In its way, it shares more with Disney’s The Little Mermaid soundtrack album then it does with As I Lay Dying’s Awakened. Dethalbum III is a cartoon soundtrack, yet it manages to be more coherent and inventive within its genre than 90 percent of similar output so far this year. Dethalbum III kicks much rear-end, while giggling at its own inside joke.
Mastermind of everything Metalocalypse and Dethklok, Brendon Small has written every song. This explains the seamless way Dethalbum III goes from opener “I Ejaculate Fire” to song 12, “Rejoin.” With drummer Gene Hoglan and bassist Bryan Beller, Small has taken the Dethklok persona to hammer together a riff-driven album that rolls over convention with an unstoppable groove.
Dethalbum III is as accessible as death metal gets. The foul-mouthed version should fly out of the Amazon MP3 store while the cleaned-up version should become scarce in the Wal-mart CD rack. Regardless of the language, the Ulrich Wild/Brendan Small production is remarkable. Smashed down to a perfect three db margin, Dethalbum III will fit perfectly in every format out there.
“I Ejaculate Fire” intros on a scratchy Nonesuch record for no particular reason. So do half of the other metal albums lately. The song has made the rounds everywhere. It’s a thrash-fast groover of less than impeccable taste where Small’s vocals have evolved into outright legitimacy. Controlled and dominant, its only when Small backs off the microphone to concentrate on his superb guitar work that the power of the instrumentation sears through, especially with Hoglan (Death, Strapping Young Lad) drumming two notches above excellent.
The video for the song is either horrifying or hilarious depending on one’s viewpoint. That’s the Adult Swim joke, over the top and rarely sly. Dethalbum III, as an album, dials down the parody to nearly zero, and leaves that to the visuals.
A great down-tuned drum and spider-dance riff brings to life “Crush the Industry.” True death metal breaks out all over. The double-kick drum machine loop gets a work out, while vocals turn to black bile and guitar solos blaze at Mach one in power metal registers. Like cigarette smoke clinging in clouds close to a studio ceiling, Small’s keyboards loom over most of the tracks. Part Theremin, part Moog, part alien head voices, the keys infuse the tracks with a haunting glow. On “The Galaxy” the keys take the lead and swirl out the arms of the song’s melody with unearthly majesty.
“Starved” is a DM pounder with unusual guitar work and an inexplicably death jazz free metal guitar solo. “Ghost Queen” plows between finger-twisting riffs, tottering death stomp verses and still more off the hook solo work. The arrangement varies up from the other tracks, but in the end, all the songs build to strong climaxes. And, amazingly, not a single stoopid movie dialog or clanging sword battle drop-in anywhere on the album. All meat and no filler on Dethalbum III.
With the jaunty “Biological Warfare.” featuring some of Small’s croakiest vocals, the bar is raised another rung until the following track “The SkyHunter” cranks it up another one only to be raised once again by the gold-medal “The Hammer,” whose rhythm riff is concentrated purity. Dethklok may drift in the electronic waves of the videodrome, but Dethalbum III is as rock-hard real as the fantasy of death metal gets.
(released October 16, 2012 on Williams Street Records)