The Birthday Massacre’s “Walking With Strangers”

The Birthday Massacre / Walking With Strangers / September 10, 2007
♫ 01. Kill the Lights / 04. Unfamiliar / 06. Looking Glass

While the members of the group the Birthday Massacre present a tough, take-no-prisoners appearance, their music is a lot more gentle than your eyes may suggest. Of course, your ears know better than to judge a CD by its cover (why are they all so purple and black and make me want to crawl in a corner and listen to the Cure?) and BM’s latest release Walking With Strangers is the perfect farewell to the bright days of summer and a pasty-white face welcome to autumn.

While sticking to the style of previous album art, their sound also has more a subtle evolution; in terms of style, it remains the tenderfooted blend of synth, rock, and alterna-goth with a hint of majestic ambience. All those keyboard synths in the opening track “Kill the Lights” is a great example of the typical track off any BM compilation, but while my first listen was rather unimpressed, continual listens of the CD is akin to unwrapping layers and layers of paper and finding that the core of the album doesn’t matter so much as the task of unraveling itself. Not only that, but unlike their last album, “Violet,” the album strives for an epic feel, each track ascending to the full heights of the chorus rather than bursting in unexpected. The rise and fall of the tracks is crafted with precision and clarity, rather than the haphazard feel of past albums inundated with choppy horror movie interludes: the uninvited guests to Birthday’s parties.

Chibi’s vocals are still thin and light which works alarming well in juxtaposition to the harsher sound of the music, a feat Amy Lee could only dream of achieving (Evanescence has never and will never do it for me). The songs pick up some with “Goodnight” and “Falling Down,” with harder, better, faster, stronger instrumentation, though standout track “Unfamiliar” abruptly interrupts for a short melancholic lament that only makes following tracks “Red Stars” and “Looking Glass” that much more abrasive (and yet, upbeat). After “Science,” and “Remember Me,” two more of the strongest examples of the subtle nuances of 80s synth pop and (dare I say?) italo disco, the album finishes with a somewhat lackluster slower paced song, “Movie,” probably the closest thing you’ll get to a ballad and the farthest you’ll get to a satisfying finish (the faster paced “Weekend” would fit more snugly).

Being one of the albums I looked forward to the most (and the only other one this month besides Ayumi’s new single), BM didn’t let any of my sensory taste buds down. From start to finish, it’s blessedly unpredictable yet comfortably conventional in a way most third albums can pull off but few can do with sincere passion; these are strangers I would definetly take candy from.

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