The Birthday Massacre - Imaginary Monsters
Record Label: Metropolis Records
Release Date: August 9, 2011
Toronto goth rockers The Birthday Massacre have quite the back story, no matter what opinions you hold on their music. They were one of the first groups to utilize the amazing potential of the internet to make a name for themselves, focusing on sophisticated, stylish web design and message board promotion as their main source of promotion. While they were afforded very little radio or television play, the evolution of word-of-mouth publicity on the internet became the most valuable asset the band possessed apart from their unique style of synth-laced rock.
Come to think of it, that's exactly how I was introduced to the band almost a decade ago. They were being heavily promoted on a small message board community I was part of by one of their friends, a friend who excitedly passed along any and all info I asked for. Their first official studio album, Nothing and Nowhere, opened my mind to a whole new world of musical experience. And I was hooked. While other contemporary bands carried a similar sound, they failed to capture the pure emotion that The Birthday Massacre invoked.
So, when the chance came for me to review their latest release, Imaginary Monsters, I jumped on it as quick as I could. The short EP, which includes three new tracks as well as five remixes of older tracks, is exactly what I was looking for in a new Birthday Massacre album. Opening track “Forever” is the perfect introduction to what the band and its individual members excel at. Vocalist Chibi ranges from restrained sweetness to bold empowerment, layered perfectly with Owen's atmospheric synth melodies. Though nothing in the track is particularly mind-blowing skill-wise, it showcases the original sound the band has been able to maintain even while pulling inspiration from older bands such as Depeche Mode and Erasure.
The following track “Burn Away” is much heavier and broader in scope, introducing rough power chords and more bass-centric keyboard measures. Chibi's vocals match suit, darker in both delivery and lyrical content, and form a simple, effective dynamic with guitar work from Rainbow and Michael Falcore. As the sole original members, it's nice to see the three still have a strong musical connection that correlates to the many years they've been together. The last original track, the intense ballad “Left Behind,” features Rhim's solid drum work and an expansive sound carried by the usual mixture of powerful guitar riffs and synth soundscapes. These three tracks are a perfect microcosm of the band's discography, and each member is able to showcase exactly what they bring to the table without losing an ounce of the cohesiveness they've managed to build up throughout the years.
While the new tracks are definitely the main attraction, ImaginaryMonsters' remixes shouldn't be ignored. From Combichrist's reimagining of “Shallow Grave” to Kevvy Mental and Dave Ogilvie's expansion of the original sound on “Pale,” each and every mix is an interesting take on The Birthday Massacre's sound from their contemporaries in the unique scene they inhabit.
After the release of last year's intense Pins and Needles, it was hard to see how the band would follow-up. Although Imaginary Monsters is little more than a glorified EP, it provides a quick glimpse at some tracks that didn't make the last album while also showing their work from the different perspectives of other respected electronic music artists. It's hard to fault them for the small amount of innovation their sound has seen from that release to this one, but hopefully they do see a bit of an upgrade in the near future. Long time fans will eat this up and quickly ask for more, but those on the outside looking in may want to steer clear of this half-step in favor of the next full-length album.
If the style appeals to you then yes. TBM is a very unique band and had a profound effect on my musical upbringing. Like he said, their old website (www.nothingandnowhere.com) is a marvel. I seriously spent hours just exploring it while listening to the relaxing yet awesome music. Even years later I returned to site just to find the hidden Easter eggs. Never have I found a band that had such a unique and engaging way to get into them. As far as albums go I'd listen to the CD Nothing and nowhere.