When I was younger, cartoons were comforting with roadrunners,daffy ducks and porky pigs, often accompanied by Rossini’s overtures, Liszt’s Les préludes, Brahms’ Hungarian dances and Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and Fifth Symphony.
Now, in this new age, many cartoons have built upon Beavis and Butt-Head’s hard-rock fantasies to feature soundtracks that pummel the skull.
One of the most popular cartoons is the Adult Swim animated program “Metalocalypse,” starring the fictional, virtual death-metal band Dethklok.
On the show, the virtual band performs songs such as “Bloodrocuted,” “Castratikron,” “I Tamper with the Evidence at the Murder Site of Odin” and, my favorite, “I Ejaculate Fire.”
Adult Swim organized a promotional tour featuring Dethklok, series co-creator Brandon Small and a band hitting college campuses in late 2007. Since then, Dethklok has evolved into a living, breathing, internationally touring ensemble that headlines bills at arenas.
Even more, the band’s music has become popular in the noncartoon-watching mainstream, with “Dethalbum III,” released on Oct. 16, debuting at No. 10 on the Billboard album chart. The album, the band’s third, contains music from the second, third and fourth seasons of the show.
The show has even attracted big names as voice talent, with Malcolm McDowell and “Star Wars” icon Mark Hamill portraying several characters in “Metalocalypse.” “The first time I saw [Hamill], I was stunned to be in the same room with him,” said Small. “My heart skipped a beat.”
One of the keys to the show and band’s success is that while some elements (such as the aforementioned song titles) poke fun at the genre of metal music with gallows humor, the program is also undeniably a celebration of hard rock, its culture and its rabid fans.
Small, who before the series was a stand-up comic and still continues that trade, insisted in a phone interview that the show is not intended as satire. Being able to tour as the leader of the real band Dethklok is “incredibly fun. … I had been playing guitar for a long time, but I had never toured.”
Small’s previous animated series, Adult Swim’s “Home Movies,” ended in 2004. After that demise, he and his musician friend Tommy Blacha were pitching new show ideas to the network when they decided to combine their love for metal with animation. “Metalocalypse” first aired in 2006, and now the show is developing its fifth season.
Many of the songs Dethklok performs are inspired by band such as Cannibal Corpse, Small said. The latter’s song “I Cum Blood” influenced the amusingly aggressive Dethklok tune “I Ejaculate Fire,” he said. “The quicker I write these songs, the better. Making a TV show is so much harder than [making a record].”
When you look at the lyrics to “I Ejaculate Fire,” you can sense the fun Small is having:
I ejaculate fire!
A venomous fluid, cantankerous druid
It kills when I breed, with my death seed
Checkmate — the world dies when I procreate
A fan of the show is singer Robb Flynn of Machine Head, which is opening for Dethklok, and just released a live album, “Machine F------ Head Live,” on Nov. 13.
“I think [Dethklok] is awesome,” Flynn said. “Their visuals are so funny and over-the-top. They push it. To me, Brandon Small has an incredible take on metal kids and things that crack them up.”
In recent days, Machine Head has been embroiled in controversy as Walt Disney Properties has, for the second time, banned the band from appearing at venues on its property in California and Florida. The Dethklok tour is scheduled to, among other places, visit the House of Blues in Orlando and Anaheim, but Machine Head will not be allowed to perform on those dates.
In 2007, Walt Disney Properties banned the Oakland-based Machine Head from the House of Blues venues in Anaheim and Orlando, home to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Machine Head was banned because of the band’s “violent imagery” and “undesirable fans,” according to Disney.
“They don’t understand us,” Flynn said. “It’s 2012 in America.” He said the band’s fans have taken to social media to blast Disney for its decision.
The guitarist of another opening band, Mike Martin of All That Remains, has never seen “Metalocalypse,” but was appreciative of being given the opportunity to tour with bands he respects, he said.
All That Remains, based in Massachusetts, released “A War You Cannot Win” on Nov. 6, the third album from the band that debuted in the top 20 on the Billboard album chart. “We wanted to make songs that people will remember,” Martin said. The album was produced by Adam Dutkiewicz, a guitarist from another Massachusetts metal band, Killswitch Engage. The process went so swimmingly that Martin has moved into Dutkiewicz’s house.
That story reminds me of another Dethklok song, “Happy Metal World Rainbow”:
There was once a time
Where I longed for pretty things
But now that’s changed
I long for murder
Wait a second. That’s the wrong song. Sorry about that.
Metal bands Dethklok and guests Machine Head, All That Remains and Black Dahlia Murder will perform.
When • Wednesday, Nov. 21, 7 p.m.
Where • Saltair, 12408 W. Salt Air Drive, Magna
Tickets • $33 at SmithsTix