A decade has passed since metal enthusiasts last encountered Dethklok, the death-metal powerhouse that’s also Earth’s eighth-largest economic superpower. In their previous adventure, the 2013 rock opera “The Doomstar Requiem,” the band embraced the essence of friendship and metal, saving guitarist Toki Wartooth from their age-old foe and former guitarist. Now, in “Army of the Doomstar,” Dethklok is compelled to fulfill their role in an ancient prophecy that’s followed them throughout the original series. However, they remain true to their classic style, bungling things up terribly and triggering the apocalypse, leading to the demise of millions. Indeed, the Metalocalypse is upon us, and it’s all thanks to Dethklok.
The narrative resumes immediately after “Requiem,” with a reassembled Dethklok announcing a new tour and album. Yet, lead vocalist Nathan Explosion’s world unravels with a nervous breakdown, dashed romantic hopes, canceled tours and albums, and a global descent into economic chaos. As Dethklok morphs from an entertainment enterprise into a worldwide church, the band retreats into hiding. Their objective? To have Explosion compose the Song of Salvation, a performance designed to thwart the emergence of the demonic Mr. Salacia and avert society’s fiery demise. But Dethklok being Dethklok, things don’t go according to plan (and no one survives). Without revealing too much, the band faces a daunting new world of their own making.
Two striking elements distinguish “The Army of the Doomstar.” First, unlike much of the original Metalocalypse series, this isn’t a satirical comedy. While the film boasts numerous comedic moments, it predominantly embodies an epic sci-fi action film akin to 1981’s “Heavy Metal” and its associated magazine. Second, the animation quality is off the charts this time around, significantly surpassing director and co-creator Brendon Small’s earlier work. Whether this improvement stems from the serious tone driving better animation, the chance to create cooler visuals that inspired Small’s full commitment, or a mix of both, the result is awe-inspiring. It’s an astonishing blend of mesmerizing imagery and psychedelic darkness that will leave hardcore metal aficionados drooling.
Yet, one cannot ignore the film’s notable concentration on Explosion, which might be its principal shortcoming. Several beloved characters from the series seem relegated to the background, with figures like band manager Charles Ofdensen and guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf particularly marginalized, lacking substantial dialogue or involvement. Similarly, the band’s collective culture appears somewhat underdeveloped—Dethklok’s rehearsals and group performances receive minimal screen time due to the primary focus on Explosion’s songwriting process. Although these choices are understandable, given a movie’s constraints compared to a multi-season series, they still evoke a hint of disappointment.
So, is “Army of the Doomstar” a riotous, meme-worthy escapade akin to Dethklok’s earlier exploits? Not exactly. However, the film compensates for the shortage of humor with an extravagant visual feast characterized by extreme, hyper-violent, melodramatic moments. The film culminates in an over-the-top climax that will undoubtedly prompt fans to thrust their fists in the air. In the current algorithm-driven era, overflowing with Pickle Ricks and BoJack Horsemen, perhaps metal devotees deserve something as lofty, monumental, and ferociously brutal as this. Perhaps they merit something that’s genuinely worth fighting for.