Brendon Small - Brendon Small's GALAKTIKON
Release Date - April 29, 2012
Record Label - Williams Street Records
If you’re familiar with the name Brendon Small or perhaps even the heavy-metal satire of a cartoon Metalocalypse, you’ll know that besides his skill in writing and metal-based satire that the guy can shred a bit. What you may or may not know is that Small has decided to take a second path in the musical realm. While still at the helm for said show, Small decided he wanted to do something a bit different than the solo-filled, brutality-laced satire of a band he created in Dethklok.
Okay, so maybe GALAKTIKON isn’t all that different than what he did with Dethklok. Sure, sonically, it sounds much more varied and leaning towards bands like Queen and the like, but past the surface of guitar solos and intergalactic melodies, GALAKTIKON borrows much structurally from the metal outfit Small has been the main brain behind as far as the music is concerned. Yet through the space-opera of sorts that this album presents, we see a bit of a different side of Small as he is allowed to explore everything from arena rock to garage rock – with even hits of the sound he’s honed in Dethklok for two albums now. It’s tough to imagine this music without something to front it, but in the exploration of sound Small shows us, GALAKTIKON just doesn’t deliver with the same precision and execution as his death-metal prefixes would suggest.
The nine-track story of GALAKTIKON is a story of heroism and unfortunate demise of our protagonist, backed by riffs of soaring melodies and a variance of tempos and textures. Opener “Triton” does everything it can to set the scene, with techy samples and whirring guitars to suggest the setting while Small starts to craft his story with slightly gritty clean vocals. Hearing him actually sing is a bit of a disappointment, as when in later tracks his vocals seem to fit much more with the tone of the track (“Deathwaltz”), this opener in particular doesn’t quite hit the mark. “Prophecy of the Lazer Witch” and “You Can’t Run Away” push us further into the melodically driven, high-octane rock of the album, with the former being slathered by drummer Gene Hoglan in double-bass blitzes before bursting into a majestic chorus.
Small, backed by Hoglan and bassist Bryan Beller, still lets his Dethklok work seep a bit into the proceedings though. The trio of “Deathwaltz”, “Beastblade” and “Truth Orb and the Kill Pool” all boast gritty, dark guitar lines, yet still feature Small’s raspy vocals in ways that work much more in favor of the music as opposed to other tracks. “Beastblade” and “Truth Orb” work almost too similarly together, feeling more like a two parts of a whole than two separate pieces with very similar dark, crunching guitar grooves. Even so, they work in the execution of tension and delivery of the story well enough, as well as putting on a strong showing of what Small and company seem to have the ability to execute best.
The songs after do redeem the album a bit though. “Arena War of the Immortal Masters” opens with a tasty, memorable guitar riff that pokes back through in the chorus. The vocals seem to be a bit more in tune as well, as the addition of synthesized lines to back them. “Dangertits” is epic in its melodic nature, taking the writing style of Dethklok and turning it into a less abrasive, instrumental affair that features some wicked solos and a strong rhythm section backing throughout. Ender “On My Way” though has a bit of an anti-climactic ending, leaving the song and album feeling a bit unfinished at the end.
The main issue with GALAKTIKON lies mostly in inability for this album to shed the presumptions one will have about it being tied to a person as, well, “metal” as Small. Sure, it has a good amount of infectious licks and some strong songwriting, but GALAKTIKON ventures out not quite enough to be different, yet stays too close to home to not feel like some strange extension of Dethklok. Either way, it should please fans of pretty much anything Small has written for Dethklok, but otherwise doesn’t quite transcend his writing for that band to extend reach outward towards anyone else.