KILL SCREEN 001: Kyle Beam of UNDEATH is Ready to Wage War(craft)

Photo by James “Grato” Grottola

Welcome… to die! Herein lies the first installment of Kill Screen, Decibel’s latest column dedicated to video games and the metalheads that play them. What started out as regular internal discussions between the staff’s two hopelessly nerdiest members about their unhealthy amounts of screen time has now leveled up into a full-fledged feature of the dB website. As horror movies, books and comics are often discussed at length as the go-to muses of the extreme music world, our focus is to highlight the contributions of video games to metal and vice versa. Though our beleaguered Editor-in-Chief hasn’t picked up a controller since his glory days of Tecmo Bowl, he’s been kind (and distracted) enough to give us this space to explore metal’s 16-bit fingerprint.

Round one of Kill Screen features Undeath guitarist Kyle Beam. As one of the crowned kings of Decibel’s Top 40 Albums of 2022 feature and absolute touring/killing machines since their first cross-country U.S. tour last year, Beam has not been shy about his connection to gaming. The lyric video for “Necrobionics” features gameplay of the legendary first installment of the Doom franchise, a subject that has a direct influence on the band’s lyrical themes. Beam has also worn his heart on his World of Warcraft long sleeve to list his Top 4 recommended games for death metal fans to the readers over at Metal Injection. Before heading out on their co-headlining run with fellow death metal princes 200 Stab Wounds, Richmond crossover thrashers Enforced and North Dakota death mystics Phobophilic, Decibel caught up with the guitarist to share our histories of digital violence as well as our disappointment with a certain developer that’s so problematic it’s currently being sued by the state of California. Time’s up, let’s do this.

What was your first gaming experience?
My uncle gave me a burned copy of MechWarrior 3 when you could still do that. It had to be… 2000? 2001? Somewhere around there I got my first computer. I was 5 or 6. I was really into StarCraft back then, too, and Warcraft III. Both of my uncles that were gamers were really into that stuff.

So you’re mostly PC or do you play PC and console?
I started playing console when I was a teenager, like Halo 3 and Xbox 360. One of the few times that I really quit WoW for an extended period was when Demon’s Souls came out and I spent all my money that I ever earned in high school on a PS3 so I could buy Demon’s Souls.

Have you managed to get a PS5?
No, the most recent console I own is my PS3. I’ve lived with a lot of people who own PS4s, so I got to play Bloodborne. That’s the only game I want to own a PS4 for. I got a PC these days.

What kind of specs are you running?
I have 16 GB of RAM. The rest of it is just stock shit. It’s just an $800 gaming computer from Walmart. Dude, I’m broke. I’ve always been broke. I used to game on a ThinkPad that I got for $30 because the screen is broken on it. I have to plug it into a monitor. The amount of slop jank FPS games and shitty-ass European Diablo clones that I’ve played—because my computer couldn’t play anything else—it’s absurd. That was my gaming life for a long time.

What have you been playing lately?
World of Warcraft, bro! Dude. Wrath of the Lich King came out September 26th. I’ve been playing like a full time job. It is fucking bad. To the detriment of my health and the band… [Laughs] I have 13 days played since October 1st.

Were you pretty into it before? Did you log in a significant amount of time?
Yeah. When I was a kid, I played relentlessly. When it was released up until late Cataclysm, and then I graduated high school. I didn’t play for a couple years in college, so I missed a lot of expansions. I missed Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor, Legion, [Battle for Azeroth], basically all of them after the first four. I did play a lot of classic WoW, private servers and shit in college. I’ve always been a classic WoW player. I’m addicted to WoW, it’s not cool.

What class do you play in WoW?
Death knight! I was a warlock when there were no death knights, but once the edgy class gets surpassed by the next edgiest class, you gotta switch.

Is that your go-to style of game? This dark high fantasy kind of stuff?
Absolutely. I’m a big fan of sci-fi stuff [too]. I love the Mass Effect trilogy, Halo, you know… the good stuff. I’ll play some indie games, too. I’m really into all the games that New Blood [Interactive] publishes, like ULTRAKILL, Amid Evil, Blood, most recently Gloomwood. The demo is out for that, it’s fucking awesome. It’s kind of like Thief.

I was confusing it with Darkwood, which is that top-down survival horror game.
Whoa, this game looks scary, dude. I’m a baby, I’m so scared about video games. [Laughs]

Do you spend more time on stuff that’s darker but not horror and scary?
I’m not really a horror game player. When I was a kid, I managed to make it through Dead Space 1 and I don’t think I’ll ever play again. Doom 3? I’ve spent so much time playing Doom I and II as well because my uncles, they’re fucking old nerds. Doom 3 is way too fucking scary, dude. There’s, like, crypts and tombs in Elden Ring I won’t even go in because I’m like, I don’t feel like getting fucking scared right now. [Laughs]

Speaking of Doom, the video for “Necrobionics” is comprised entirely of Doom footage. Who came up with the idea and who’s playing the game in the actual video?
I played and I came up with the idea. Originally the [music video] was gonna be way sicker. I wanted to have a WAD [developer] create a concert room map and then have someone make some sprites of the band. I posted about this, like, 10 times. I was like, “Here is a Google Drive folder of everything you need to play Doom with me online, let’s have a big death match, like, 50 people, and record it,” and no one wanted to play. So it’s just four people and I playing death match and me playing the first two levels of Doom. [Laughs] It was gonna be so much work. Someday.

Are there any lyrics or album ideas that would have some video game Easter eggs that fans would freak out to learn about?
We had a song on the [2019] demo, “Ineffable Tumult,” which—the lyrics are pretty vague, so I’m not sure you could say it’s specifically about Bloodborne—but definitely inspired by that. “Acidic Twilight Visions,” [from 2020’s Lesions of a Different Kind] in one of the hooks we say, “rip and tear,” which is a Doom thing. The whole idea of reanimated corpses from Hell that have guns attached to them is just literally ripping off Doom. So… yes. [Laughs] We definitely have a couple of tracks with Doom storyline. We have a lot of music that’s unrelated, too.

If you’ve got some big Undeath fans who have not played Doom, what would be your pitch to them?
Rip and tear, bro. Fire it up. It runs on fucking refrigerators, you know what I mean? You can play it on anything. I would honestly recommend people pick up Doom 64 and maybe try that first. I really like that one. It’s newer to me in my adult life. I never owned a copy when I was a kid.

Did you ever get into the other “Doom clones” of the time, like Hexen and Duke Nukem?
I’ve never played a Duke Nukem game. I’ve played Hexen and Heretic and Heretic 2, which is not like Heretic but it’s still awesome. Those are all good games. There’s people making games now that are inspired by Hexen that are just better. I’m like, I want to play Doom but I want to play as a fucking mage or something. That’s so cool. But then it’s not really about that. It’s just about doing these insanely convoluted puzzles that are so fucking annoying. You have to find 9 levers in each stage. You’ll hit it and it just says, “A door opens somewhere.” But there’s, like, a thousand doors. The first hub is pretty cool, but they continually go downhill as you reach the fourth one, which kind of sucks.

In a previous interview with Metal Injection, you mentioned that Elden Ring is your game of the year. Which—duh—it’s everybody’s game of the year. What are you most looking forward to in 2023?
Elden Ring DLC! [Laughs] Beyond that, though, the second phase of Wrath of Lich King classic will be out in early 2023. The whole reason I have been going hard as fuck at it is because I’m very much looking forward to doing Ulduar, I never got to do it as a kid. Everyone hails it as one of Vile’s best raids. I think I’ll be spending a lot of time there.

Have any of the other Warcraft-adjacent titles, like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, caught your interest?
I never played those before. I’ve always wanted to play Hearthstone. I think it would be a good game to play on the road, because I think there’s mobile. But, no, not really.

You guys are on the road a lot. Do you get any kind of gaming time or is it just mostly trying to survive?
Honestly, no. You’d think that being in the van would be an awesome time to game. But if it’s a five-hour drive? You’re hanging out with everyone until everyone’s bored for, like, two hours. And then when everyone’s quiet for an hour, you’re getting towards your destination and everyone’s like, oh, I wanna talk again, let’s hang out. Not too much gaming to be done in the van unless it’s an 18-hour drive or something. And then at venues, I like to hang out. I like to chill, warm up before the show and then when we’re off the stage I like to go drink a thousand beers. I don’t game that much on the road, sadly.

After tour, do you come home and jump right back into games?
Yeah. I’ll get home, chill with my girlfriend for the night. She’ll go to work then next day and [pantomimes being hunched over a keyboard], I’m on WoW, dude! [Laughs] Chad [Green], the singer from Frozen Soul, he games on the road. He’s got an Alienware laptop. He’s on Overwatch 2 in the green room.

Overwatch is probably the game I’ve [Michael] spent the most time in. I’m trying to get into Overwatch 2, and I am not having it. Blizzard just cut way too many corners.
I’m not a Blizzard fanboy and I honestly hate to even talk about them too much because of, you know, everything. They screwed that fucking pooch, bro. They released Overwatch 2 with less content in the game than it had when it was Overwatch 1! You know this whole thing’s happening because they need Monthly Active Users because they’re owned by Activision, who owns Call of Duty. And [Activision] have like, 500 million monthly users because of CoD: Mobile, the new CoD releases. And then Blizzard has, like, 13 million because WoW is dead game, Overwatch 2 is fucking dog shit… It just sucks, dude. I just hate seeing them flounder like this.

Have you had any launches that you were really looking forward to that just let you down?
Sometimes WoW will launch an expansion it’s pretty fucking rough but I’ve honestly just come to expect it. Nothing that’s wicked disappointed me. On the flip side, I’d say that the classic WoW rerelease, that launch day was definitely a sight to behold. I don’t think we’ll ever see something like that again. There was literally so many people on the servers there were no monsters to kill in the starting zone. People were forming literal lines in order to get a monster kill. It was so fucking ridiculous. I think that a classic WoW server back in the day had maximum 2,800 people and now they have 25,000 people.

I know they had some middle years that some of the fanbase would be looking forward to a new expansion, it would launch and people would be disappointed and talk a whole bunch of trash on the internet. Then the new expansion would be announced and that same cycle would occur.
It’s a massive zeitgeist every time a new expansion comes out. All these returning people come, people who probably don’t even like the game but they play it and they’re like, “Hm, I still don’t like this game.” Also, I feel like most of the people who complain about the game on the forums probably don’t even play. They’re not out there progressing mythic raids, you know what I mean? They’re just like, “Bleh, I hate this fucking game!” [Laughs]
Some of the shit that was in the most recent WoW expansion [Shadowlands] was egregiously terrible. Not gonna lie. Such unfun content that I literally didn’t interact with it the entirety of the expansion even though it was tied to massive power gains. Shadowlands? Terrible. WarCraft III: Reforged? Do you guys remember that?

I was gonna bring that up. Did you get suckered into that one?
I bought it, opened it and I was like, “What is this?” It’s just the same game and I paid for it again! I have, like, four copies of this fucking game, dude. They’re like, “The graphics are gonna be totally updated. The cutscenes are gonna be completely redone into mega-cinematic ultra-sick cutscenes.” They’re not! I actually think they’re still the old [4:3] resolution. And then Overwatch 2? What is the fate of Diablo IV going to be? Is that gonna release in such an unfinished, dog shit state that it just flops immediately? I kinda think so. Not to be a negative Nancy, I don’t wanna be a hater.

The difference in time between Atari 2600 and Super Nintendo versus the difference in time between PS2 and PS5 is actually shorter. For somebody who’s younger than us, what constitutes a retro experience for you?
I feel like you can really define what the retro aesthetic is. If you’re trying to differentiate between retro and old, I would say, “what’s vintage gaming?” Vintage gaming would be, like, Commodore 64 and the earliest PCs. I don’t know. Castlevania is retro. But also [PS1] Tomb Raider is retro? But PS2 is not retro, right? Like, Kingdom Hearts 1 is not retro gaming.

Do you think PS1 then would be about where you draw the line? Tomb Raider?
When the hell did the PlayStation 1 come out? I’m looking it up right now. 1995? It almost could vary on a game-to-game, console-to-console basis. When did the fuck did GameBoy Color come out? 1998 to 2003. So, that’s retro. Let’s say pre-2000. I think in the 2000s technology, the increase in tech between generations has [taken] longer and [become] smaller. It’s no longer going from 16-bit to 32-bit and you’re like [pantomimes head exploding].

Any final words for metalhead gamers, any recommendations or shout outs?
I just wanted to say that Brütal Legend fucking sucks. It’s not a good game. I was so pissed off when I did my [Metal Injection interview] when all the comments were like, “No Brütal Legend, bro?” I’m like, “Dude, that’s not even a good game!” And I just wanted to say thank you to guys for having me. Appreciate it.

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