As for Tommy Blacha, he was once the creative director for World Wrestling Entertainment. Do the math. He was also on staff at Late Night with Conan O’Brien and TV Funhouse, the latter being the creation of edgy comedy animator and Triumph the Insult-Comic Dog Robert Smigel. The Smigel connection should give you a sense of the twisted sense of humor behind Metalocalypse.

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METAL MANIA: Within the first five minutes of the season premiere, Dethklok accidentally kill 100,000 of their fans.
“Ted Nugent once said that there’s something inherently stupid about rock and roll,” Blacha explains over the phone from LA. “I agree, but we aren’t derisive of metal. For example, when we had Michael Amott [guitarist, Arch Enemy] come in to do voices for the show, it was really pleasing to have him tell us in his Swedish accent, ‘I don’t like it when people make fun of metal, but you guys know what you’re doing.’ He gave us this one head nod, and we were like, ‘YES! That’s exactly what we wanted.’ ”

Anyone who thinks he knows what to expect from Brendon Small solely on the basis of his Home Movies work is in danger of missing out. The visual style of Metalocalypse is much more realistic than Home Movies — more Aeon Flux than Simpsons. The show plays in widescreen to emphasize scale, structural depth, and lurid color. Anyone who has studied metal album covers can appreciate this æsthetic. Metalocalypse is also faster-paced than the often dry and sardonic Home Movies. You can blink and miss something, because the show crams a lot of mayhem into its 11-minute episodes.

Small: “It’s a lot more visual than Home Movies was. We manipulate the camera a lot more. We wanted to be able to pause a frame and say, ‘Wow, those guys look bad-ass.’ If they’re standing in a supermarket, put them in a metal pose. They have not changed their jeans in months. They smell bad. They will fucking kick your ass.”

To demonstrate their stylistic intentions, Small and Blacha brought their art staff to a Behemoth concert. The animators nailed it, right down to the windmill headbanging, guitar schematics, and pyrotechnics. And of course, the violence is operatic, right down to the finest details of exposed brain and bone.

Small and Blacha check out as many metal shows as they can. “One of the reasons I’m attracted to death metal is that you’re singing about the fact you’re going to die,” Small points out. “You are simply going to die, and there’s no two ways about it, and that’s pretty funny to me.”

Metalocalypse is an early part of the Cartoon Network Adult Swim’s fall line-up, which will include such equally warped fare as Saul of the Mole Men, Assy McGee, and Lucy, The Daughter of the Devil. Renewal seasons of Moral Orel, The Venture Brothers, and Robot Chicken, among others, cement Adult Swim’s position in the, uh, cultural canon.

Since launching in 2001, Adult Swim has filled the void formerly occupied by Saturday-morning cartoons. Vicious satire, absurd violence, import anime, celebrity ballbusting, and festive geek æsthetic have enabled it to filch many late-night viewers from FOX and UPN. Nielsen ratings from the first quarter of 2006 ranked Adult Swim programming #1 among men ages 18 to 34. Which means Small and Blacha have a serious shot at paving over the rock-and-roll landscape. This Sunday night, they will make even food shopping seem like a metal experience.

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