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REVIEW: BRENDON SMALL’S GALAKTIKON

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Children of America: never let your dad think he’s too cool. Let him practice in the garage, but don’t start a band with him. To do so would break the natural order of things. I don’t know if Brendon Small has children, or if he thinks about jamming with them, but regardless, his first non-Dethklok album, under the “Galaktikon” banner, is effectively some stoked Dad’s oblivious, dorky, garage masterpiece. Assuming, that is, this dad was trained at Berklee and spent years as a guitar tech. Galaktikon is cool dad unleashed.

Ostensibly an audio comic book, Galaktikon turns someone’s divorce story into an intergalactic tale of romance and intrigue that no one should think too hard about for any reason. Ever. The style is a stiff but enthusiastic take on remembered glories in power metal, prog, and alt rock.

Your dad might think himself an innovator for mixing Steve Vai solos into songs sung in a variety of schlocky alt vocals spanning and the Cobain/Stapp spectrum. You might think it’s an ungodly mess. Small, a noted master of voices, unleashes his arsenal on this album mercilessly.  There’s gravelly grizzled guy and harmonics on “Prophecy of the Lazer Witch,” close talking emotional alt rock bro on “Beastblade,” triumphant British-ish guy on “Arena War of the Immortal Masters,” and many more. The voices skew fun at times, exhausting at others.

Appropriate to the themes, the production and performances are lazer-cut, and precise. Small’s fretwork can dazzle, which should make this album especially appealing to those mesmerized by small shiny things, which, it should be admitted, is everyone now and again.  Vet Gene Hoglan is solid and effortless behind the kit, but the double bass sits in the middle of the mix and never punches out. Since the album is called “Brendan Small’s Galaktikon,” not “Gene Hoglan’s Metal-Percussive Meta-Odyssey,” this should not surprise anybody.

It’s all about Dad here, but maybe it’s better to not be too judgey where family is involved. For many (myself included) Brendon Small is able to evoke a familial grade allegiance. His work on the cartoons Home Movies and Metalocalypse carved him a niche in the nerd-o-sphere that now allows him to produce whatever he wants.  While Galaktikon benefits and probably only exists because of Small’s built-in fanbase, it suffers from not having the visual components his songs mesh with so well, whether in a Kafka rock opera, or pretty much the entire Dethklok discography.

Without the cartoon back up, Galaktikon can’t help but coming across half baked. It can’t take advantage of Small’s comedic instincts, because he doesn’t seem to know if it’s a joke or not. Central to Metalocalypse’s shtick is its ability to lovingly draw out the inherent silliness and absurdity of metal. But this dynamic cuts both ways, without real mooring in anything, Galaktikon is a lazer of silliness into infinite space. After years pent up in the admittedly overbearing Dethklok world, it’s understandable that Small wants to flex some of his less agro musical muscles — but that doesn’t mean anyone should want to hear him work out.

(1 1/2 horns out of 5)

-MS

 

 

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