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The Birthday Massacre - Nothing and Nowhere

Reviewed by Vicki on 10th September 2003

Dark synth pop, gothic rock, however you want to classify this band, they have a unique sound and their independently-released debut album is quite simply stunning. Based in Toronto, and previously named Imagica, the band themselves describe their concept as a fusion of retro electronica and dynamic contemporary songwriting. Elements of childhood fiction and adult fantasy are coupled with twisting distortion and euphoric melody to create a unique and original sound dubbed "post-retro." It is very hard to believe that this is an independent debut, as it is virtually impossible to fault.

Opening with the surreal and ethereal "Happy Birthday", the whispered vocals and the dark contrast of the chorus, followed up by the distinctly 80s-sounding pop "Horror Show", show the versatility of this band in just the first two tracks. Every single track shows a new side to the band, each one a potential single, and although the influences of the music they listen to are evident (Gary Numan, New Order, Duran Duran, The Cure and Depeche Mode to name a few), they're not just another 80s-esque synthpop band. Their sound is both gentle and ethereal enough to attract a mainstream audience, whilst having a dark touch, especially in some of the later tracks such as the amazing "Over".

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"Promise Me" is a catchy number, with a beautiful gentle section, and "Under the stairs" couples ethereal verses with a strong rock chorus. These two tracks show the "sweet" side to vocalist Chibi's voice. "To Die For" is the following track, and one of the standout tracks on the album, if I really had to choose, because of the beauty and emotion in the lyrics, "Your memory's fading. I'll love you forever. I'll try to remember. I'll try to hold on" are sung so convincingly the song makes me well up!

Following this is the fantastically catchy, classically 80s, "Video Kid", full of energy, this song would be great at a club, as would the slightly more industrial-sounding "The Dream", the last song on the album.

Between these two, come the other two stand-out tracks for me. "Over" combines pretty, floaty vocals with a distinctly rock sound, and is one of those songs that can be played over and over, and not lose its appeal. Following track "Broken" continues on the heavier side of things, with its ballady verses breaking into heavier choruses, with distinct industrial and metal influences.

This is the first band I've been excited about enough to join the street team of. For a debut album it is truly brilliant, and I cannot fault it in any way. Their music ranges from light and pretty, to dark, heavy and almost spooky at times, as do Chibi's vocals. The programming is flawless, and to top it all off, they have a beautiful website, where you can also listen to the whole album. Worth waiting for it to load, even if you're on a modem.

Rating: 10/10
Website: www.thebirthdaymassacre.com

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