The Birthday Massacre – Under Your Spell (2017)
The Birthday Massacre are a finely crafted ensemble indeed. They know their strengths. They’ve found their own inimitable style of superbly catchy electronic gothic rock and over the years have continued to hone and grow into that style more and more, building on the strong foundations of early albums Nothing And Nowhere and Violet. The band really seemed to hit their stride with 2010’s Pins And Needles – its follow up, Hide And Seek from 2012, demonstrated succinctly the band’s knack for writing incredibly catchy goth rock/pop melodies. 2014’s Superstition saw the band take to Pledge Music with a crowdfunding campaign that reached 310% on their initial goal. Their latest album finds itself in a similarly successful Pledge campaign, this time having reached 233% of their goal but increasing the number of contributors by 26%.
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing for The Birthday Massacre; vocalist Chibi has undergone throat surgery over the years for polyps on her vocal chords and now the band has also found itself in the midst of a controversy concerning stand-in drummer Joe Letz and his alleged racial slurs. A difficult situation for the band considering contracts had been signed and the tour was underway, vocalist Chibi even apparently broke down on stage. Letz was let go a few dates into the tour – a few dates too late according to some.
Under Your Spell thankfully sees The Birthday Massacre in fine form. The atmosphere of the album is coincidentally slightly darker than recent releases, with the immediacy of previous albums taken down a notch ever so slightly. A seemingly deep and personal affair for Chibi, the title Under Your Spell is allegedly a reference to a toxic relationship the singer finally escaped, and that dark, taut ambience certainly comes across in songs like “All Of Nothing” or the title track itself, “”Under Your Spell”. Throughout the darkness of this album, we are treated to some of The Birthday Massacre’s heaviest songs to date, “Counterpane” being a distinct highlight with an audible sadness in Chibi’s melodic vocals being perpetuated by huge distorted guitars. “Hex” is another highlight with its heavy electronic/industrial groove sitting atop The Birthday Massacre’s usual goth rock flair.
From end to end, we are treated to The Birthday Massacre’s trademark stunningly lush sound and beautiful arrangements. Opening song, “One” is pristine TBM, delivering one of those huge chorus’s the band is known for. Similarly fantastic is “Games”, with its intricate drum programming in the verses making way for yet another big chorus with guitars and synths working harmoniously together. The dynamics on “No Tomorrow” are awesome, and Chibi’s creepy, whispered evil vocal is sounding as epic as ever. The electronically propulsive “Endless” closes the album with 4/4 energy, huge guitars, catchy synths and Chibi’s soaring vocals exclaiming ‘All rivers lead into a dark and endless sea, memories bleed into a cold and dreamless sleep’.
The band’s core trio of Chibi, Rainbow and M. Falcore have demonstrated yet again why they are one of the most popular and well respected gothic/darkwave acts around currently, delivering an emotive album full of heartbreak, hopelessness and anger. Under Your Spell is a very welcome addition to The Birthday Massacre’s ever growing and impressive discography. Recommended listening.