ThrillKiller: San Francisco Moto
By: Matthew MacDermant
Thrillkiller is a band which proves that time, at least in the world of music, does not go in a straight line. Blending elements from synthwave, funk, power metal, glam metal, pop, and a range of rock styles; Thrillkiller is both the past and future of music and video. So many sounds from the golden age of guitar solos and high pitched vocals are resurrected, paying homage to the greatest musicians of the 1970s and 80s. Thrillkiller also forges a new legacy, creating a truly undefinable fusion of sound, which defies borders and rejects convention. Styles previously considered opposite one another are seamlessly fused to produce a soundtrack for past, present, and future endeavors. Every track is filled with screeching melodies, killer riffs, and epic solos. Original? Yes. Stylish and perhaps glamorous in the vein of Judas Priest and James Dio? Hell Yes. More importantly though, these guys kill it. Every song shreds, screams, and delivers.
The Baltimore-based band started by vocalist Rob Bradley (Aries and Visionary) and guitarist Maxim Sobchenko is now a five piece group with the addition of bassist Sebastian Ochoa, co-lead guitarist Derrin Ruschell, and drummer Daniel Tipton. Fresh off their hit album “Showdown”, the upcoming EP “San Francisco Moto” is a continuation and a refinement of their work, while also being a huge evolutionary step for the group. Best heard as a full package, “San Francisco Moto” is a mini sci-fi pulp, following the trials and tribulations of Rex Razor: Time Cop. Razor is chasing down a chronotech hacker named Moto, who is alleged to be part of a gang run by rogue time cop Sebastian Snyde. It’s a cult classic Sci-Fi plot and the aesthetic is captured perfectly by the album. Theme of Rex Razor, the most synth track on the EP opens up the album, really setting the aesthetic.
Thrillkiller produced two cinematic Cyberpunk/Sci-Fi music videos for tracks, San Francisco Moto and King of 1984, to really bring the album to life. These two videos, in addition to being a stylish throwback to cult classic films and cartoons like TRON, Back to the Future, Videodrome, Thundercats, Voltron, He-Man and more, were also crowd-funded. The production was fully fan-sourced by Kickstarter campaigns. Therefore, the success of these videos is owed to a growing partnership the band seeks with fellow music and video lovers.
The King of 1984 is the first music video by Thrillkiller. It’s a cyberpunk style bar filled with punks good and bad, a motorcycle gang, and Rex Razor. We got some exaggerated B-Movie fight scenes, a Delorean highway chase, and the classic fire tracks of time travel that are left behind after Razor hits 88 miles per hour. All this is happening while funky bass lines, high pitched lyrics, and solos, both guitar and bass are jamming. At the same time, synth beats are complimenting the track. It’s a fusion of funk and high octaves that, once again, I can’t recall hearing elsewhere.
The San Francisco Moto video is a creative blend of 1980s cell animation popular on Saturday morning cartoons, early CGI, and pure retro style. The seven-minute video is replete with a two-minute cinema introduction, similar to those first popularized by Michael Jackson. Razor drives a Delorean and wears a red leather jacket. He trounces an evil time gang and we’re left with a cliffhanger as Moto isn’t who we imagined her to be. It’s cool, it’s whimsical, it’s loaded with campy time humor. What more could you ask for? Well, a killer title track, that’s what. The song which bears the album’s name is definitely the catchiest on the EP. It has a retro pop background, but the vocals are hybrid between retro and a variety of current styles. I hear so many elements in the melodies, but I just can’t put my finger on it. A lot of Thrillkiller is elusive this way and it’s truly a treat for the ears. It’s one of the reasons we love this band.
Last Horizon is through and through a hard rock/metal track. It rests upon a hard hitting drum beat and sludgy riffs, and high energy lyrics which got my head banging. This is a song that will definitely get people moving, maybe even start a mosh pit. What I liked most about this track though was the killer guitar breakdown. For while metal bands in Scandinavia still shred the guitar quite regularly, the electric guitar solo is a rarity, especially in the key Sebastian and Derrin are using. It’s practically a lost art, with most modern American metal being very lyric-centric today. Thrillkiller is reviving the lost art of utilizing the full talent spectrum of each and every member of the band. All in all, Last Horizon is the heaviest and least synth song on the album.
Wicked Rhythm is another catchy track with retro pop elements, especially on the front end, but also a wicked guitar solo over the synth drums. There are hints of Michael Jackson, Prince, Slash, and Angus Young on this track. It’s the most versatile track. It could be both a dance floor hit and a headbanger. One minute, it’s breakdancing and the next it’s crowd surfing with fists up. I greatly appreciate that it can be all these things and that these elements are not separated neatly apart from one another.
Groups such as Kavinsky, Lazerhawk, TimeCop1983, and Trevor Something have mixed the 1980s imagery and style with modern synthesizing technology to produce some great hits. However, no one is creating the full spectrum of sound that Thrillkiller is putting out. Few but cover bands are making glam metal and the pop/dance rock hits that filled cult classic soundtracks. Certainly no retrowave artists are doing it all in the way Thrillkiller is with every song. I have little doubt that over the next few years, we will see some copycats trying to capture a piece of what is happening right now. We may yet catch wind of a new genre produced solely in the name of categorizing these amazing records. Unfortunately for those who would see these projects captured, repackaged, and sold under the guise of countless other artists, Thrillkiller will be on to producing something more innovative by the time mainstream labels attempt to box it up and sell it. I have faith in the ability of this band to stay ahead of the curve and continue pioneering the forefront of kick ass music.