Dethklok, is a fictional, hyperbolic death metal band on Cartoon Network’s show Metalocalypse. The show is both a parody and an homage to the heavy metal culture. With its unique brand of dark humor combined with musical authenticity, the show has developed a devout fan base of metal heads, guitar enthusiasts and cartoon lovers a like.
Co-creator and writer of Metalocalypse, Brendon Small, is himself a very capable guitarist. The 1997 Berklee graduate writes all the music featured on the show. About a year after the show first debuted, Small released “The Dethalbum” under the Dethklok name, which featured complete versions of Dethklok songs. The album premiered at number 21 on the Bilboard charts and was the highest charting death metal album of all time until its follow up release, “The Dethalbum II,” surpassed it.
To support the popularity of the albums, Small puts together a real life version of Dethklok that performs. They’ve toured all over the country and have shared the stage with the likes of Soylent Green, Converge and Mastodon, to name a few.
So now with Small’s name firmly forged into the world of metal, he has teamed up with long time sponsor of the show, Gibson, to create a signature guitar. The result is this beauty, the Dethklok “Thunderhorse” Explorer.
It bears many of the same specs as the standard Explorers being made by Gibson today: solid mahogany body, set mahogany neck, 22 medium jumbo frets, dotted inlays, pick guard and chrome hardware. What makes the “Thunderhorse” really stand out from other Explorers is its satin silverburst finish, cream binding around the body and neck, ebony fretboard and a covered set of Gibson’s Burstbucker humbuckers.
Oh and let’s not forget, the one thing completely unique to this guitar and the only clue that this has anything to do with Dethklok is the custom “Thunderhorse” truss rod cover – a little inside joke to fans of the show.
Recently, Small sat down in an interview to talk about the process of designing the “Thunderhorse”. Small said he didn’t want to, “reinvent the wheel.” He was also aware of the potential pitfalls when it came to designing a guitar inspired by a cartoon. “I thought the worst case scenario for a Dethklok guitar would be [something with] big cartoon characters all over the guitar where no one would want to buy it and it’d look like a big stupid mess.”
So if you want to find the real inspiration behind the design of this guitar, one mustn’t look further than Small’s enthusiasm for the classic Gibson Explorers. “I’ve always been a fan of the E2 series from the early 80s, where they had a burst, and binding and a pick guard and…I just love it!”
As for the pickup selection, Small went in favor of the passive Gibson Burstbuckers instead of active EMGs, which are typically featured on the show. The choice seemed to be a matter of flexibility of tone. Small is a self-admitted “pickup junkie” and said about Gibson’s Burstbuckers, “This is the perfect pickup for me if I’m playing lots of different styles of music.”
It was evident that Small, also a comedian, found some irony in the fact that a band he created in a cartoon has become so popular in real life. “I always thought, ‘What’s the ultimate thing you could do as a guitarist’,” he said jokingly, “and I think that’s create a signature guitar, even if your band is pretend.”
If the popularity of Metalocalypse is any indication, the “Thunderhorse” is likely to be a hit amongst guitar lovers and Gibson Explorer enthusiasts. The guitar is not available for purchase until March 28th but you could already preorder it on zZounds for $1670.
If you’re a big fan of the show, keep an eye out for Brendon Small’s solo record due out sometime this year. On the album Brendon said you could hear the “Thunderhorse” played extensively.
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- Small Interview 1
- Small Interview 2
- Guitar Lesson with Dethklok lead guitarist, Skwisgaar Skwigelf