Pentakill: how a metal band that doesn’t exist made it to No 1

The band from the game League of Legends has stormed the charts and bagged cameos from the likes of Tommy Lee – despite existing only in the imaginations of their creators

How has a band that doesn’t physically exist, with zero promotion from the music industry, breach the Billboard Top 40 and reach No 1 in the iTunes metal chart?

Conceived by California-based gaming gurus Riot Games in 2014, Pentakill exist purely in the imaginations of their creators – and the 100 million global fans of League of Legends, the multiplayer online battle arena game that spawned the band’s members, Karthus the Deathsinger, Yorick, Sona, Olaf and lead guitarist Mordekaiser the Master of Metal.

Entirely under the mainstream radar, the band’s new CGI video, Mortal Reminder, notched up more than 3m views in less than 48 hours after its release – and the new album, Grasp of the Undying, seems destined to be a huge success.

“I think it’s entirely insanity as opposed to any sort of brilliance on our part,” says Viranda Tantula, a product manager at Riot Games. “When you think of a warlock like Karthus as a metal lead singer, or a berserker Viking like Olaf as a drummer, it all just seemed to make sense to us. We obviously had high hopes for this, but it’s not exactly territory we knew well when we began. We’re dying to see how the reception to the album pans out.”

Mortal Reminder.

Although the bulk of the work was done by Riot Games’ in-house composers and sound designers, the album also features collaborations with some of metal’s most respected musicians – there are cameos from the likes of Tommy Lee, Nine Inch Nails alumnus Danny Lohner and Noora Louhimo, singer with the Finnish metal band Battle Beast.

Grasp of the Undying is a surprisingly convincing and substantial modern metal record, even without its pixelated trimmings. Factor in the eye-popping visuals and explosive violence of League of Legends – witness the Mortal Reminder video for evidence – and Pentakill could hardly be more fitting (or preposterous) standard bearers for the love-in between gaming and metal fans, blurring the lines between so-called real music and digital fantasy in a way that no acts have managed before.

“Is this the future? Alvin and the Chipmunks were way ahead of the game. They’ve been doing this since 1958!” laughs Tantula. “Even Gorillaz have been killin’ it for more than a decade now. But, regardless, once Skynet becomes sentient and replaces us, a virtual future is pretty much guaranteed. Right now, we just want to usher in a new era of metal domination!”


Dom Lawson

The GuardianTramp

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