For more than a decade now, Metalocalypse fans have been patiently waiting for a conclusion to the series. The animated dark comedy created by Brendon Small (Home Movies) and Tommy Blacha aired for four seasons on Adult Swim from 2006 to 2012, chronicling the exaggerated antics of Dethklok, the world’s biggest death-metal band. In each episode, rhythm guitarist Toki Wartooth, bass guitarist William “Murderface Murderface” Murderface, Pickles the drummer, lead guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf, and frontman vocalist Nathan Explosion deal with their worldwide musical dominance and the shadowy cabal trying to bring them down.
The show, if you didn’t already guess from the band members’ names, is an exercise in hyperbole, a cheeky love letter to the self-mythologizing bravado of death metal. Metalocalypse is bursting at the seams with gore, flying viscera, and wide-scale destruction, alongside celebrity cameos from some of the biggest musicians in the genre. The show gradually morphed from a dark comedy into a full-blown epic dark fantasy, complete with its own elaborate mythos involving an impending “Metalocalypse” that threatens to plunge the world into perpetual chaos and usher forth a new dark age of chthonic horrors.
Nearly a decade after the 2013 release of Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem, a one-hour rock opera intended to resolve the cliffhanger from the end of the show’s fourth season, Metalocalypse has finally returned with Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar, the series’ feature-length final chapter. This 72-minute movie sees the bandmates finally confronting their destinies as either the potential saviors of humanity or its destroyers. And damn, was it worth the wait.
Set shortly after the events of The Doomstar Requiem, which saw the group rescuing Toki from the nefarious clutches of former bandmate Magnus Hammersmith (voiced by Marc Maron), Army of the Doomstar opens with Dethklok attending a press conference acknowledging the band’s long in-universe hiatus while slyly nodding to the real-life passage of time since the series’ previous installment. The band announces a new world tour in order to get back in the swing of things following Toki’s traumatic experience, but Nathan suddenly falls ill.
Wracked by terrifying visions of the apocalypse, debilitating writer’s block, and his unrequited feelings for the band’s former producer, Abigail (Janeane Garofalo), following their short-lived tryst in season 4, Nathan must embark on a mission with the rest of the band to write the “song of salvation” and stop the mysterious dark god Salacia (Mark Hamill) and the Illuminati-like Tribunal from ushering in the end times.
If you’re anything like me, you probably watched all of Metalocalypse when it aired, but it’s been a minute since you thought about these characters. Anyone completely new to the series should watch the show before diving into Army of the Doomstar, as the film doesn’t waste much time in explaining the more esoteric details of the show’s lore or the characters’ backstories. The movie is a loving tribute to longtime series fans, not only for how it pays off the show’s story threads and arcs, but in how it centralizes the nature of the fandom that surrounds Dethklok, exploring the blessings and burdens of fame.
Though Nathan is Army of the Doomstar’s ostensible protagonist, each of the bandmates gets their own moment to shine as they collectively grapple with not only their own inadvertent part to play in an ancient prophecy beyond their comprehension, but also their relationships with each other as a found family of sorts, bonded by their shared love of death metal. It’s a darker, more somber, and more moving story than audiences have seen from Metalocalypse so far, a climactic chapter that turns the over-the-top aesthetic and orchestral accompaniment up to 11 while finding opportunities to insert moments of the nonsensical humor and crass dialogue fans expect from the series.
“Epic” as a descriptor is thrown around too often as a hyperbolic compliment, but Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar rightfully warrants that description and then some. It’s a fitting final chapter in the long and outrageous saga of one of Adult Swim’s most surprising cult classics, and a rapturous encore dedicated to a passionate fan base who refused to let the series go quietly. The Metalocalypse may be over, but the music never dies.
Metalocalypse the series is streaming on Max and available on demand via the Adult Swim website. Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar is available on DVD and Blu-ray and is available for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Vudu, and other platforms.