The Birthday Massacre bring us their latest album Diamonds, 3 years after 2017’s Under Your Spell. What stands out most immediately about this album is its 80s synthpop sensibility, which isn’t a new influence for this band, but it is particularly obvious on this album. For instance, the synth melody subtly creeping in at the start of ‘Run’– sounds very reminiscent of the synth melody in the song ‘Everything Counts’ by Depeche Mode.
The album also boasts some strong song writing, the opening song ‘Enter’ is instantly catchy and gets you humming along with it’s 80s-esque synthpop chorus, which sounds slightly wistful. ‘The Sky Will Turn’ follows in the same vein as the preceding song, with a similarly enchanting chorus melody – a flowing, haunting vocal line which is sure to be a welcome ear-worm.
Chibi’s vocals follow a satisfying pattern of crooning lower alto vocals during the verses and higher, sweeter singing in the pre-chorus and chorus. She sings in a sort of precise but tragic and often detached sounding way. This fits with the sad wistful melodies and lyrics their songs often contain. As if she’s emotionally numbed to the tragedy unfolding in the lyrics without being able to change anything, giving the effect of a narrator. This detached sounding vocal delivery is something often used in shoegaze and creates a nice contrast between bittersweet melodies and cold crisp singing. It begs the question of whether shoegaze was another part of their palette of influences when writing this album. It’s hardly a stretch of the imagination considering they have previously cited 90s shoegaze/dream pop band Curve as one of their favourite artists.
The 80s, post-punk-ish guitar tone used throughout the album, combined with the synthpop keys gives an intense, heady nostalgic feeling to their sound like it’s transporting you back to a whimsical otherworldly version of the 80s, whether you remember the 80s or not.
After the first 4 or so songs, the songs sort of fade into one another, but this is something that might change upon repeated listening. This is also remedied by the album being a sensible length – at 9 songs long it’s not short and not too long, and none of the tracks go far over the 5-minute mark. The album also picks up a bit towards the end with the last few songs: ‘Crush’ has quite a memorable chorus melody, which makes you sit up and pay attention again and ‘Mirrors’ has a throbbing deep bass sound; contrasted nicely with their signature twinkly keys giving it a magical, ethereal sound.
Diamonds appears to be a return to the group’s 80s influences compared to previous release Under Your Spell, but it still retains the poppy sound of that album, as well as its lack of heavy moments, which may disappoint some fans hoping for a return to the heavier tracks of their early releases.
It isn’t as packed with hits as fan favourites Violet, Walking With Strangers, Pins And Needles but it is a solid album nonetheless with the first 2 tracks being almost on a par with ‘Always’ and ‘Kill the Lights’, as examples of their best melodic and bittersweet work. It will not disappoint fans eager to hear more of this mellower, more melodic element of their sound. The only parts of the typical Birthday Massacre sound this album is lacking in is the industrial heaviness found on older tracks such as ‘In the Dark’ and ‘Red Stars’, and the creepiness of tracks such as ‘Blue’ and ‘Lovers End’. Whilst the album works well without these darker elements, it would be nice to see these elements making a return appearance at some point, as they did them so well.
Would recommend for fans of: Kidneythieves, Sneaker Pimps, Depeche Mode, Curve, Perturbator