Violet, by The Birthday Massacre
Suggested by Stuart Legg
This band likes purple.
Go google “The Birthday Massacre album covers”. The band have released eight studio albums in their twenty-plus year career, and every single one is a study in purple. The excellent art style on the covers is thematically linked, with the band’s totem bunny rabbit making repeated appearances. Nothing wrong with that, mind. Iron Maiden’s Eddie says hello.
This Alice-In-Wonderland dark fantasy chic sets out The Birthday Massacre’s stall immediately, and entirely correctly. You know exactly what to expect when you see this album, and, sure enough, Nightmare Before Christmas Tim Burton Gothic Pop Rock is exactly what you get. But it’s more than that, as there’s a smooth sheen of electronica thrown in, aiding to enhance the dream state that the band are striving to create.
After a short prologue we hit Lovers End, straight from a Halloween graveyard or mall Hot Topic. It’s a playful song, a touch unnerving, with its throbbing synth and twinkles of echo-laden melody. The lead singer is Sara “Chibi” Taylor, and she brings expression, range and innocence to this, and subsequent, tracks. At times whispered, at times full-throated, she’s never less than engaging and always wonderfully aligned with the music.
Lovers End is likely their most overt gothic number on Violet. The rest of the tracts flirt with the same conceit, but there’s always another layer of interest to pull them away from the overly dramatic. Whether this is a good or bad thing is a question only the listener can answer for themselves, but personally I applaud the band’s widening styles. And even with their eyes firmly fixed on pop, or Eighties retro kitsch, or straight-out industrial metal, they still capture a sense of clanging graveyard bell and blossoming blood-red rose.
While there’s nothing wrong with the guitar work from Michaels Rainbow and Falcore, I find interest in those songs that are more liberal with their electronica aspirations. Horror Show starts with a strident stabbing synth break and blossoms into a fast-paced and mesmerising track, The Dream kicks off with a touch of The Beastie Boys’ Intergalactic, while my personal favourite Video Kid layers intricate electronics over some chugging guitar work and breathy vocals, somehow elevating all three aspects of the song simultaneously.
Ultimately, the album’s journey is rather odd, as it begins with a menacing alt-metal sound and gradually morphs towards straightforward synth pop as the tracks roll on by. As we round the final bend, it’s apparent that The Birthday Massacre are trying to straddle many genres and fanbases with their sound, and while this is mostly successful it could leave the more rabid fans at either edge feeling a touch betrayed. As the old saying goes, jack of all trades, master of none.
I enjoyed Violet, and give it a worthy 6/10. From a strong start, it moved away from where I’d hoped it would stay, and, barring a few notable exceptions, it will not linger long in the memory. But no matter the score, I can safely say I doubt I’ll encounter a purpler band all year.