Monday, June 27, 2016

Album review: Thrillkiller—Showdown (2016)

Showdown album cover

Album: Showdown
Artist: Thrillkiller
Genre: Pop-metal/hard rock
Tracks: 10
Total time: 39:58

Continuing to progress at rate so fast that you wonder if these guys are super-human beings, in less than a year's time, Baltimore's Thrillkiller has already released an EP, and now their first full-length album is dropping like an atom bomb on the world of music, determined to obliterate the competition until there is nothing left.

With the addition of Sebastian Ochoa and Boma Jack (the latter joining after the album was made; so drums on Showdown are courtesy of Matt Bittman), Thrillkiller now has a lineup to round out their sound and continue making good on the promise that was so evident on the Time EP. The band's core members, Rob Bradley and Maxim Sobchenko, are still present and have added 6 more songs to the ones we remember from Time. Not only does Showdown follow up on the promise that Time hinted at, but completely doubles-down and ups the ante to dizzying heights.

“Passion Killer”: Just as on Time, this is Showdown's opening track, and why fix it if it ain't broken? This is a quintessential opening track, complete with tasty guitar licks, a toe-tappingly satisfying rhythm section, and a hooky chorus that is sure to get you up and moving. This is a perfect track to set up the rest of the album, so buckle up and rock out!

“Showdown”: Goddamn, this track is so sexy, for lack of a better word. It's got this groove to it with a gritty edge, and then along comes a smooth, seductive solo courtesy of a saxophone! That's right, you read that correctly: a saxophone. Thrillkiller manages to take a saxophone and make it sound completely at home in a hard rock song, something that many bands have tried but very few have pulled off with more panache.

“The Storm”: Another track where Maxim shows off his mad riffing skills. Like I said before, this song sounds like something that would be in a James Bond movie or some sort of action/mystery film. It's got this churning cadence to it that invokes feelings of suspense or tension, along with dramatic vocal flair that keeps things interesting, and a guitar solo that is so smokin' that you'd better keep a fire extinguisher nearby!

“Living in Infamy”: Now here is a song that has that zip to it that makes you want to snap your fingers and bob your head (or headbang really hard, depending on how you prefer to express yourself). Everything on this track is a hook: the verses, the chorus, the music; every part of this song is designed for one purpose: to be a complete earworm that sticks in your head for as long as humanly possible.

“The Fever”: This song is so hypnotic, it just pulls you in and before you realize what has happened, you're completely hooked by the time the mantra-like chorus wraps itself around your soul.

“A Reason”: A touch of power metal melody and electronic-pop smoothness, I can see this being a favorite among many. It's already a favorite for me. The song is intense without being heavy or fast; it's mellow without being complacent or predictable. Maxim gets in touch with his prog side on the solo, and Rob's voice sounds huge without taking up all the spotlight. This would be a perfect choice for a single; it's not too in-your-face with the heaviness, nor is it so poppy that rock fans would be turned off.

“The Believer”: Thrillkiller is revisiting their metal roots a little with this one, which is just fine with me. Rob is spitting his vocals out so fast that it almost sounds like he's rapping, which is an awesome contrast to his high notes. If there are mosh pits at Thrillkiller shows, it might be a good time to start one when this tune starts playing.

“In Too Deep”: This song is my jam. I said it. Seriously, I fucking love this song. I would marry it if I could. This song has hooked me from the start and I still love it. I still turn it up whenever I hear it, and it still gets stuck in my head instantly every time I hear it.

“Time”: This is another song that I can see being a huge hit at live shows; it's perfect for a crowd sing-along or a show closer. Just listening to it makes you want to pump your fist in the air and headbang your ass off. Another song that is so fucking catchy that it's going to stay with you long after you've stopped listening to it.

“A Social Disease”: This is where Thrillkiller pulls out all the stops and reminds everyone that for all their pop/jazz/blues/funk influences, they are still a rock/metal band at heart and are going to make sure you remember it before this album is over. A fast-paced song with a lot of kick to it, and then a guitar solo that almost sounds like it came out of a surfing movie! As a native Southern Californian, I can definitely appreciate that. And holy shit, those piercing high notes Rob hits towards the end of the song are positively epic. What a perfect closing track!

Overall opinion: Pick your musical poison, and Thrillkiller taps into it in ways you don't expect. Combining elements of ’80s AOR, hard rock and metal, along with pop, blues, funk, and R&B; Thrillkiller is putting it all together with finesse. For being in existence for less than a year, they already sound better put-together than a lot of bands out there who have been at it for years. Very few bands come charging out of the gate sounding so fully evolved, so if this is what Thrillkiller is capable of on their first time out, then we can expect to hear even better things from them. As someone who listens to a lot of music (both signed and independent), I would put Showdown up there with some of the signed acts who put out great albums this year. I would even go as far as to say that Thrillkiller would positively bury some of those bands! Not only does Thrillkiller possess high-caliber musical talent, but they have high quality standards as well. This is no hastily put-together demo with a couple of promising ideas that peep through. You can tell that Thrillkiller is a band that puts their best foot forward in all they do, and you aren't going to hear anything from them that isn't their best work. This is one of the best debut albums I've heard in a while, if not the best debut I've heard this year. At any rate, Thrillkiller definitely gets my pick as the best new band of 2016.

Thrillkiller band photo

For more information on Thrillkiller, visit their official website.

Special thanks to Rob Bradley and Maxim Sobchenko.


This article was brought to you by Super Shops: “Because everyone deserves performance!”

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