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It's been a long road to godhood for Dethklok. From underground stalwarts to celebrity jackoffs to the very saviors of mankind, these four musical legends and also Toki have knocked down and dismembered every obstacle in their collective path. All the while, they've taken the true message of brutality to untold depths, inspiring a fresh generation of metalheads to lay down their necks on the chopping block of metal.
Now, 17 years after being introduced to the world, and a decade since they disappeared from the public eye, Dethklok have returned with Dethalbum IV, a full-length record that ushers in a new era of bristling aggression and sonic grandeur for the band. It's a beautiful day to die.
From its first throttling notes, Dethalbum IV introduces fans to a new Dethklok by way of an updated production sound. Previous records like 2009's Dethalbum II mixed the band's grinding riffs, bellowed vocals and rolling kick drums into a sonic lasagna of disembodied guts. But the new record's sound is upfront and sharp at its edges, lashing out at the listener. Brendon Small, the real-world co-creator, songwriter, and vocalist-guitarist behind Dethklok, must have been inspired by the massive live sounds of past tour mates like Gojira and Mastodon, because these tracks feel engineered specifically to inspire arena-swallowing mosh pits.
That said, don't think for a second that Dethklok have lost their galaxy-spanning harmonies and apocalyptic technicality. If anything, the cartoon five-piece's huge moments are huger, with their forthright approach adding a level of aggression to guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf's spacy, far-out solos. Meanwhile, the playing of Pickles the Drummer (record IRL by Death, Testament, Dark Angel and Strapping Young Lad legend Gene Hoglan) is so powerful and frantic that the percussion on the album reaches a sort of sublime new height. Hell, there's even a song where you can hear Murderface's bass. Even as they become more hostile, Dethklok continue to set their sights on distant horizons. This time, they're here to murder God.
Ripping opener "Gardener of Vengeance" sounds tailor-made to be blasted at a live audience, and gives fans the kind of goofy song topic that made Dethklok famous, but it's lead single "Aortic Desecration" that really kicks things off with its misanthropic chest-beating rhythms. From there on, the band whips out every tool in their murder sack—the grisly crawl of "Poisoned by Food," the crunching death marches of "Bloodbath" and "I Am the Beast," and the surprisingly advanced ballistics of "Horse on Fire" and "Mutilation on a Saturday Night" (the latter of which is a straight-up thrash cut in parts).
Things take a moody turn at "DEADFACE," an eerie, soulful number dedicated to the most cantankerous bassist of all time (when Nathan yells, "ISOCELES!," you can just picture his stupid-ass hair), after which comes the proggy "Satellite Bleeding" and the god-sized planetary death knell of "SOS." The whole thing closes with the regal third (and final?) installment of the band's "Murmaider" song series.
Like all of Dethklok's best material, Dethalbum IV sounds ferociously intentional. No song on this record comes off as thrown together or aimless. Instead, it's obvious that Small has spent the last decade carefully bringing this ambitious dream — create the ultimate death-metal band, and make everyone love them — to a fittingly enormous end.
Whether metalheads will ever see or hear from them again after this is anyone's guess, but if Dethalbum IV is Dethklok's tombstone, then at least they left the world in ruins on their way out.