Of all the running gags in the metal satire/love letter Metalocalypse, one of the funniest is the knowledge that half the lead characters are voiced by Home Movies star Brendon Small. Small co-created both animated series, which share some particulars, including shapeless episodes and staccato, improv-driven dialogue filled with pauses, overlaps, and uncomfortable mumbles. But the family resemblance is easy to miss: Where Home Movies was a sweet, quirky, visually simple look at a group of kids making their own films, Metalocalypse is a hilariously over-the-top bloodbath, animated in the baroquely detailed style of death-metal cover art, right down to the lovingly rendered exploding organs and shredded bodies.
The first 20 episodes of the ongoing Cartoon Network series, now collected on a simple two-DVD set, casually introduce Dethklok—the world's most popular band and its 12th largest economy—by observing its members hanging out together and occasionally performing eerily catchy original songs like "Bloodrocuted" and "Briefcase Full of Guts." Small voices three of the group's five members, including frontman Nathan Explosion, who has a bad case of Cookie Monster death-metal voice; co-creator and co-writer Tommy Blacha handles the other two. All five characters are dim-witted, casually homicidal, lazy schlubs, spoiled by success and out of touch with humanity. They represent metal's nihilistic, misanthropic, furiously violent tendencies taken to ridiculous extremes, and embodied in people rich and stupid enough to get away with acting them out. (Though admittedly, most of their mayhem is inadvertent, as when they accidentally drop an unfolding mobile stage on hundreds of their fans, or revive an ancient killer troll with their music.)
Metalocalypse's South Park-esque shock-humor leans heavily on graphic slapstick violence and running jokes, like the tribunal of religious and governmental leaders that meets every episode for worried hand-wringing over minor plot developments, from Nathan getting a girlfriend to the band recording a commercial. The band members' self-esteem issues, jadedness, ignorance, addictions, social awkwardness, and constant attempts to be "brutal" and "more metal" also get a lot of play. In essence, they're spoiled, bitter, overgrown teenagers, and the series is simultaneously laughing at their juvenility and encouraging viewers to revel in their own juvenile impulses, from enjoying other people's pain to imagining entire worlds remade in the image of their favorite narrow subculture. Like so many death-metal songs, the episodes are manic and short (about 12 minutes apiece), but that's fine; humor this enjoyably unrestrained is best taken in small doses.
Key features: An all-Easter-egg collection of uncensored and extra scenes which largely aren't worth the effort of finding them.