life members of the fake band behind Dethklok are moving beyond some of the same jokes and even style of the first two albums.
Change is afoot and the end is near. Doodly doo.
In the 12 episodes of season four, against the backdrop of a faltering economy and global unrest, the biggest band in the entire world is set to finish their latest album before frontman Nathan Explosion (Small) destroys the master. Why he does this and what it will take to get the band back on track and a new album out there are the two main threads dominating this season, even as it takes detours into the horrors of cosmetic surgery ("Dethvanity"), relationships ("Fanklok"), and living up to wild family expectations ("Motherklok").
There's something dark pervading many of these episodes, as though the writers and their creations are unsettled, like both are anticipating something horrible to happen. And in a way, the main theme of this season seems to be about consequences--not in any particularly overt way, but all of the accidental deaths from the previous seasons, the and the generally light way the show has played with mass mortality in the past feels a lot less silly this time out. Maybe it's because by the time the season is over, sometime terrible happens to one of the members of the band and it feels like wherever Metalocalypse goes from there, it can't really go back.
The Season 4 release continues the series' trend of opting for extended and deleted scenes over commentary and making of docs. In this case, Brendon Small and the disc's special features producer/director Jon Schnepp (who also produces and writes for the show) have gone with 11 lengthy clips running a little over two hours.
Musically, Dethalbum III feels heavier than the first two albums, starting with the pop of old marches played on a 45" with " I Ejaculate Fire." Meanwhile, "Crush the Industry" is a pounding assault on the suits in the music biz, ratcheting up the speed with each movement. "The Galaxy," from the season three finale, is album's epic track, in good company with "Go Into The Water" and "Black Fire Upon Us" from Dethalbum and Dethalbum II respectively. While not as technically complex as other tracks on III, it's maybe the most grand and cinematic.
"Killstardo Abominate" feels like the most technically proficient and somehow least engaging track on the album, all super quick percussion and riffs alternating with a heavy back third. Maybe I'm just partial to some of the more melodic tracks, but out of the 12-song selection, this was really the only dark (you know, in a bad way) track.
Something's looming over the horizon for the next season of Metalocalypse. Whether that's the end of the show or not, it'll be something big and both the latest album and DVD release seem like the best heralds for whatever that is.
Both Dethalbum III and Metalocalypse Season 4 are available now.