Meet Killstreak, the Deathcore band bringing video games to the pit

Meet Killstreak, the Deathcore band bringing video games to the pit
Twitter - KillstreakUS | iD Software | 343 Industries

Written by 

Joseph Kime


31st Mar 2023 15:35

We might be a good decade past the days of xSpongecorex (Google it) and the snapping, snarling, Caninus (again, Google it). Still, that doesn't mean that gimmick bands in the alternative space aren't still crushing it.

Thankfully, the term has been adopted lovingly, with Ice Nine Kills leading the charge with their Horror-themed bangers that line their two The Silver Scream records and taking it on the road with the giants that are Metallica, and Alestorm still doing… whatever Alestorm are doing.

The point is, central gimmicks are no longer a goof, and they've been proven to work time and time again when it comes to garnering an audience, in metal and beyond.

Video games have always been a part of metal culture anyway, with heavy music being baked into the DNA of DOOM's infectious soundtracks and Ice Nine Kills releasing "Rainy Day," their single based on the Resident Evil franchise. Now, there's a new band going harder on this theme than ever before.

Killstreak are the band opening the polygonal pit

Fusing the fanbases that adore both two-stepping and triple-jumping with as little sheltering as possible, a new band from Ohio has bloomed in the hearts of many, and though it's their third single that is introducing them to fans more than anything else, it feels like Killstreak has been around forever.

"You mentioned the word 'gimmick', and I don't hate that word at all," says Ryan Katz, the guitarist and main songwriter for Killstreak - sitting down for a chat alongside the rest of the band with GGRecon.

"Sometimes you see a lot of band that are just four guys in black shirts and jeans writing about their feelings, which is okay, but I wanna do something a little more refreshing than that." It's a miracle it has taken so long to address the gap in the market that the band has found.

Killstreak takes the lavish slams of the deathcore genre and sews them into video game narratives one song at a time. Their latest single, "Nicole is Dead," is a loving tribute to Dead Space that blends the deep-space sci-fi that the series is known for with the band's roots.

It culminates in a music video shot in a skate park (as, after all, we imagine the USG Ishimura is pretty expensive to rent). There are flecks of Lorna Shore and Shadow of Intent in the sound of the song, but that doesn't make them a mere deathcore band - in fact, they've been adapting song-to-song, as evidenced by their high-concept Halo track, "Fall of Reach."

"We're very calculated with how we write the music as it pertains to each game," Katz adds. "When we did the Fall of Reach track for Halo, we didn't wanna do something that was brutal, in your face the whole time because Halo is sci-fi, and you wanted to go [to those] big open spaces with different synths and you know, go [to] that realm."

Killstreak aren't afraid to go old-school

The three titles their songs have covered so far, Call of Duty's "No Scope," Halo's "Fall of Reach" and Dead Space's "Nicole is Dead" might make you assume that there's a trend of popularity for the band to follow - but the opposite appears to be true.

Killstreak aren't feeling restrained to what's popular. In fact, they're turning back the clock as they gear up to cover the likes of Goldeneye 007, Return to Castle Wolfenstein and DOOM in their upcoming EP, expected to launch closer to the end of the year. It's not just to poke at what players like - they're making the songs that they like.

"Return to Castle Wolfenstein was on my wishlist because I was born and raised Jewish," Katz laughs. "And I've always wanted to write a song about murdering Nazis." Kicking fascists has its home in Hardcore anyway, so it's certainly a comfortable marriage - but though violence has taken the front seat in this era of Killstreak, there could yet be more chill approaches to songwriting.

Asking the band what games they'd like to cover in the future, vocalist Sam McCartney's face lights up. "I'm a big baby and I love stuff like Zelda. Zelda is my favourite freaking game ever. Anything Nintendo really - Mario, Zelda, Kirby, Super Smash Bros…"

The list seems to go on, as the band pitches track ideas from all over the genre spectrum - Sonic, Bayonetta, Dark Souls and Pokemon get their look in, and their excitement by the prospects makes the most important element of Killstreak's existence clear...that the sky is truly the limit.

"I think the main reason why we started doing our first EP with first-person shooters is because if you look at metal, it's a very violent genre as far as audibly speaking [goes] [...] so this EP is first-person shooter, the next EP might be, you know, fantasy.

"We could do some sort of crossover between even racing, and other kinds of games. So the cool thing about this is we're never gonna run out of material."

Killstreak join the fight in a formidable fashion

Only three songs into their tenure as a band, Killstreak have proven that it's not just a novelty that has pushed them to create. It's passion and sincerely impressive musicality that helps to set them apart from the many local bands that have attempted the same thing before.

As they discuss their upset with the financial wreck that touring can leave bands in, it's clear that their ambition seeks to break through despite, and as the Cleveland natives ask which venues in the UK they should headline if they visit, the band make their confidence known.

There is an excitement that comes with an artist basing a song on something you recognise, but to bring video games to life with such care and such lethal breakdowns is something else entirely.

Ice Nine Kills might have dominated the market with their pop-culture 'core, but if we're lucky, their tenure as the uncontested giant may have met its maker with Killstreak.

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