|The Birthday Massacre|
This unique and artistic group hails from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. They originally formed in 1998 in London, Ontario and were known as Imagica. Over the next couple of years they would change their lineup slightly and their name to The Birthday Massacre. In July of 2002 they released their first album as a limited edition CD titled Nothing and Nowhere. This pressing sold out quickly because it was so popular among their quickly growing fanbase. In mid-2004 they released their follow-up EP Violet which was also received with a great response as the fans continued to ask for more. A nice break came along for the band in 2005 when they signed with Metropolis Records and released a combination album Violet which includes the tracks from the EP and selections from their debut.
It seems all of these years have been very busy for the band as they re-released their debut album Nothing and Nowhere with Metropolis Records giving everyone a taste of what they may have missed with the first pressing that so quickly sold out. The band has done a number of live shows with several full North American tours in about the same time. In late 2007 we were finally presented with a new full-length album titled Walking With Strangers which showed the band continue on with their solid, powerful music while refining a few touches here and there. The band never slowed down with a remix album, a live album and DVD and in 2010 a new full-length work of all new material Pins and Needles. 2011 would follow quickly with a new EP Imaginary Monsters featuring three brand new tracks along with five remixes from their previous album. 2012 brought yet another full-length album Hide and Seek for the addicted masses and near the end of 2014 we finally had Superstition. Word got out of another new release in 2016 and this time it was in the form of a compilation of their first 4-track demos originally as the band Imagica and so the album was appropriately named Imagica.
After discovering this group shortly after they released their debut album Nothing and Nowhere, I've been very impressed by their dynamic sound which combines some of the best elements of 80's New Wave with some of the gothic rock touches that I've grown to really enjoy. Add to that a heavy rock / metal sound and you have a powerful and unique band. With the female fronted vocals the emotional layers are so thick and powerful that they quickly became one of my favorite new artists and I've watched them with great interest and admiration over nearly two decades. Be sure to check out what music you can find from them. With each new album out and since they signed with Metropolis Records, the doors have been opened to the world to discover this great band. They're all well worth picking up as each new work garners more and more fans worldwide. Hopefully they will continue to create this great music for further releases and plenty of live shows in between. In the meantime you can hear selections on the Gothic Paradise radio show.
Imagica - Review
As with most fans, word of this new album brought about a wave of excitement and anticipation. At first it wasn't clear to me this was a re-issue of sorts, but all the same it was great to have new material whether it was originally recorded 18 years ago or yesterday. So here we have a great collection of classic tracks, some we've heard and others we haven't. Some are well mixed, while others we've heard newly mastered and mixed versions that show how the band has grown in many ways over the years. We're able to see a little bit more into the original thoughts and direction the band took from the beginning and we can see the similarities to where they are now and also how they've changed over the years. We definitely see the original new wave influences on many of the heavily synth-based tracks as well as the heavy rock influence starting to creep into the various selections.
The first few tracks are definitely recognizable for anyone familiar with the first few albums. "Over", "Under the Stairs" and "The Birthday Massacre" appeared on their debut album, though "The Birthday Massacre" was renamed to "Happy Birthday" while "Remember Me" showed up later on Walking With Strangers and "Play Dead" on the Violet EP. You can definitely tell the difference on these early recordings and they're a gem to have for sure while maybe the production and mixing wasn't the best, their still classics. "Nothing and Nowhere" is an excellent piece showcasing a solid new wave sound much like "Queen of Hearts" and we just go on and on from there across one great classic after another. We've featured several of these on our radio show and they mix and blend well with their current selections and the rest of our playlists. While I'm not a huge Madonna fan, I've enjoyed some music over the years and I have to admit that the addition of "Open Your Heart" was a nice touch to include on this album. While overall it sticks close to the original, it's fun to have the grinding, guitar-driven style poured on like gasoline on a fire. As the album wraps up we're greeted with a couple of pieces that the more hard-core goth/punk fans will like in "From Out of Nowhere" and "Dead" with the dark and edgy sound without the light-hearted touch we normally get mixed in.
Superstition - Review
It's incredible how a band like this can stay so busy touring and writing music and after releasing so many albums in such a short time they still manage to release something creative, unique and interesting each time while remaining true to their solid foundational styles and sound they started so many years ago. While the album spans ten tracks, it clocks in at just under 40 minutes, slightly longer than their previous work and loaded with great, driving music.
The selections on the album span a nice diverse level of intensity, tempos and moods to keep the listener entranced throughout the entire work. It starts off with a definite favorite on this disc with "Divide", sporting a hard-hitting introduction that gives way to a moving 80's new wave rhythm. Chibi's sweet, yet haunting vocals carry each track with the driving, grinding guitars and tons of layered synths and pounding beats providing the backdrop. "Diaries" picks right up in similar fashion, backing off the intensity a bit while maintaining that slight ethereal touch in the synths and heavy beats move the music along. The title track slows it down even more yet picks up the intensity with the heavy, brooding music setting the mood with thick intense music like moving through heavy, thick fog and sludge, yet Chibi's vocals shine in the dark, a sort of light at the end of the tunnel. "Destroyer" picks up with a moving beat and pulsating synths and bass while the dark, sinister distorted vocals set a dark mood as we enter something of a roller coaster ride of emotions and styles from the dark and brooding to the triumphant, beautiful soaring vocals.
After surviving "Destroyer" and it's intense emotions we're brought to the halfway point of the album where "Surrender" continues on with the heavy, grinding guitars as a backdrop to the soft, haunting vocals. Each of these pieces are a sort of dichotomy of light and dark, soft and heavy, female vocals juxtaposed over the dark and brooding music. "Surrender" seems to be the epitome of this style in many ways, the overall track is somber while the beat is moving and the guitars grind away with the lilting electronics and Chibi's vocals providing that contrast. This somber piece gives way to the crashing waves that start off the more upbeat piece "Oceania". This selection provides a bit of a break from the heavy and brooding nature of the previous tracks, while still bombastic in it's own light, the overall style is much more upbeat and almost bouncy, definitely fun and enjoyable as images of kids playing on the beach with the sound of waves crashing in the background. As we have dark and cloudy days interspersed with sunshine, the track "Rain" follows the sunny disposition of "Oceania" as a darker, more grim piece still dripping with intense emotions portrayed through the thought-provoking lyrics, somber vocals and heavy music. "Beyond" provides a more upbeat sunny disposition and break before being thrust down into the dark, brooding pits of "The Other Side", one of the darker tracks we've heard from this band on this album and many others. At this point we're brought to the final piece on the album, a short instrumental that moves slowly along bringing it all to a close.
There you have it, another stellar work from this band, ten short but powerful tracks that leave a lasting impression on the listener. This is definitely another great addition to our collection and for listeners and fans on Gothic Paradise new and old.
Live Show - Pomona, CA - Nov. 16, 2012
I had the wonderful opportunity of finally seeing this band live while on their 2012 fall North American tour. They had just played at San Francisco the night before and made the drive down for this show the very next night, and afterward were headed off to Las Vegas. It's amazing the band, and expecially Chibi can endure it all, including her voice which she had problems with earlier in the year causing the delay in the start of the tour. However, you would never have guessed all of this was a factor at their performance as they were at the top of their game, putting on an excellent show. They were full of energy and really gave new life to the audience after enduring three opening bands, and with the given venue, included being on their feet the entire time for over three hours by the time they came on stage. Their live sound was excellent, everything was mixed well, you could hear the backing vocals as well as everything else all balanced out. As I focused on each band member, I could pick out their part well and they each did a great job.
With their growing discography, they definitely had plenty of tracks to choose from for this performance. I was really pleased as they mixed in plenty of tracks from their new album Hide and Seek including favorites "Down" and "Leaving Tonight". From their back-catalog I was pleased to hear several favorites, including an all-time great "Video Kid" that really got the crowd going as well as "Red Stars" with it's over-the-top powerful guitars. "Pins and Needles", "Blue" and "In The Dark" all brought the crowd to life throughout the night as it really was a great mix and selection of their tracks. Chibi managed to keep the audience involved while singing as well as in between tracks. At the end of their main set, the crowd kept going and the band treated us with a three-song encore to finalize the night. Overall it was a great performance and as I compared them to the opening acts and others I've seen, their maturity on the stage shown through, as noted with incredible reactions from the crowd without resorting to foul, vulgar language and actions to get a reaction. I felt those things were very inappropriate during some of the opening act, especially at an all ages show where I saw fans of all different ages, including quite young kids. I've taken my daughters to several all ages shows like this, so I've always been appreciative when the band shows a level of maturity like The Birthday Massacre did during their show. This night I had my 13-year-old daughter with my wife and I and she enjoyed it, stating it was one of the funnest and memorable things she's done (and she's been to several concerts with me). So, if you get a chance to see them live, I definitely recommend it, they put on a great performance not to be missed.
Hide and Seek - Review
I think the band has felt the pressure from thousands of fans dying for more new music and luckily they've delivered with this new album just over a year since their previous EP. And as if they were reading my mind, they've provided a hugely diverse album here, exploring more with the bouncy new wave style as well as exploring more mid and down-tempo pieces. Spanning ten tracks and lasting just over 35 minutes, it is a shorter album than the 45-60 minutes we're used to, but packed with great music.
The album kicks off with the slightly more upbeat, bouncy new wave style that's anchored in the dynamic power of their tried and true classic style on "Leaving Tonight". This piece has quickly become a favorite from this disc with all of the dynamics, smooth, beautiful vocals and the driving music. Throughout the album we see just a slight deviation from the standard pattern that seems to have set in for the most part on the last few works of laid-back verses with a moving beat and subtle layers then building up to bombastic percussion, climacting synths and grinding guitars on each chorus. A lot of that still permeates this album, such as "Down" which is probably the hardest and heaviest piece with a lot of yelling on each chorus. It comes out to a lesser degree on other pieces throughout the album, but for the most part we have some great new material here.
I think I could name about every track as a favorite, but even so a few do stand out among the others. Besides the aforementioned "Leaving Tonight", nearly halfway through "Need" stands out with a very upbeat classic new wave style with a touch that you can easily recognize as The Birthday Massacre. This continues on to a slightly lesser degree on the next piece "Calling" for another stellar piece. "One Promise" is another driving piece with heavier guitar and more of the solid dynamics we've grown to enjoy over the years. One thing that's noticeable from past albums is the lack of reverb or overly layered elements that have been present before, everything comes out really clear on this disc and this track is a perfect example. The following track "In This Moment" is another dynamic favorite, presenting what appears to be a more laid-back atmosphere with dynamic electronics and a mid-tempo beat which builds slightly after a while for a more powerful piece.
The final two pieces show once again the band doesn't always have to accent everything with powerful,dance-friendly beats or tons of driving layered instruments. These final tracks are slower, yet still intense and they actually both flow together perfectly as well. With that the album comes to a close and I think for the most part fans will be satisfied and very pleased with this album. I know personally it has been fascinating and fun to see this band rise from basicly nothing to be one of the most popular bands in our scene, touring all over to packed concerts and really seeming to enjoy what they're doing and this is just another taste of why so many enjoy their music.
Imaginary Monsters - Review
Following quick on the heals of their stellar 2010 release Pins and Needles it was a great pleasure and pleasant surprise to have this EP released in 2011. Though it only features three new tracks, the remixes are good and varied enough that it's a nice collector's item for fans to pick up. With eight total tracks, it's a nice EP packaged with a multi-page insert with track info, band photo, credits and lyrics for the new pieces with their awesome haunting artwork to match the mood of the music perfectly. Along with the music we also have a video of their piece "In The Dark" that fans should really love.
The album starts off with a fairly laid-back piece in the form of "Forever". Sporting their softer ballad-like style the band brings out all the favorite elements they've grown to be famous for from the moving (though mid-tempo) beats, layered electronics coupled with guitar and Chibi's vocals. Like many of their previous pieces, this fades seemlessly in the next piece where the intensity picks up to the driving, grinding, guitar-driven styles on "Burn Away". This piece quickly became a favorite of mine sporting their trademark style of soft and simple through each verse while on the chorus and other times throughout the track the bombastic percussion, guitars and intense synths all kick in. This piece fades seemlessly into another ballad-like slower piece in the form of "Left Behind", with a lot of 80's influence mixed with modern, pulsating electronics accented by the heavy, slow drums and even a bit of post-punk guitar, all wrapped up in a package that Robert Smith and The Cure would be proud of in the days of Disintegration.
The remainder of the album includes the five remixes from various bands of different backgrounds and styles. Since each piece has a solid foundation in the original song structure, the remixes didn't slaughter them too much, so they're still recognizable and for the most part a decent new perspective on each piece. Tracks appearing with remixes include "Pale" with the fairly stripped-down, minimalistic remix by Kevvy Mental & Dave Ogilvie as the "Rubber Unicorn" mix. "Control" appears with the "Tweaker mix" that also strips it down quite a bit, layering mostly subtle electronics in the place of the harsh grinding guitars and instense keyboards that appear on the original. Combichrist appears with their unique take on "Shallow Grave" with the "Good For Her" mix. "Pins and Needles", a definite favorite from the same album takes on a heavier industrial style with the SKOLD remix, not really a favorite and a bit of a disappointment as it's hard to live up to the original in any way. Assemblage 23 always seems to put together a nice dance-friendly remix and so he pulls it off again on "Shallow Grave" in a very typical dance remix style, including loops on catch-phrases, plenty of pounding club beats and of course the moving electronics as you would expect to hear from this project.
With that we wrap up this EP and leave it with high recommendations for the fan and collector. I suppose the casual fan just looking for new material can always buy and download the three new pieces, but I think it's worth it for the most part to get the full package.
Pins and Needles - Review
It is always a great pleasure to hear each new album from this band with their excellent mix of new wave meets modern grinding industrial. It seems the band has been busy writing music on top of their strenuous live schedules. This album picks up right where the previous one left off and presents us with eleven heart-pounding and heavily grinding tracks.
This album sees the band further evolve their sound, as you listen to their history the keyboards make up much of the climactic points of each track, while this and their other recent work use more grinding guitars for these heavier moments of each piece. This becomes immediately apparent with "In The Dark" which kicks off the album with a lot of grinding intensity. As we move along, the next couple of pieces "Always" and "Pale" hearken back slightly to their keyboard-driven sound with that classic new wave sound dominating. Fans of their earlier albums will really enjoy pieces like these, while the fans of pieces like "Red Stars" have plenty to latch onto throughout this disc.
While the entire album is an excellent mix of great music, there are several pieces that stand out in different ways for me. The previously mentioned piece "Always" is an excellent rendition of their keyboard-friendly music that sounds like it could easily belong on a favorite album from the 80's. "Control" has some excellent modern twists and the grinding guitars become more prominent, but for the goth in me, "Shallow Grave" really stands out in both musical style and content. Once again the 80's new wave style stands out very well with the keyboards with the grinding guitars just being more of an accent than really dominating except at a few key points during the chorus. This piece also fades nicely into "Sideways" which is also a key element we've enjoyed from one album to the next. The title track "Pins and Needles" also really stands out, more for the fans of their recent guitar-dominated sound like "Red Stars" and the huge contrast from intro, each verse and chorus. Chibi's schoolgirl vocals create the perfect mood and a perfect contrast like the keyboards and grinding guitars. Although, I can't help but feel like the band pushes the grinding guitars a bit, especially on the intro of "Two Hearts", I have to admit it doesn't quite fit the rest of the song even with the normal dynamic contrasts.
The album winds down with "Sleepwalking" another heavy, upbeat piece and finally brings it to a close with "Secret", one of the few, slower ballad-like tracks from this band. With that we're able to see another step in the band's history and can now enjoy this new material for a couple of years before looking ahead to see what great music will be on the horizon, and will the band continue to use dominating guitars, or move back towards their 80's new wave roots of layers and layers of electronics? Time will tell, in the meantime we have another great album to enjoy.
Walking With Strangers - Review
Wow! That's the best way to start out this review. Many fans have been longing for something new for the past couple of years as everything since the Violet EP has just been helping the rest of the world catch up on what they've been missing all of these years. Well this album is everything people could have hoped for and more, containing eleven new tracks as well as a new version of a long-time favorite "To Die For". This all comes in album packed with a punch and like a drug that will simply leave fans wanting more and more.
I have to admit that when I first heard this album I noticed a very slight change overall in the music, it's so subtle that most people probably won't notice it. One thing it seems the music is a little "cleaner", leaving behind a little of the reverb that was present on some of the earlier tracks. Another difference is the dynamics have increased between the soft, minimal parts of each track and the grinding, bombastic chorus. Once I got over the reaction to these initial changes I've fallen in love all over again with the music from this group and the way they've put it all together.
Right from the start any listener can recognize that signature new wave keyboard sound that gives way to the grinding guitars and bombastic synths and percussion on "Kill The Lights". Couple that with Chibi's quaint "school-girl" vocals and you have the tried and true sound of The Birthday Massacre. The album contains a dynamic mix of many variations of this sound from the regular upbeat tracks that we've grown to love over the years, as well as a few that vary and bring down the tempo and intensity such as "Unfamiliar" which is almost like a love ballad showing how the band can expand their style slightly yet still remain true to it all.
The dynamics are further amplified as we drift from the soft and slower mid-tempo piece "Unfamiliar" into the over-the-top intensely grinding "Red Stars". This track was the first I heard from the new album with the digital-only advance single released slightly before the album was. The industrial metal style of grinding guitars kick off the track and then give way to the sweet vocals and simple music for each verse and then building back to that grinding industrial metal guitar riff for the chorus and instrumental piece in between each verse. This is definitely the most intense piece on the album and will most likely be a favorite for fans.
Every piece on the album has something to offer and are all memorable and though I've listened to the album easily a couple dozen times, something new, fun or powerful in the dynamics catches me and takes me away depending on the mood. Regardless, there's something for every fan as we move on through "Looking Glass", "Science" and other pieces. Some pieces seem a little more serious than we're used to hearing from this group, while others still build on that fun mischievous lyrical content and musical style that's portrayed so well. With all of that said, when I first heard the new version of "To Die For" I was absolutely blown away. The overall music and feel remain the same, it's still a slow, lovely dedicatory ballad, but this is where you really notice how the music and vocals have been cleaned up with a lot of the reverb removed, making everything very clean and understandable. Now listeners can understand more clearly what the actual lyrics are behind this mesmerizing piece. I think re-recording this piece is an excellent triumph for the band and a real gem for fans to enjoy.
The album wraps up with the title track, "Weekend" and "Movie". While these are all stellar pieces, it's hard to even continue describing them as nothing quite compares to "To Die For". So I'll leave it at that and simply say that this album is "to die for" and encourage anyone and everyone that has ever enjoyed any type of new wave, or female fronted goth or rock group to go out, pick up and enjoy every minute of this album.
Violet - Review
For long-time fans of this band, this album is deja vu. As a way to re-introduce their music to the masses through Metropolis Records, this album was put together which contains the full EP as well as selections from their debut album Nothing and Nowhere.
Fans will notice some of the songs have been slightly remastered for a slight variation in effects. Apart from these subtle differences, about as noticeable as the two album covers, the album contains all previously released tracks.
A full review could easily just be a copy of the reviews of the previous two albums. However, I'll indulge a little here and just mention a little bit about the track selection for this extended album. Of course the entire Violet EP is a masterpiece in itself with it's broad selection of styles in it's few tracks. It really left us wanting more and so avid fans are still waiting for new material. The tracks chosen from the debut are an excellent selection including all of my favorites except it would have been nice to also include "To Die For". But by containing "Horror Show" and what has become club hit in "Video Kid" were perfect selections among others.
With that said, the N. American audience should really enjoy this album if they haven't already picked up the two previous releases. DJ's and fans can also really enjoy having a lot of their best tracks on a single disc. So don't hesitate to pick this album up, The Birthday Massacre is one of the best new bands around.
Violet EP - Review
When this summer (2004) brought about the long anticipated follow-up release from this awesome group, fans around the world could finally breathe a sigh of relief. It's been a wait well worth it as I have listened to it over and over again since I first picked it up. With six stellar songs mixed among three other short instrumentals for a nice dynamic piece, this EP is something extraordinary.
If anyone has ever visited the beautiful website this group has, the "night loop" playing in the background has a beautiful dreamy feeling to it, while maintaining a slight eerie sound as well. That is the way these three short instrumentals are providing a nice introduction and interlude between the other powerful tracks. After the first short "Prologue" the powerful mid-tempo, thrashing rock track "Lovers End" kicks off the album. This song ramps up the listener for the incredible songs that are to follow. "Violet" is in my opinion the perfect song for describing this group's wonderful crossover style between 80's new wave and the various gothic genres. Melodic keyboards mix with grinding guitars and solid bass while the innocent-sounding girlish vocals soften the edges and create an addictive style. "Holiday" and "Playdead" are two more that follow closely along this style with the guitar remaining prominent but giving way more to the solid vocals. This leaves us with "Blue" and the wonderful finale "Nevermind". The previous of these is an exposition in a mixture of dark, harsh growling vocals alternating with the smooth normal textures prominent on the rest of the album. This is a nice treat for those that enjoy the goth metal aspect of their music. And finally, the finale provides an epic track with prominent new wave features, plenty of keyboards and guitars with almost a happy punk feeling.
I'm not sure what more I can say about this EP other than that it's just a great piece of work and very well mixed and put together. When my anticipation builds up so much waiting for a release like this, at times I have been left disappointed, but not with this release. It is everything I expected! My only disappointment is that it's so short! Hopefully they'll release a new full-length album soon.
Nothing and Nowhere - Review
With a band name like The Birthday Massacre you might wonder what you're picking up when you hold this CD in your hands. But after listening to it once, you'll be totally blown away and convinced that what you have is an excellent piece of art containing powerful, emotional and unique music.
The first track "Happy Birthday" is a roller-caoster ride with the calm and melodic intro and interludes to the blaring guitars and vocals. You're tossed to-and-fro several times on this album through songs like these. The intensity in the album seems to gradually build in general although there are more laid-back tracks before reaching the powerful finales. "Horror Show" is one of my favorites with a definite New Wave foundation with the trademark vocals and grinding guitars mixed throughout. This moving track is also a powerful dance track that I think compares with any classic. In my cd player it's already becoming a classic and hard to put down.
Because of the dynamic diversity of this group it seems there is a little bit of everything for fans of many different genres. Another favorite of mine is the beautiful and powerful "To Die For". Again this track ventures more on the ethereal side, but just when you think it's safe to drift off into the dreamland presented the powerful keyboards and guitars bring you back to the epic reality of the music. "Video Kid" is another track on the New Wave spectrum that is very catchy and sure to be a classic.
After you've made it this far through the album, the intensity builds up and we're just left with the grinding final tracks. Venturing more into the alternative rock, these tracks lose their uniqueness slightly, but are still great works.
I very highly recommend this album to anyone wanting to venture across genre lines and into something new and unique, but building on a tried and true classic sound.
Label: Metropolis Records