The following contains spoilers for Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar.
Beginning in 2006 on Adult Swim, Metalocalypse was the brainchild of Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha. The series focused on the metal band Dethklok, the single most popular band in the world. Nominally a comedy poking fun at the lives of bandmates Nathan Explosion, Skwisgaar Skwigelf, Toki Wartooth, Pickles, and William Murderface, the series steadily developed an epic lore surrounding a mysterious Tribunal of powerful world leaders, a mysterious otherworldly being known as Salacia, and the band’s destined role in an apocalyptic event known simply as the Metalocalypse.
After running for four seasons and an hour-long special in 2013, the series was canceled by Adult Swim. But the long-awaited finale, Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar, has been finally released as a concluding chapter of the sage. Notably, the film does more than just conclude the epic storylines baked into the show with as much violence, comedy, and metal as one would expect. The film also explores and reinforces the show’s underlying themes surrounding friendship and fandom, highlighting how both can combine with music to literally save the world.
Picking up immediately after the events of the Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem, the group finds themselves finally facing their role in the potential end of the world. Nathan is tasked with writing the “Song of Salvation,” a track that could help unite the world and prevent the full destructive intentions of Salacia. However, Nathan finds himself wrestling with writer’s block — which is only exasperated by his increasing frustrations with the band’s global fandom and being spurned by his love interest, Abigail.
Meanwhile, Salacia is able to infest the mind of the misanthropic Murderface, using him as a tool within Dethklok to cause further damage to their plans. The film builds to a truly epic place, with the world nearly ending with the Doomstar’s coming and the band’s initial failure to counter it. But after reinforcing their bond with one another, the band is able to lead the world in a battle against Salacia’s true form to save the day and end the series on a triumphant note.
Amidst all the film’s explosive violence, goofy humor, and hardcore metal, the central themes of Metalocalypse come into clear view. In many ways, the blunt and dimwitted band has resisted attempts to make them reckon with their true bonds. Multiple episodes have highlighted the bonds that developed between the bandmates, with a repeated gag throughout the previous Doomstar Requiem focusing on their reluctance to regard a kidnapped Toki as anything more than their bandmates.
But the underlying friendship between the five men proves to be one of the big emotional cores of the film. Pickels’ efforts to be the self-aware “Mom” of the group see him give his buddies tough love and consistent support. Murderface’s genuine grief at his actions once Salacia is exorcised from him leads to one of the film’s genuine moments of empathy — with Nathan openly wishing their traitorous former bandmate Magnus had been able to reaffirm their friendship instead of taking his own life out of guilt. These bonds finally pay off when Murderface stands up and does one of his only genuinely noble acts in the entire series: risking his life to stall their enemies.
The other underlying theme of the film — and the series as a whole across mediums — speaks to the band’s tricky relationship with their fans. Within the context of the series, Dethklok has become a legendary force, ranked as one of the world’s single biggest economies. A key element of Army of the Doomstar is Nathan’s exhaustion with the contestant expectations levied against him and the rest of the band by their adoring fans. Having so many of them witness his collapse from exhaustion and his failed proposal to Abigail only exasperates things, leading him to write the wrong track for the song of salvation and initially cause far more chaos than fix. But Nathan’s eventual realization that the fanbase has always been the true army of the Doomstar, a fabled force destined to come to their aid in the band’s darkest hour, helps inspire him and the rest of the band in their final battle. The fans are the ones who may have yelled and screamed and demanded from the band, but their loyalty and belief in them leads them to wage war on their behalf and fight against the forces of Salacia’s Tribunal.
The Song of Salvation, Explained
Metalocalypse was a series about cocaine-addicted clowns, unrelenting murderers, and stunning rock songs by Small. But with Army of the Doomstar, the series doubles down on the true emotional throughlines of the series. At its heart, the show is about friendship and fandom and how both can elevate someone far beyond what they believed they could be. The connections between Dethklok allow them to deliver music that literally saves the world, and the people who’ve long supported them get to fight alongside them. It’s that same fandom in the real world that kept the spirit of Metalocalypse alive even a decade after the show was canceled.
Metalocalypse was always about the power of music and the friendship between its central band, but the finale fully explores the humanistic meaning behind both sentiments. The film embraces those elements without ever losing the brutal action or hilarious comedy that long defined the show, serving as the ultimate capstone on a strong series. Following suit with the similarly fantastic The Venture Bros: Radiant is the Baboon’s Heart, Army of the Doomstar feels like a strong concluding chapter in an animated epic. It speaks to the central themes of the show while still having a blast with the bizarre and singular energy at the core of the series.
Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar is now available for digital purchase.
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