The Birthday Massacre - Under Your Spell
One of the drawbacks of putting out a string of great albums is that if the next one isn’t as good, it may appear weaker than it actually is. There aren’t any tracks on Under Your Spell that are horrible, but neither are there any that really stand out other than album-opener 'One.' 'One' has a catchy chorus and soaring Disinegration-era guitar lines. The title track 'Under Your Spell' is solid, but I am still waiting for a track that explodes.
'Without You' is curious because it closely resembles U2’s 'New Year’s Day' in both melody and lyrics. Compare 'I will wait for you,' with 'I will be with you again.' Is this a deliberate nod or an unintentional reference? With a band that has recorded a cover of Madonna’s 'Open Your Heart' and performed a cover of 'I Think We’re Alone Now' - a 1967 hit for Tommy James and the Shondells and covered by others including 80s pop star Tiffany = either one is a possibility and either way references should probably be integrated and assimilated more thoroughly so they don’t run the risk of becoming unattributed quotes.
'Counterpane' blends hard guitar riffs, atmospheric sections, and dance pop reminiscent of the 80s. More songs utilizing that combination of sounds might have better served the album. 'Endless' is a better album closer than many but it’s both tantalizing and frustrating to think of what this track could have been.
The album never lets loose, goes sky high, or cuts bone deep. There is nothing as moving as 'In This Moment,' as thrashy as 'Happy Birthday,' or as driving as 'Leaving Tonight.' Quite a few of the songs like 'Counterpane' and 'Games' have that potential and approach those points but never get there. Nothing seems urgent. These tracks feel like a rehearsal rather than a band playing for their lives. I saw them live on June 12th. Sometimes hearing songs live can help break in a difficult album. Not so in this case. Something is absent.
A lot of the vocals consist more of talking/whispering than singing and this results in a decrease of vocal melodies, which is one of the key strengths of the band. Where are the high notes clear and weightless as moonlight? The low growls? The heavy guitar riffs? The ethereal instrumental segments floating on the wind? They appear here and there, but the album needs more.
The album cover is a key to exactly what is missing. It consists of a skeleton embracing another skeleton with rabbit ears. A large circle stands in the background. A skeleton, of course, indicates death. A rabbit represents the exact opposite as rabbits breed quickly and plentifully and, therefore, symbolize life. One skeleton is in the light, possibly on fire and the other is in the shadows. These dualities, these extremes of tenderness and brutality in unity summarize the best aspects of The Birthday Massacre and their music.
There is a loss of dynamics. I miss the hard guitar. I miss the metal. I miss the moodiness. I miss the massacre.Jun 15 2017
I still buy compact discs.
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