Written by Puño Estupendo
When Brendon Small put a live band together last fall to hit college campuses and play the music of his Adult Swim show Metalocalypse, tickets were only available to the students of those same campuses and a few Myspace fans. You can well imagine how frustrated this left fans who were dying to see this version of Dethklok live but were harshly denied access to what promised to be brutal goodness. I got to see their Carbondale, Illinois show on this tour and thought it was amazing but still kind of rough in some areas. This smaller campus tour obviously proved that a bigger, traditional venue tour was warranted and so guitarist/singer/creator Small grabbed his live guys once again and got to it.
Standing outside the House Of Blues Chicago, several things were just a little off kilter for me. For one thing, it seemed way too early to be going to a club. The ticket listed a 5:30 pm door opening and there were teenagers all over the place, but not enough to visually support a sold-out show. This was a good thing to me, as I generally hate all-ages shows and was hoping for more of the "Adult" fans of Adult Swim than Billy and Bobby traveling down from Wisconsin for their first concert ever. Don't misunderstand, I realize everybody has to have their first show, but I'm an aged show veteran and there's only so many "Oh my God" and "Fucking fuck fuck fuck shit fuck" statements you can overhear before you want to strangle all of them. The benefit that a show gets from this however, is that a palpable "want" starts creeping around. Energy starts building and people just look over at each other with a grin and a nod, that eye contact that says "It's coming." It's for this very reason that I felt a little sorry for openers Soilent Green and Chimaira, both of whom were great. Both bands sounded good, were extremely tight (which is a must for this type of music) and worked well with the crowd, but for all of that there was no question what the crowd really wanted, what Billy and Bobby had traveled down from Wisconsin for, what had people huddled together with their "Oh my God's" and "I can't wait's." The crowd had since grown to capacity since my earlier observation and Chicago's hardcore had shown up in full, which seemed to make some of the young'uns a little nervous but it added to the excitement at the same time.
When the lights went down and Dethklok hit their first riff, the crowd went ape-shit. The floor started swirling from the pit outward and people were yelling at full strength. Each time a song came to a close, everyone was almost leaning forward to hear what the next song was going to be. Upon every opening note, friends would turn and look at each other the second they realized what song it was and just give a silent "fuck yeah." This never went away, from the start of their set to the end, the crowd was genuinely salivating for every song.
This was essentially the same show that I had seen on the college tour, but more refined. The band sounded better, the show went a little smoother, and Brendon seemed more at ease than when I had seen them before. On the screen flying as backdrop for the band, there were animations that ran completely in sync with the songs. In the murder checklist segment of "Murmaider," the items being named were on screen as they were being sung about. After every few songs, segments of Metalocalypse that were made specifically for the live show ran while the band took a quick break off stage. Funny, uncensored, and a big hit with the fans, I'll be very disappointed if these clips don't make it on to their next DVD release.
The musicians Small chose to join him were just dead on. Small is a very good guitar player (to say the least) and Mike Keneally matched him note for note on not only the riffs but the leads as well. Bassist Bryan Bellar added low end that made the crunch of the show hit you in the chest, but yet it wasn't muddy at all. When performing Death Metal live, keeping that low end mud out of there is not an easy thing to do and between Bryan's tone and the guy handling the mix, they nailed it. Very impressed with that actually. The drums? Forget about it. Gene Hoglan is sick, a fucking machine. That double bass was so disgustingly tight; there were just too many times I was shaking my head in disbelief. They definitely have clicked together and the music was just everything you would want it to be.
A nice highlight happened around the end of the show. The lights were down and Brendon started doing voices into the mic. This was definitely a change of pace as he didn't do this at the Carbondale show. All of a sudden Nathan Explosion, Skwisgaar Skwigelf and Pickles the drummer were heard aloud, a conversation of three coming from one. This seemed to be the culmination of Small being more comfortable with things this time around. I thought it was kind of funny that he only did it with the lights down, but he seems to have a certain honest humility about him which just adds to the loyalty of the fans. From the quality of this show, it's a loyalty that was well deserved.