Photo by Gray Muncy
Violence. War. Death. Insanity. RuneScape. Video games. These are the lyrical themes listed on the Metal Archives page for Creeping Death, the best ever death metal band in Denton, Texas. The now quintet are part of a growing elite class of bands from the Lone Star State—joining the likes of Power Trip, Frozen Soul and the recently disbanded Malignant Altar—who have breathed new life into Texas’ already storied metal pedigree. Vocalist Reese Alavi, today’s player character, sticks a lyrical knife into convention and gives it a firm twist by plumbing an interest in Persian history, Medieval weaponry and primitive brutality for writing inspiration rather than anything relatable in any recent century (mostly). For one, single song and its subsequent video off of debut LP Wretched Illusions (album opener “Ripping Through Flesh”) Alavi decided to directly reference their gaming obsession RuneScape and, thanks to said Metal Archives classification, finds themself forever paired with the now 22-year-old game. The association continues to follow Alavi even as the band prepares for the release of sophomore full-length Boundless Domain and—as you know who we are and what we do—an interview was quickly arranged.
Typically, Kill Screen is a celebration of the video games that have captivated us, inspire us and bring us together. Today’s installment takes a decidedly different tone. Talking to us via spotty Wi-Fi while out on the road with legends Carcass, Municipal Waste and Sacred Reich, the frontperson humorously spares no details when it comes to what they like and dislike about this “shit game.” Alavi still enjoys gaming as a pastime and speaks highly of other titles, but their connection to RuneScape is decidedly less enthusiastic. As the two co-nerds of this column have never spent any time with the fantasy RPG, we were eager to learn all that we could about it. What we discovered was equally fascinating and shocking as this dated fantasy title has connections to some fairly eye-opening real world implications. “Don’t play this game,” Alavi states flatly, in no uncertain terms. “You’re gonna hate your life. You can end up like me.”
What was your first video game experience?
It’s probably gonna be Smash Bros. Melee on GameCube or Mario Kart on [Nintendo] 64. I can’t remember which one I did first. Actually, now that I think about it, it was probably Mario Kart 64 because I was at my cousin’s house and he had a 64. That game was so good, dude. [Laughs]
What have you been playing lately?
I like to test Fortnite. I just hated it for so long, but they came out with a no-build mode. It evened the playing field a bit. People will build a mansion in, like, 12 seconds on that game. It’s so stupid. I’ve been playing that a little bit. I tried to play Sons of the Forest, which is basically a survival game on PC. They released it early because they ran out of money and I can definitely tell. [Laughs] I feel like part of it is I’m just not a survival game guy, but there’s a bunch of content that you can’t see. It’s like, “Hold X to open box,” and you just can’t because it’s not out yet. [Laughs] It’s early access. And it was cheap, too. It was, like, $30 or whatever. It was not a very good game. It was terrifying. The graphics were good and it was fun to play for maybe 4 hours, but then it’s like, “OK, I’ve been cutting trees down for 2 hours, like…” [Laughs] Or I spent 4 hours trying to find a shovel so I could get rounds for a gun that I don’t have yet.
You mentioned that survival may not be your go-to. Are there any specific genres that you prefer?
I’m kind of all over the place. I’m not the biggest MMO guy or RPG guy, but obviously RuneScape is probably the most hours I’ve spent on a video game. But I like first-person and third-person shooters and shit like that. Especially team comp-based. Like Overwatch. I love Overwatch. That game’s sick. That game kind of got ruined, though. They dropped it down to one tank instead of two and it changed the whole game. But I’m still into it.
I like the shooters that are based on abilities, too. Man, what’s that game? It’s kind of like [Call of Duty] and Fortnite had a baby. What was it called? Valorant! That’s the one. It’s honestly pretty fun. The downside is that it gets boring quick because there’s only a few maps, but it feels very good to play that game.
Who’s your Overwatch main?
Roadhog or Moira. Honestly, I kind of do like the one tank build now because they just gave them 300 more health and you can’t die.
How are you feeling about Overwatch 2 versus Overwatch 1 in general?
I can’t believe that they tried to market it as a different game. It’s literally hilarious. It’s the same fucking game with two new maps and one less player. And, what, maybe three new characters? I cannot believe they made that new game out of it. Which, I guess makes senses because they obviously took down Overwatch 1. But I’m like, Dude, this is 2023. It’s OK to just be an update game and not release new versions. I feel like there’s patch updates they did before Overwatch 2 came out that were bigger than the update of Overwatch 2 coming out. [Laughs]
Obviously we have to touch upon the “RuneScape-inspired death metal” genre label. Do you still play?
Yes. Not nearly as much as I [did], but god knows I have put too many fucking hours into that piece of shit game.
So it’s a real love/hate relationship?
Well, no. I hate it only. I’ve only ever hated it. It sucks. On paper, it’s the worst game and the content that I enjoy in it is the least focused on. I do PvP [“player versus player”]. I’m fucking rich in game, I don’t need to PvM [“player versus monster”] anymore. It’s also just boring. I like fucking killing people. It’s fun. But they’re catering to Iron Men, which is characters who can’t trade. They aren’t PKers [“player killers”]. They just cater to people who are like, “Why do I have to lose all my things when I go past the thing that says I’m gonna lose all my things if I die?” And I’m like, “You act like you don’t have free will, my dawg.” The problem is they don’t incentivize those people to go into the wild because those people bring out the other PKers. I have no desire to kill PvMers in the wilderness, but I want to kill people who are looking for them. That’s fun. There’s skill involved whereas you just shoot bolt at a guy until he dies or runs out of food or whatever.
However, they did just buff a bunch of the bosses in the wilderness, so it’s been a lot more active as of late. A lot more active, I would say. But it went from, like, if me and my clan would go out to PK, we would get in a fight every 5 minutes and those fights would last anywhere from between 5 minutes and fucking 7 hours, to we gotta hop worlds for fucking 45 minutes to find a single person who’s not even trying to PK, you know what I mean? I say it’s a shit game because they don’t cater to what I want, but the thing is you ask anybody and they’re like, “Yeah, fuck this game,” as they’re logging 9 hours per day. [Laughs]
I [James] was watching a video about it last night. The video was saying that there’s a lot of different things to do and ways to approach the game. One of the things that I thought was interesting was they said there’s ways to get through the game with very minimal combat. Just focusing on other stuff.
There’s people who literally are just skillers that don’t do any combat and they just sit there and click a log for 17 hours a day. It’s absurd.
Are you able to get in any time while you’re on tour? Or is this a non-touring only kind of thing?
The upside of the game is that you could run it on a fucking potato. I refuse to play mobile unless I’m just logging in to trade something over to somebody. I have a little tablet. It’s a [Microsoft] Surface. I just bring my mouse and keyboard. Every now and then I will. I haven’t on this tour because most of the time when my boys are doing shit, I’m on stage or at a show. We’re EST-based, so 7 PM EST to midnight is when we’re active.
What’s your typical build?
I have every single one of them maxed.
What’s the most fun for you?
Mains are definitely the most fun because it’s actually fucking hard to kill people. When you’re maxed and your defense is the highest that it can be, it makes it very hard to do damage if you’re hitting them just like a donkey. You have to pay attention to prayers. It’s mad click intensive. If I’m in a 1v1, I’m probably clicking upwards of 1,200 times a minute. That’s pretty fucked up. [Laughs] You have to be mad accurate, too. I play in fixed screen mode, the smallest it can be, so I have the shortest strokes between my mouse clicks. The things I’m clicking are, like, 20 pixels. [Laughs]
Have you noticed any kind of damage to your wrist or finger or anything like that?
Oh, my right hand is blooown out. Let me tell you. Mostly my wrist. Also, this is mostly because I was super adamant on using a heavy mouse for so long. Then I ditched the weighted mouse and got a super lightweight one. That’s not so bad. Also, I just don’t play as much anymore. I haven’t played a video game in, like, three weeks. My hand feels fucking awesome right now. [Laughs]
Even though a select number of songs only directly reference RuneScape…
Just one. And Metal Archives says that because my friend is an admin and he thought it would be funny.
Does it feel reductive to continue that label or does it give more of a sense of mystique?
This interview does not because we’re talking about video games and I like doing that. But I’m like, Damn, you write one fucking song about some shitty 2007 Jagex-scripted game and people can’t believe it. Nah, I wouldn’t say reductive. I don’t think that’s the right word. I spent so much brainpower trying to write big-brain lyrics and apparently I failed because everybody else just wants to talk about the RuneScape song. [Laughs]
Do you still have fans coming up to you and asking about it?
Every now and then. Yeah, sometimes. Not super often. They’re usually fucking noobs, too.
And then you just convince them not to play.
Yeah, I’m like, “Dude, just stop while you’re ahead because it’s nothing but misery.” I will say, the game is a shit game, I fucking hate everything about it, [but] I’m in a 90-person clan, so when we’re squaded up with, like, 40 people, that shit’s pretty fun.
Do you feel like you’ll never be able to escape it?
No, because I’m a fucking leader. I usually just go AWOL when I’m on tour, but the other day I had to deal with some shit in our Discord. So, it’s just, like, goddammit. [Laughs] It becomes a job.
A friend of mine [James], he was real into World of Warcraft and he would talk about how his guild would get so many people together to do a big raid or something and the time that usually worked for them was Friday nights. He’s like, “I like playing this game, but everybody’s all trying to pile in on Friday night at 7 o’clock and I kinda want to go outside and do something. But everybody’s there, so I gotta go.” That could be tough.
In RS, the poppin’ days are Sunday, all day. And then Monday, Tuesday is pretty poppin’ at night. We’re EST-based, so even on a Sunday it’s pretty hard to get a bunch of people on at, like, 2 PM. But Sunday’s the big day. All the pure clans, every single one of them go out at 2 on Sunday. If you wanna go bully some pures, you can.
When you’re finished up with tour, are you excited to sit down and play some games whether it’s this or something else?
For sure. It’s a nice way to unwind, also. Just being able to sit and have zero timelines for the day and just fuck off and play some video games. Even if I’m not playing RuneScape, I’m chilling in voice chat with my RuneScape homies. It’s definitely something I look forward to when I get home.
How many hours would you say you have in RuneScape?
Oh, that’s cute. You said hours? My main has been logged in for 175 days. Granted—in my defense—80 to 90 of that I was botting and I was probably at work or asleep or something. But… you know.
That’s still 90 days of active play.
Yeah, it’s a little rough. That’s, like, pandemic shit and early 20s shit. Now, if I’m home for 6 weeks, I’ll probably put in, like, 5 hours a week. It also is dependent on what’s going on. If everybody’s out, I’m gonna get my clan to go out. And if it’s dead, I’m not gonna waste their time, you know?
Do you have a second game that would be your next priority down when you’re not spending time on RuneScape?
Honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t bring this up. I’ve been playing so much fucking Rocket League when I’m at the house just because it’s so mindless, the games are short. I’ll get ready for work and sit down and play four rounds. That game is just stupid. It’s fucking fun. [Laughs] It’s dope. I like that game a lot. One of my buddies who I play with, one of my real life friends, he is so fucking good at that game, I had to stop playing with him because when we do matchmaking together, I feel like I’m Hasbula playing an NBA game. It’s like my feet are glued to the floor and everyone around me is fucking Goliath. I’m just watching them hit the fucking ball. I’m just sitting here waiting for it like a dog.
The video for “Intestinal Wrap” doubles down on the dark high fantasy aesthetic that you’ve set in the video for “Ripping Through Flesh.” What is it about Medieval violence that inspires you more than typical modern day violence like in other death metal bands?
It’s funny you ask that, because I just wrote a modern day violence song on the album. But it’s the first time I’ve done it. It’s still pretty brutal. It’s about every nuke going off at once. But I just like the imagery. I love old fantasy books and movies and shows and shit like that. Swords look fucking cool, you know what I mean? [Laughs] I also just think that there’s more room for brutality with more primitive weapons. The imagery is there.
Not a fun time to be alive. We don’t call them the Dark Ages for nothin’.
No, dude. Something [guitarist] A.J. [Ross] always brings up: We didn’t realize you had to sanitize scalpels or medical equipment until, like, 200 years ago. [Laughs]
I don’t even know if it was 200. Late 19th century doctors still had rugs and wooden furniture and the most bacteria-ridden shit that you could get.
That’s fucking crazy. The room that it leaves for more fucked up imagery. Also, I love ancient Persian history and stuff like that. The older an idea is in my head, the better.
Any particular reason for Persian history?
Because I’m Persian. It’s not that deep. [Laughs] If you do wanna get deeper, though: It’s the longest lasting empire ever. It’s just interesting to me.
“Intestinal Wrap” also features guest vocals from noted World of Warcraft nerd Corpsegrinder. Did you two get to talk about gaming at all? Do you get to talk to any other bands about gaming at all?
Yeah, for sure on the road. You’ll see the guy pull a Switch out of his backpack or whatever. But no, I haven’t spoken to [Corpsegrinder] yet. I would love to. I’d like to tell him that World of Warcraft sucks and that he shouldn’t play RuneScape either. [Laughs]
What would you suggest he play, then?
Uh, fuck. I don’t know. At this point, I should just get a job. [Laughs] I did try to play WoW as a kid, though, and I didn’t like it. I don’t know what it was. I think that the primitive-ness of RuneScape—like, it’s literally a point-and-shoot game from Java. Here’s the thing about it: It looks borderline 16-bit. It’s a shitty looking game. But the mechanics are so insane. In your whole career in RuneScape versus World of Warcraft, you probably click about 75,000 times more. It’s very demanding.
Do you feel like RuneScape scratches a difficulty itch that you don’t really get in other games?
Yeah. What I like about it is the difficult itch is based on people, not the game. You could smoke somebody’s kneecaps off and then the next fight is 7 minutes and you’re on 1 HP the whole fucking time. It makes it interesting and eclectic. Every fight is different. And once you’re 3 minutes in on a 1v1, you start to see how this person that you’re fighting fights and it’s usually different than other people; different fakes or whatever. So you have to be on your toes and super observant. You cannot look away or you’re smoked.
The game works on game ticks. Every action can only be executed every .6 seconds. So I’m at the point where, in my head, I’m subconsciously counting .6 seconds so that when I switch gear, I don’t put on my robe and then my robe bottom a second later. I want to do it at once and be as hyper-efficient as you can because every second you click matters. One missed step and you get dropped on your head.
Is there a competitive scene in RuneScape?
Oh yeah. Big time. There’s a streamer named odablock and he’s, like, number 7 on Twitch right now. It’s fucking crazy. It’s very competitive. There’s areas in the game where it’s single-way combat—where you can only 1v1—and then there’s areas where it’s multi—39,000 people could tactical nuke. And so they did this update catering to crying PvMers. Back in the day—in the glory days—in singles, you could PJ [“pile jump”] people, which means you could have your homie fighting somebody and if you need to jump in for him or he already used his special attacks and you have yours already regenerated, he can hit the ground instead of the other dude and you can take the fight. They did away with that, so now there’s a timer. A dude has 20 seconds to run in between you hitting them and your homie hitting them. So, the single-way clans kind of just dissolved—they don’t exist anymore. That was the most competitive. These dudes were literally dying with $1,100 USD gear on their person. It’s fucking nuts. It was very competitive. It was fucked up. People feed their families with this shit.
I [James] was reading about that. It was saying that in Venezuela there’s a significant amount of people who farm gold and stuff. Some of the people in the community get upset about it because they can kind of throw off the balance and pay to win. But on the other hand, some people are empathetic towards, like, “Well, if this is how somebody literally feeds their family…” [Grimaces, shrugs]
Right. And it sucks for them. A few years ago, one mil GP was worth 78 cents. Just for perspective, I’m not that rich. I have a four mil bank. Back in the day, if I had no money for tour, I could sell out my bank and have $2,000 USD. But now, it’s $0.32 per mil. It was crazy. Clans would weaponize these people who were trying to feed their families by paying them to protect PvMers in these wilderness areas. These dudes would fight for, like, 36 fucking hours straight protecting these woods. Hours. Days. The longest fight that I can think of is probably 8 days, no breaks. Granted, people were filtering in and out and shit. It was crazy. Literally, they would sit there for fucking 30 hours and just be typing in game, “LOL LOL LOL, Keep returning, I’ll be right here!” [Laughs] It’s fucking crazy. It’s intense.
Do you see yourself ever getting to the point of being competitive RuneScape?
Oh, no. Absolutely not. In terms of multi-PKing, I’m probably top 5 percent in terms of skill. In singles, I’m probably top 40, top 30? Singles is the only way you can make content. You can’t really make content with multi-PvPing, because you don’t want to stream your clan’s location because they’ll hit you. People will catch you off guard. People pay [others with] PayPal or RuneScape GP to spy on other clans so that they can get spy hits or personal information, shit like that. It’s fucking insane. It’s nuts. It’s like actual countries in the world: They spy on each other, they pay people to rat. The last thing you want to do in the PvP community is getting caught slipping and forfeiting. Half of it is fighting and half of it is just mental game. They just try to fucking break their spirits. [Laughs] If you get into what we call an “outlast fight,” the best way to counter that is getting your whole clan to spam, like, “LMAO, hope you can last 10 hours, I gotta go in 20,” something like that. [Laughs] It’s really absurd.
This feels like actual Medieval combat. The first part of any big battle is that kind of psychological warfare and so much of it is more that than it is the actual fight.
Oh yeah. And I’m not down with this shit, but people fucking dox people in this game on a daily basis. It’s pretty insane.
Are there any games that you’re looking forward to in the near future?
Yeah. Definitely I’m looking forward to Diablo IV. I have never played any of the other Diablo series, but our front-of-house guy was playing III the other day and I was watching it and it looked sick. And I watched some gameplay and shit. That’s definitely one off the top of my head that I’m definitely gonna get when it comes out.
Do you see yourself coming back to try any of the others before IV comes out?
Yeah, I was thinking about getting III on the Switch because we have a 30-hour drive home after this tour.
You were just talking about the Switch, but you’ve obviously talked about some PC stuff as well. Do you go back and forth between PC and Switch, or is it mostly one or the other?
If I’m at home, I basically only play on a PC unless I have friends over. I’ve had my Switch for this whole tour. I believe I’ve used it for for two hours. Here’s the thing: I’m usually in this bunk. Here’s the bed and here’s the ceiling. [Puts thumb to nose] When I’m on my back, my pinky is where the ceiling is. Also, if I’m gonna bust the Switch out, I need Wi-Fi because I’m gonna play Rocket League. The last two U.S. tours we did, I got the Castlevania series and I played it until I wanted to throw my Switch at the wall. I think I beat the first two, and then I was like, I’m literally just pissed off at this point. [Laughs]
Especially the old Castlevanias, they can be infuriating.
So fucking hard. Plus, I firmly believe the earliest ones are the hardest and that’s where I started. I was like, I have to do them in order. And that’s just insane. I really want to get back into fucking side-scrollers. There’s a gaggle of cool shit for $5 on Switch, I just gotta do my research.
I feel like the side-scrollers are really going through a golden era. You have things like Hollow Knight and Blasphemous. I just played through The Messenger recently and that was a blast. But it seems like you kind of prefer the more multiplayer, social-style video games.
Are there any other single-player games that you gravitate towards or do you typically find most enjoyment out of multiplayer?
I am a very multiplayer guy. If I’m gonna download a single-player game, it’s gotta be, like, fucking Game of the Year, overhyped, I have find out what this is about kind of shit. I couldn’t even tell you the last single-player game I played. It was probably Castlevania. I like multiplayer. A, I wanna play with homies and have a good time and B, I also wanna make somebody feel bad when I kill them. I don’t think NPCs really have feelings, so it doesn’t feel them same.
Any final thoughts for the metal gaming community?
Don’t fucking play RuneScape. It’s not worth it. [Laughs] Play any other game. Play Rocket League. It’s fun for the whole family.
Boundless Domain is out June 16 via MNRK Heavy and can be pre-ordered here.
Tickets for the Boundless Domain Summer Tour 2023 can be purchased here.
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