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  The Birthday Massacre  
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The Birthday Massacre are a goth-ish band from Toronto. I was first pointed at their website as an excellent example of Flash-based web design. It is a beautiful site, and i highly recommend you check it out. I like the light incidental music heard on the site, and that, plus a recommendation from an online friend, led me to purchase their latest EP. It's long by EP standards, about 30 minutes, but really well done.

The Birthday Massacre are a 6-piece band, including a singer, two guitarists, a drummer, a bassist, and a keyboardist. The guitars are overdriven and power-chorded. The rhythms are solid and driving. The voice is rich, and reminds me of a cross between Corrine Drewery from Swing Out Sister and Regina Sosinski from Mira. The keyboards really interest me, as they sound like they got sidetracked here on the way to an O.M.D. reunion show. Overall, the band's sound combines new wave elements with contemporary hard rock elements. It's a fusion that really works for me.

Since listening to this EP, i have scoured the web for some downloads of their earlier work. (There is some cool stuff out there too. Check the links at the bottom of the review. I highly recommend their cover of the lost Limahl classic Neverending Story!) Listening to these, i feel i must point something out to longer term fans of the band: their sound has changed somewhat between the last album and this EP. The guitars are a lot more noticeable here. In fact, The Birthday Massacre have become more of a guitar band than they have ever been in the past. The keyboards that drove those old songs are still present, but the guitars are a lot more noticeable (which makes me wonder if there was a lineup change in the band). Another point of difference is in the vocals -- Chibi has never sounded as good. I dunno if she took voice lessons or gained confidence or if they just recorded her better for this EP, but the voice now sounds even better than it did in the past.

Okay, disclaimer to the old fans aside, i must point out that i really like this EP. The songs all have a lot of similarity (i think that keyboardist Adm pretty much uses the exact same patch on all of the songs), which might be a problem for some people. However, it is an EP after all, and, with the instrumental pieces to break it up, it doesn't get monotonous. Plus, their songs are so damned catchy that they are easy to listen to.

There are three very short instrumentals on the disc that sound like (and may in fact be) the incidental music from the website. That is interesting enough, but, when the full band joins in, The Birthday Massacre really get going. Those songs are loud and catchy, with crunchy guitars, pounding rhythms, and soaring keyboards. I bet these guys are a lot of fun in concert.

Of all of the tracks on this EP, Play Dead stands out most to me. Chibi turns in her best vocal performance on the disc. Her voice really explodes here, traveling all across her range and flowing richly from chorus to verse and back again. The keyboard melody is exquisite as well. This song is hummable and very catchy.

The title track is another noteworthy song. The keyboards here sound extremely new wavish, and Chibi's voice sounds pretty good too. I like the line "We're drowning in clichés" that she repeats in the chorus. Otherwise, the song is nicely crunchy in the guitar and rhythm section, and i bet this one really gets the fans dancing at their shows.

Those two might be the standouts to me, but there are no weak tracks at all. One word of warning to non-gothic types: at times, Chibi does sing in the back of her throat, making that sort of growling sound that seems typical of a lot of goth acts. In particular, she does this on Lover's End and Blue. She doesn't do it for the whole song, but i know some folks are annoyed by that style, so be forewarned.

Overall though, this is an excellent release. It's catchy and noisy and fun. Fans of the new wave revival will definitely enjoy it.


August 2005:

The Birthday Massacre have been picked up by Metropolis Records. On 3.August Metropolis will release a new version of the Violet EP, now expanded to an album by the inclusion of 4 earlier tunes. All have been remastered.

Related Links: features some MP3s, including a fun cover of The NeverEnding Story. -- Their old site, back when they were called "Imagica", with some MP3s available. -- Their current website, wherein you can order this EP, and listen to a sample track or two.


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