The Canadian goth-rock/synthrock/dark wave band, The Birthday Massacre, is currently on their North American tour promoting their newest and fifth album Hide and Seek. As stated in an interview with Auxiliary Magazine, much of their songs and inspirations are derived from their childhoods and how their childhoods impacted their development as individuals (look at the beautiful cover art. The toys that you see are actually modeled after the band members’ own childhood toys). As a result, much of their songs deal with childhood emotions and sentiments. It’s no wonder that, in their entire discography, dreamy waves of nostalgia induced by heavy use of synths, forlorn guitar melodies, and the mature yet child-like voice of the lead singer, Chibi, twinkle through their compositions.
In Hide and Seek, inspired by the concept of different parts of cities and the unsolved mystery of a missing girl, the band is back with a sound that is more mature, heavier, and lyrically darker than what they have done since they formed in 1999. It shines despite the misfortune that Chibi has developed polyps on her vocal cords during the recording process. Here is a track-by-track review of the album, with personal interpretations of each song. It really doesn’t hurt that The Birthday Massacre is amazing when they perform live, and sound exactly as they do in their recordings! It was also pointed out on Chibi’s official Facebook page that Hide and Seek made it to the front page of iTunes. How often do you see an alternative (and no, I am not talking about mainstream artists claiming to be artsy-fartsy oh-so-dark-and-original) artist appearing on the front page of iTunes?
1) Leaving Tonight
The album opens up with the sound of falling rain. The sense of feeling lost, alone, deceived by a false sense of security, and longing to go home sets up the mood of the entire album. There are places “where the snow and the rain collide” and “where the moon and the stars reside” as a lost girl pleads to go home. The dream-like synths and beats in the background evoke the sense of meandering through city streets, where city lights twinkle like stars but one can feel utterly lost among the crowds.
Perhaps the heaviest song on this album, “Down” opens up with the chiming of a clock. Then, the jarring sounds of guitars and drums come crashing in. Feelings of regret for lost time and a broken relationship resonate in the lyrics as Chibi sings, “There’s a lesson that we learn/In the pages that we burn/Its written in the ashes of the fire in love.” This song incited some mini-moshing in the audience when the band opened their performance with this number!
3) Play With Fire
Slow and haunting, this song is deceivingly simple. Chibi’s voice sounds sinisterly soft as the background music evokes the sound of fire crackling and burning as it rises and consumes everything in its vicinity.
This could be the most mainstream-friendly song on the album. It is reminiscent of an 80′s dance-pop song that pines for the affections of a neglectful romantic interest. Not the strongest Birthday Massacre song, but at least it does not detract from the rest of the album.
Despite the infectious and bubbly composition, the lyrics seem to deal with the tribulations of dealing with changes, particularly with the passing of a loved one. A room has been left empty, but the presence of the loved one is still lingering, as there are “Eyes hiding in the hall/Hanging on the wall,” and there is “No rest for the soon departed.” There also seems to be some unfulfilled achievement, for the song ends with the pledge, “I’ll finish what you started .” I am loving the (short) guitar solo that clocks in around 2:46.
Don’t let the lovely, scintillating synths in the beginning deceive you of this song’s sinister nature. A person in a photograph brings back memories of a stained past, hidden beneath the facade of a perfect life. Shadows and bloodstains on the floor haunt the atmosphere, and reminders turn within one’s innards like a knife. But never fear, the synths and beckonings to “Come stand beside me” assure that everything will be alright.
7) One Promise
It’s funny how things that can seem so innocuous when we’re children, but turn out completely different through more mature eyes. Doors are locked, and “the toys are put away.” What once brought happiness is marred by a secret and a promise that ruined everything. Despite the upbeat melody, there’s a poignant pain in Chibi’s voice that bleeds the feeling of betrayal.
8) In This Moment
Don’t you identify with the first words of this song? “When I was younger/The days all seemed to last/So much longer/But that was once upon a time.” We’re rendered so overconfident by our youth. We seem to think that time is endless, that our vitality keeps us safe from the consequences of time, and that moments are longer than they really are. But none of that is true. We are transient, but we often live under the deception that we are safe in endless moments.
9) Cover My Eyes
When you were a kid, everything seemed so blissful. You can remember summer clouds, and how the light kisses your eyes. But that was a life that you left behind. Chibi’s voice here is so soft and gentle, nearly a whisper. Synths create a enchanting backdrop that seems to sweep across a violet sky with twinkling stars. Nothing is ever the same, and the sun and the rain of childhood will never touch you again. You can cover your eyes and refuse to see the light of impending doom.
10) The Long Way Home
There’s a long journey home through the snow and the woods to reach to the sea. The entire album resonates with the emotions of feeling lost and trying to find a sense of belonging. But in the end, it all culminates into a sense of knowing that there’s a destination to return to. There’s no sense in looking back now. It’s a long way home, but you know that home is there waiting for you.
While the album begins with falling rain, the album ends with the comforting lull of ocean waves. A journey has ended, and the danger and confusion from early on has optimistically, if in a bittersweet manner, ended in safety and comfort. The fact that the back of the album depicts a map further supports the imagery and theme of navigating through different places and finding where you belong. Perhaps that’s the meaning of the words “Hide and Seek.” You’re hidden and lost among the shadows, seeking your way back into the comforts of home.