Last night, Metalocalypse came back from a hiatus lasting over a year to bring us Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem. While it isn't known how long we'll have to wait before the fifth and final season, Brendon Small gave us an hour-long special to bridge the gap in the form of an extravagant rock opera. Or, as it's called here, Klok Opera.
For the past four seasons, Metalocalypse has told the misadventures of Dethklok, a death metal band made up of five idiots of varying degree who have more money than they know what to do with, are surrounded by death and destruction and are unknowingly part of a vast conspiracy linked to an apocalyptic prophecy. For the most part, the more serious conspiracy plot thread has found itself in the background to the band's usual buffoonery, usually being spotlighted in the season finales, but the fourth season focused more on the more dramatic aspects than any of the others. It all led to a season finale where rhythm guitarist Toki Wartooth and producer Abigail Remeltindrinc were kidnapped by Dethklok enemies the Revengeancers.
It became obvious to me that they have to bring closure to that cliffhanger sooner than later due to the show's structure. Only by bringing Toki back into the fold can the band be allowed to be their old idiot selves again and focus on comedy for much of the eventual fifth season. Not that it'll be quite so easy. The Revengeancers are led by the Metal Masked Assassin, a vengeful sadist who's been wanting revenge on the band since the first season. With him is Magnus Hammersmith, the original rhythm guitarist of Dethklok, who proceeded to gain Toki's trust before betraying him in an attempt to get his own revenge on the band that kicked him out. With that, he pretty much vindicated Dethklok's decision that he was too much of a jerk to deal with back in the day.
The whole special is completely told in song, using death metal, glam rock and other variations, put together via Brendon Small, Bear McCreary and a 50 piece orchestra. There's even a nice sequence near the end that becomes homage to 1980's Michael Jackson, mixing together Thriller with Captain EO. This would be all completely awesome if not for the fact that the lyrics are mostly hard to decipher. Maybe it's the mixing or my ears or whatever, but I had a hard time figuring out what a lot of guys were singing a lot of the time. That was never too important when listening to the show's other songs because while there was some humor buried in the lyrics, they were low on the totem of what made the songs worth listening to. Considering the lyrics literally tell the story that they've been leading up to for seven years, it's kind of important to understand Nathan's grunting for once.
That said, at least you're still able to get the gist of everything through the visuals. I could probably have put it on mute while comprehending nearly every plot point. The Titmouse animators do a great job, making the look of each song sequence just as – if even more – unique as the music itself. Easily the highlight is the flashback to Toki's audition to join Dethklok, which features he and Skwisgaar battling it out with an extensively-long guitar duel accompanied by imagery of Toki as a giant bird creature battling Skwisgaar as a centaur in the clouds. It's especially metal.
While they spend a good ten minutes revealing Toki's origins in the band, the band's search to save him is a great development to the show's underlying theme of family that's been building more and more with each season. In the first season, the guys barely have any connection other than Toki and Skwisgaar, who are more like warring brothers, constantly bickering. The second season shows that as much as he hates to admit it, band leader Nathan Explosion does care for Toki in some fashion, as do the other three. The third season shows the strengthening bond between the band and their manager/father figure, Charles Offdensen. Then the fourth focuses more on treating the band as a family, mainly through the band's messy split and the fallout.
Here, the story is about Dethklok coming to terms with the fact that they are more than just a band that lives together. At first, they'd rather party their lives away than risk it all by being heroes and saving their bandmate and producer. Then they decide they'll do it out of necessity for their band to thrive, as their fans won't accept a lineup without Toki. While they're doing the right thing, it's for the wrong reason and the four of them must understand that they need to rescue Toki because at the end of the day, he's their brother.
The humor is very lackluster, but that's to be expected, considering this is more in line with the more serious season finale episodes. The good gags hit it in the beginning, like Nathan forgetting the names of Toki and Abigail (especially with her being his love interest) and a well-done sequence of Offdensen sending his best tracker to go find the Revengeancers' hideout, only to abruptly discover his brutal failure. I imagine there are plenty of clever jokes mixed into the lyrics, but again, it doesn't work if I can't hear it clearly.
In the end, there's closure to a couple major plot points, but at the same time, there are some big developments that'll find their way into the final season. Unlike the earlier reveals on the show, it doesn't make a series of confusing questions pop up, but instead makes you wonder where the story will go from here as it hits the home stretch. Mr. Selecia is still out there and there are two major hurdles out to make Dethklok's quest harder than it already was.
Who knows how long until we get news on the fifth season, but in the meantime, I might as well watch Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem special at least one more time. Coherency aside, it still rocks and the project itself is an impressive feat.