It has been considered as one of The Birthday Massacre’s most commercially accessible of all their albums to date. Early reflections are that the band are certainly continuing their exploration of the Dark Retrowave sound, whilst upping the heaviness during a number of songs – taking a more detailed listen, it’s clear there’s lots to discuss, so let’s see what’s on offer.
Opener ‘One’ and following title track ‘Under Your Spell’ are splendid mid-tempo songs, with a warm, fuzzy baseline and smooth synths that form a dirty-yet-dreamy atmosphere. ‘Under Your Spell’ features a hugely hooky chorus – the lead melody really sticks in the mind long after play-through.
‘All Of Nothing’ cranks up the heaviness, with driving guitar and fuzzy, bit-crushed synth baseline, complimented by bitter-sweet, gothic pop overtones.
Next up is ‘Without You’, adding a retro-synth vibe to the album. But beneath the sugary sweet pop exterior lie TBM’s trademark lyrics, both jaded and cynical in equal measure. This track also features a brief guitar solo.
‘Counterpane’ immediately kicks off with a chunky, distorted guitar riff before transitioning into an uptempo Gothic Pop number. These juxtaposed styles continue trading with one another throughout – it’s an interesting trade-off that shouldn’t really work, but does. It keeps the listener guessing and is hugely successful in this respect.
Taking the tempo down a few notches, we have ‘Unkind’ and ‘Games’. Both have their own flavour, with ‘Unkind’ feeling heavier, whilst ‘Games’ blends heavy with twinkling, ethereal synths in equal measure. Both musically and lyrically I’m more drawn to the latter, especially in the last third where the song has an uplifting, majestic quality.
‘Hex’ has full-on Retro Darkwave sound. A strong synth lead and massive reverb’d kick, complimented by a full, chunky bass and lead guitar accompaniment. This is a purposely delivered dancefloor stomper and I’m picking this as my stand-out track.
Possibly the most sinister track of ‘Under Your Spell’ has to be ‘No Tomorrow’. The intro alone sounds positively evil and the track manages to somehow hypnotise the listener as if conjuring something from the other side, or a chaotic apocalyptic event slowly unravelling right before your eyes. It’s got a hint of NIN and Industrial-era Gary Numan where cold, atmospheric synths and beats are concerned.
Heading towards the close, ‘The Lowest Low’ is a slow lament, once again in the bitter-sweet style of beautiful musical passages with an undertone of lyrical subject matter full of hopelessness and despair.
Don’t worry though, it’s not going to end on a crushing low, as ‘Endless’ is a pumping, dark disco-pop dancer, providing good vibes for the album’s close. Subline synth arpeggios and an uplifting guitar solo create an intoxicating, dreamy delirium that will do its best to leave the listener on a high. What a lovely way to end the album.
The Birthday Massacre have brought a diverse mix to the table for this album, though it’s noticeably heavier in places compared with previous releases, which I’ve definitely enjoyed. It’s important that the increased heaviness doesn’t detract from the core elements that make up TBM ’s sound/style and I’m very pleased that nothing appears to have been lost or substituted in this respect, but there is now an added edgier dimension to their musical tapestry, which really freshens things up a little.
With this said, I believe that The Birthday Massacre will continue to please their long-time fans and may hopefully gain more of a following since incorporating the increasingly popular Retro Synthwave sound. It’s a strong outing that will be deserving of more repeat listens and I hope fans new and old are equally impressed by this most recent effort.