Metalocalypse—the Adult Swim series about Dethklok, a heavy metal band so powerful that the global economy rises and falls with them—returns Sunday, April 29 for Season 4 after 18 months off. Besides its dense subplots and back stories (second only to Adult Swim’s The Venture Bros.) and even-more-intricate music (written and performed mostly by show creator Brendon Small), Metalocalypse is also one of the funniest animated series ever—that is, if your sense of humor runs blacker than Norwegian death metal. Here are nine essential episodes:
“The Curse of Dethklok” (Season 1, 2006): The debut episode, wherein 300,000 Dethklok fans travel to Norway to hear the band play one new song: A brutal “jingle” for Duncan Hills Coffee. After Dethklok’s airlifted metal stage accidentally crushes a portion of the audience, the rest are scalded to death by boiling java (and this is one of the band’s more incident-free concerts). This episode also introduces The Tribunal, a clandestine group that tracks Dethklok’s every move because they believe the band is part of an ancient prophecy that will bring about an “apocalypse of metal” (hence, Metalocalypse).
“Dethclown” (Season 1, 2006): Guitarist Toki Wartooth becomes friends with ’80s glam-rock reject Dr. Rockso, a (literal) clown who sounds like a cross between Kiss’ Paul Stanley and a dishwasher full of cats. The Tribunal easily plies Rockso with drugs to gather intel from Dethklok’s castle, which he does while distracting the band with his music video for “I’m Just a Rock & Roll Clown,” a scarily perfect hair-metal parody featuring Dr. Rockso skiing on mountains of cocaine.
“Girlfriendklok” (Season 1, 2006): Singer Nathan Explosion gets a controlling new girlfriend who makes him wear pink polo shirts, go shopping and, worst of all, forbids him from nailing groupies and hosting the U.S. Pornography Awards with Dethklok. Yoko Problem solved when she tumbles down seven flights of stairs and falls into a coma, making her “the perfect girlfriend.”
“Dethrace” (Season 2, 2008): Opening a NASCAR race, William Murderface plays the national anthem on a bass guitar with his penis. Lesson: Dreams can come true.
“Snakes N’ Barrels II” (Season 2, 2008): Drummer Pickles learns that the band he used to sing for, Snakes N’ Barrels, has reformed without him to play the Sobertown USA No Drugs Allowed Sober Rock & Roll Show—being an avid booze & pills enthusiast, Pickles in not pleased. It’s soon reveled that SNB are still under the influence of a Tribunal mind-control drug from Season 1, Totally Awesome Sweet Alabama Liquid Snake (which Pickles has a tolerance against); the Sobertown concert ends with violent hallucinations and a drunken audience, thus vanquishing evil sobriety.
“Dethrelease” (Season 2, 2008): Upon the completion and imminent release of their new album (which the world economy depends upon), Dethklok are attacked by a terrorist group called the Revengencers, who’ve allied with Lavona Succuboso, a woman bent on acquiring Nathan Explosion’s seed to start a master warrior race with unintelligible voices. The season finales with the album’s master tapes safe, an epic revelation from the Tribunal, the apparent death of Dethklok’s manager, and the band unsuccessful in their attempts to fellate themselves (except for Pickles).
“Tributeklok” (Season 3, 2009): The band lifts their worldwide ban on Dethklok tribute bands, only to learn Toki has been secretly playing lead guitarist Swisgaar Swigelf in a Dethklok tribute band called Thunderhorse. Fed up with celebrity, the rest of Dethklok forcibly join Thunderhorse and kick out the other members. Then they learn the sad reality of “beer tickets.”
“Rehabklok” (Season 3, 2010): After a drunken flying-drum-riser incident, Dethklok sends Pickles to rehab and replaces him with a sentient drum machine—which, for some reason, is armed with a 10,000-megaton explosive device. When the X2P1158 also falls under the influence of alcohol, drugs and groupies and Dethklok tries to fire it, the robot takes the band hostage and starts its detonation countdown. Fresh out of rehab, Pickles gets drunk and uses his booze-fueled super-strength to destroy the X2P1158 and rescue Dethklok. Lesson: Alcohol saves lives.
“Doublebookedklok” (Season 3, 2010): In the third-season finale, Dethklok inadvertently double-book shows in both Syria and Israel, who then threaten to war. Meanwhile, more Tribunal revelations come forth and—foreshadowing Tupac’s appearance at Coachella by over a year—Dethklok achieve peace in the Middle East by performing via hologram in both countries.