Got riffs?

Thrillhouse certainly does
By CHRIS CONTI  |  August 22, 2012

TAKING IT TO THE STREET Thrillhouse brings the noise at Foo Fest.

In need of some good old-fashioned heavy metal riffs and shredding? Headbangers unite and seek out PVD instrumental quartet Thrillhouse. These guys don't fuck around: guitarists Kevin Curley and Tom Sly lead the charge with synchronized Flying V guitar moves that would have Judas Priest and Scorpions raising devil horns in approval, driven by the pummeling rhythm section of bassist Craig Chaves and new drummer Eric Wood (the previous timekeeper moved back to his native Australia).

Thrillhouse recently held court and stole the show at AS220's Foo Fest, as a hand-crafted Viking ship weaved through the crowd, firing off smoke bombs and sending the crowd into a full lather, while the Norse mythology-obsessed quartet provided the ideal soundtrack.

"It just seemed like a match made in heaven," Curley recalled, "or should I say, a match made in 'Valhalla!' "

Sounds about right — cue up the Thrillhouse EP while blazing weed and slaying dragons with a handful of 12-sided dice. And with song titles such as "A Wolf with Dragon Wings," "Elf Wizard Skyrider," and "Werewolf Town," the band takes pride in being RI's raging Monsters of Riff. I needed help with the meaning of a "Psionic Scimitar."

"It's an intelligent sword that is psychically connected to its owner," said Curley, who also offered the Thrillhouse mission statement: "We want to be able to take people on a journey but we don't want to dictate what sort of journey they'll be taking." That would include the unanimous "no vocals needed" approach.

"The concept of Thrillhouse has essentially always been all riffs and no vocals," Curley noted. "We performed bit of wordless gang vocals and chants on the record but they were just used as another melodic vehicle.

"We want the focus to be on the melodies and the song structure," Curley continued. "If we had a 'real' vocal presence with lyrics, we feel like it would take away from our mission."

Cranking out blueprint riffs is a more in-depth process than just plugging in and jamming out. "Songs are built from a central riff or idea embellished with harmony, counterpoint, a similar melody or just whatever works, and when a song is complete, we all sort of instinctively know," Curley said.

Musical influences like Priest, Sabbath, and Maiden reign supreme, and Curley cited black metal acts such as Dissection, Bathory, and Immortal. Local indie-dreamo greats the Brother Kite may be the last band that would come to mind when mentioning Thrillhouse, but TBK guitarist Jon Downs helmed the boards and recorded the band's debut. "Jon's got a killer ear, isn't afraid to offer suggestions, and really helped bring the songs to life," Curley commended.

Tattoo artist Tom Butts created the cover artwork for the Thrillhouse debut and is also the organizer of the Wounded Warriors Project fundraiser show at Dusk this weekend.

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