The MySpace era of music is one that isn’t without its controversy. Some acts went on to great success, such as Hollywood Undead. Others may have been popular in their time, but looking back at that “scene” era of music doesn’t come without a cringe, perhaps a “holy shit, I thought this was good?” Many more still wound up somewhere in the middle, known to some, but falling short of mainstream success. It’s a shame to see some of the DIY talent fall by the wayside, but that almost makes the success of some of these acts that much sweeter to see.
The Birthday Massacre could be fairly called gothic rock, but that is selling their synthpop and new wave influences a bit short. Some of their songs are heavier and more metallic, like “Red Stars” or “Pins and Needles,” while others prefer to take a more rock approach, like “Looking Glass.” On the band’s latest offering Diamonds, there is a predominant synthpop edge, but that does not mean that singer Chibi and her band have gone soft. Like the jewel the album is named for, it is multifaceted, cut differently than any of the band’s seven previous studio offerings. Call it a post-punk revival if you must, but Diamonds is a solid offering from a band that consistently puts out great gothic and alternative music.
“Enter” starts in with synths galore, holding an old darkwave tone throughout. Even when the guitars enter the mix in the chorus, the synths are the centerpoint. The intro to “The Sky Will Turn” brings guitars to a more prominent place in the mix, though it is a slower, more focused delivery. Each verse sees the guitars add flourishes and panache, while they drive the chorus forward when it comes time. In all, it’s a swaying, powerful song that works into the band’s catalog well. The title track roars in with power chords, giving a hard rock backbone to this track whose melody one could get lost in.
“Run” starts in with more heavy guitars, leaning into the quiet verse, loud chorus dynamic that they and so many other bands have worked out over the years. It’s a more vocally challenging song for Chibi, and goes to show off the range of her voice. All said, it’s another track to lose oneself in, with enough bite to keep things fresh. As the track bleeds over into “Flashback,” the chorus roars with guitars and a dizzying synth melody. The synthpop feeling comes right back in “The Last Goodbye,” sounding very much like an Eighties new wave track went halfway with a Nineties alt-rock anthem. Chibi’s softer vocal approach serves to let this track float on thin air, taking the high road of rock-driven approach.
The tone eases to ballad territory on “Crush,” as even the heavy parts aren’t confrontational. They’re powerful, impactful even, but not offensive or in-your-face, and by no means is that a bad thing. Ebbing and flowing perhaps more than any track on this album, “Crush” works as the de facto slow song. As the most metal-sounding number, “Mirrors” is heavy, ballsy, but still goes down as smooth as anything else here. The haunting synth lines help to add a bit of tension, a welcome addition to the melting pot of moods the album proper evokes. As the curtain is drawn, “Parallel World” goes back to the synthwave well just once more, even after the full band kicks in around the halfway mark. It’s a strong ending to this decadent disc, bringing things full circle for the closing moments.
The Birthday Massacre are a consistent presence in the dark rock scene, and Diamonds, marking well beyond two decades since their first step into said scene, shows they haven’t lost a step. Even when playing with old tricks that are somewhat “new” to them, TBM makes it so in their image, never losing sight of their musical identity. What they present here is a strong offering, a cannot miss album that is powerful in its own way. If you know, you know, and if you don’t know, there may not be a better time to get a clue than with Diamonds.
Diamonds is available now on Metropolis Records.