Arguably the world’s finest purveyors of modern gothic electronic rock, Canada’s The Birthday Massacre have led a fairly successful career over the last decade in introducing a more alternative take on a sub-genre which has been known to slowly disintegrate in recent times. Whilst perhaps not the most popular band in their particular field, The Birthday Massacre’s sole intention from day one was only really to provide listeners of electronica, darkwave and gothic rock a finely-tuned side of the style. So far in the band’s career, no wrong steps have been put forward. And with latest album Under Your Spell, it seems that this level of success will be continued.
From the haunting shoegaze elements of opener “One”, it’s clear that Under Your Spell is aiming for a gentler, more alluring charm than previous releases. The soothing vocals courtesy of Chibi maintain this sense of euphoria whilst at the same time echoing dark-tinged atmospheres inherent in the band’s earlier career stages. There is a distinctive balance across all the songs here however, despite the general alluring charm being maintained throughout. The title track, “Without You” and “Games” are all very fluent in terms of delivery, focusing on a soundscape which floats rather than spits out its intent at the listener, and the straightforward songwriting certainly helps to bring out the best of a band which is still attempting to stay relevant. On the flipside, there’s songs such as “Unkind” and “No Tomorrow” which produce some of the heaviest, most menacing material the band have been known to produce. Guitar work is still far from being at the forefront of the delivery with both of these songs, but its rhythmic assault can be felt under the sheer weight of the darker, stabbier synthesiser usage, all the while Chibi’s vocal performance still being quite alluring. “The Lowest Low” is in fact the best example of when the band utilize both sides and fuse them together. With the album’s penultimate song, there’s a deliberate style of turn-taking where haunting electronica and grinding rhythmic sounds almost grate at the recording, as if the whole band have suddenly turned to the dark side once again.
Under Your Spell, as with most of The Birthday Massacre’s previous output, still feels very much like a transitional album, but also seems to be taking a large step in the right direction. Despite much of the album looming in mid-paced territory, its undoubtedly alluring homage to 80s darkwave and electronica-inspired pop (basically what the band have aimed for since day one of forming) results in a traiditional success for the future direction of The Birthday Massacre’s career. Next time, perhaps they’ll even embark on a stab at greater popularity. Perhaps not.
- Under Your Spell
- All of Nothing
- Without You
- No Tomorrow
- The Lowest Low