A review on The The Birthday Massacre’s seventh full album Under Your Spell.
One band whom I consider on the underground and off the radio radar while still having an extremely strong following thanks to the internet is Canada’s The Birthday Massacre. After their 2014 album Superstition which I loved comes their seventh full album Under Your Spell. And with that strong following came a lot of support in making this album. Thanks to PledgeMusic, The Birthday Massacre’s campaign to create Under Your Spell was not only met but then supported further with an end result of 233% of their campaign goal. One look at the last page of the album’s liner notes will give a glimpse at just how many fans pledged good money to hear new music from the band in their electronic and goth-rock glory.
In the press release and statement from The Birthday Massacre on the new album, they state how Under Your Spell will prove to be the band’s most intimate and emotive record to date. That is a big declaration coming after their album Superstition which was a brooding electronic work that was not only oozing with that goth-rock style, but it was also fantastic. But now in 2017 comes an album that is in almost every way a tribute to the synth and electronic music of the 1980’s. No matter how old you are it is almost undeniable just how much the music on Under Your Spell could be placed in a majority of 80’s movie soundtracks seamlessly. If this would have been The Birthday Massacre’s debut album then people would swear they just stepped out of a time machine.
Along with the 80’s vibe, the noticeable distinction of Under Your Spell when compared to its predecessor is that it is (for the most part) much more energetic and up-tempo. Whether it has more of a hard edge like “Counterpane” or the more carefree style of “One”, there is a feeling that this album has a pace and energy. “Counterpane” was featured in the trailer video for Under Your Spell and is arguably the hardest song on the album. It’s the halfway point and is one of the few breaks from the nostalgic tribute to an electronic decade. This song had the right balance however even with it’s loud opening. Chibi’s vocals in the bridge and chorus are great and it all connects to some hard riffs at the end.
The main stand outs on Under Your Spell I feel are the tracks that indulge in the electronic effects but take some time to breathe while running. I say this because lyrically there are some great themes and concepts here but when the songs have this happy upbeat synthetic bounce it disjoints the tones. Tracks like “All Of Nothing”, “Games”, and the title track are the few that slow the pace down slightly, but even these songs have a rhythm and flow that moves everything along. Musically everything sounds produced and mixed well. Each song feels like an individual event. When you listen to the first half of the album, you get that feeling of each song being a separate entity and they all give a different emotion that way. From the opening synth keys of “One” you get that reminiscent sound of 80’s music and then it goes into that romanticized goth style that The Birthday Massacre is known for.
The first half of Under Your Spell starting with One is where most of the replay value will come. While each song feels individual it feels like the most emotion comes from the first five tracks. I definitely get the vibe of intimate and personal when hearing Chibi sing and lyrically there is a lot to latch on to. The first half of the album is where those qualities shine.
Not every song is going to be getting your undivided attention. Song like “Unkind” and “No Tomorrow” are unfortunately forgettable almost as soon as the track is over. The listening experience all the way through the album can also take you out of the moment because each track feels individual so the flow from track to track isn’t completely smooth. Even with those critiques though, there are several songs and moments that really shine here.
The Birthday Massacre has the ability to say they have a unique sound in 2017 while performing in a genre where many bands are trying to chase the next trend. And while this album may not be the most complete experience you are looking for, there is still a massive amount of creativity and talent that was involved in this electronic love letter to the style of a past decade. Overall, Under Your Spell will please the fans that helped both contribute to this album and the fans that have supported the band though six previous releases. Whether this will be those fans’ favorite album in the discography will be up for debate, but it is a strong effort in emotion and writing that every John Hughes movie from the mid 80’s would be lucky to have.