North Texas’ Creeping Death Is on an Undying Ascent

Creeping Death's popularity is not dying down.
Creeping Death's popularity is not dying down.
Chad Kelco
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It’s an unseasonably warm night in January when the guys in Creeping Death meet up at the Storage Depot in Denton. They’ll be leaving for a weeklong tour early the next morning. With generous clouds and no breeze, it could rain any moment, but not even a sudden downpour could dampen the excitement that charges the heavy air.

Guitarist Trey Pemberton, bassist Eric “Rico” Mejia and drummer Lincoln Mullins get ready to load their van with gear; vocalist Reese Alavi couldn’t make it out. But luckily for us, we got the chance to catch up with the three metal musicians before they hit the road with Ohio’s Sanguisugabogg.

The metal dudes are ecstatic to be doing what they love again: touring the country. And aside from performing in states like California and Colorado, Pemberton says there’s one thing they’re really looking forward to: “Legal weed.”

But Mejia has another vice on his mind. He’s more excited to hit the casinos during the band’s stint in Las Vegas.

“Eric’s gonna bet the van trailer and all of our gear on black,” Mullins says as a chorus of laughter echoes around the cramped storage space.

Mejia doesn’t contest that prediction.

“Bet it all on black, baby,” he says with a smile.

It seems like Creeping Death is always on the road. Last fall, they joined metal legends High on Fire and Dallas’ hometown heroes Power Trip for a North American tour. And starting in late February, they’ll be opening for The Acacia Strain on a monthlong run across the States and Canada.

But aside from the occasional pang of homesickness, the dudes say they live to play. The only thing that sometimes wears on them is the lack of healthy food options.

“You’re forced to camp in a van and eat McDonald’s for a month,” Mullins says, adding that he recently got sick from a Golden Arch delicacy. “I never wanna eat a burger again.”

With members ranging in age from 23 to 30, Creeping Death is a young band that’s already carved itself a solid foothold in the metal music industry. From the beginning, the guys say they’ve gotten nothing but support from metal fans, both locally and nationwide.

When media conglomerate Entertainment One sent the band an email asking to sign them, they didn’t believe it at first. Pemberton says they were sure it was a scam.

But after they verified the existence of the entertainment company — which has released blockbusters like 1917 and represents bands as ubiquitous as The Lumineers — they immediately signed on the dotted line. It was a moment Mejia calls “a dream come true.”

In 2018, the group released the vicious EP Specter of War. And last September, eOne unleashed Creeping Death’s righteous 10-track banger, Wretched Illusions, to rave reviews.

“It was incredible,” Mullins says of the response to their debut album. “I was looking [online] for mean comments and I haven’t found any. I’m looking for haters!”

Pemberton and Mejia say they became fast friends after they met through the hardcore scene in 2010. But it wasn’t until a drunken night at Denton’s rowdiest dive bar, Cool Beans, that the guys formally decided to form a band. They called themselves “Creeping Death” as a nod to metal gods Metallica, who featured a song of the same name on their classic sophomore album Ride the Lightning.

Far from being a pipe dream, the newly formed band knew it was possible to make it in the music industry, Mejia says. Power Trip’s rise to fame served as an example of how a North Texas group could hit it big.

Alavi grew up alongside Power Trip vocalist Riley Gale. And Pemberton had rubbed elbows with guitarist Blake Ibanez when they were both students at the University of North Texas.

Touring with Creeping Death last fall was a breeze, Power Trip’s Ibanez says; they acted like professionals and got along with the more veteran players. Plus, he says it’s been cool to see Creeping Death “sharpening their chops” every step of the way.

“It seems like they’re on the same path [as Power Trip], as long as they keep doing it and making the right choices,” Ibanez says.

“They’re moving a lot quicker than we did.”

The guys in Creeping Death say their families are extremely supportive of their unconventional lifestyles. Pemberton credits his mom with being the group’s “number one fan.” Mejia says his wife, Brittany, is understanding even when he’s on tour for weeks at a time. And Mullins says his family is 100% accepting — especially since his dad used to play drums in a band in the 1980s.

Perhaps more importantly, local metal fans were receptive to Creeping Death’s sound right out of the gate. It makes sense, too. Bands like Iron Age and Vulgar Display, not to mention thrash metal pioneers Pantera, have all called Texas home.

Mejia says Texas is fertile ground for metal music because it’s somewhat free from the influence of the East and West Coast. That sort of isolation fuels musical creativity.

“So we’ve got to make music for us, that we like,” Mejia says. “For Texans.”

Pemberton nods his head in agreement.

“It’s kind of like Australia,” he says. “Where the fuck are you going to find a platypus in any other country in the world? There’s shit that exists there that doesn’t anywhere else, and it’s basically because they were isolated from everywhere else. It’s the same kind of deal.”

Aside from their upcoming tours, the group says they’re stoked to be performing at Austin’s Oblivion Access Festival in June. There, they’ll be sharing the stage with big name acts like Carcass, Youth of Today, Converge and Dallas’ own True Widow.

Even with their recent success, Creeping Death remains humble. Pemberton definitely doesn’t feel like a rock star yet; he’s checked his bank account recently, a move he says “isn’t very rock star-esque.”

And sure, they may be playing sold-out festivals with some of the world’s biggest metal acts. But no one in Creeping Death is letting that go to their head.

“It literally is a dream that all of us had when we were younger that didn’t seem feasible,” Mejia says. “But I guess it is. You can do it. You just gotta get out there and get lucky.”

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