“Channelling my power, your end will be swift/Now there’s nothing in my way you’ll feel my deathfire grasp”. If that means nothing to you, you’re clearly not one of the 100 million gamers a month who head to Runeterra and take up arms against a sea of enemy champions in League Of Legends, a high fantasy multiplayer online battle arena (or MOBA).
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Here, a ‘deathfire grasp’ was one of the more powerful ways to blast your foes into neon smithereens and Pentakill isn’t just the ultimate achievement of slaughtering five enemies in one go, but also the name of the in-game rock band made up of character ‘skins’ made to look like face-melting Medieval metal musicians.
There’s Karthus The Deathsinger, the Skeletor-style vocalist. Yorick, the bassist who’s essentially Slash with a massive shield. The new winged backing singer Kayle. Then Sona is the scorpion-cum-keyboardist, Mordekaiser plays a guitar carved out of a battle-beaten great axe and steampunk ogre Olaf plays drums with sticks made of glowing human skulls.
What’s more, Pentakill are a real (virtual) band. The likes of Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee, Danny Lohner of Nine Inch Nails and a plethora other metal big-hitters record actual music related to the game, some of which has already hit the Billboard Top 40 and garnered millions of YouTube streams. They are, in essence the game world’s Gorillaz.
Having become a Billboard hit with their 2014 debut 8 track EP ‘Smite And Ignite’, featuring such modern metal classics as ‘Ohmwrecker’ and ‘The Hex Core’, Pentakill are set to release their first full album ‘Pentakill II: Grasp Of The Undying’. Lyric videos for the pre-released songs ‘Tear Of The Goddess’ and ‘The Bloodthirster’ have already racked up over a million views between them, thanks to the unique bond the gamer has to the band. To whit, they can play as the various members inside the game.
So, online, Yorick’s bass becomes a flaming axe that can rent opponents asunder with a satisfying tuning-up thunk or summon demonic between bouts of kick-ass chunder solos. Olaf’s skull sticks double as grenades, Sona’s keyboard comes with magical attacks as deadly as her concert piano chords are soothing and Mordekaiser’s axe comes with its very own dragon. “Death is a song all will hear,” growls Karthus as he fires bolts from his mike stand wizard staff. You didn’t get this sort of action on the ‘Plastic Beach’.
All of which must surely make for some back-stage altercations that make Liam smashing Noel’s guitar look like Mario Cuddle Chase 27. I mean, imagine if Aerosmith or Metallica had had the power to unleash flying beasts and waves of magical hellfire on each other when they’ve fluffed a chord or shagged each other’s girlfriends. And considering Pentakill are constantly running around a 24-hour online environment rather than waiting for an illustrator to make them do stuff, as the concept develops there’s plenty of potential for them to go around chucking spell books out of smashed-up temple windows or develop crippling rune addictions from hanging out too much with Pentakill Doherty.
In fact, with an AI called Shimon starting to write its own music and fantasy metal having a fairly rigid formula – roar, thrash, orcs, repeat – we can only be a few steps away from developers programming the game’s lore into a metal lyric generator, ditching all human input altogether and allowing Pentakill to become the first fully autonomous virtual band. When they said the robots were coming for our jobs, who’d have thought Manowar would’ve been the first against the wall…