Review Summary: Walking with Strangers is a lesson on industrial rock; never presumptuous and at all times elegant. Bold simplicity works out perfectly fine for The Birthday Massacre as they release an effort not easy to follow or replicate.
Purple seems to be The Birthday Massacre’s favorite color, and astonishing songs appear to be their trademark. It has been a while since the days when Imagica, a Canadian-London based band first put the talents of guitarists Falcore and Rainbow with female-vocalist Chibi on display. Nowadays, The Birthday Massacre has taken the place of Imagica, and its second album, Walking with Strangers, presents a different face; that of a full-grown and well performed venture.
More than a few followers would certainly not be happy if the importance of Violet, The Birthday Massacre’s previous album, were left unmentioned. And, indeed, Violet opened quite a few doors for the band. A couple of years after releasing Violet, Walking with Strangers emerges to expand The Birthday Massacre concept, now under the wing of producer Dave Ogilvie (mostly known for previous work with Skinny Puppy) and on Metropolis almost worldwide distribution. The songwriting style follows a similar trend as that on Violet, but this time recurs to a cleaner formula and a bigger sound, resulting in a memorable collection of nostalgic and glamorous songs, but sacrificing just a bit from the gloomy tone that Violet held. Notwithstanding, Walking with Strangers is so strongly tied to 2004’s Violet that its cover art appears to belong in the very same booklet.
One of the most outstanding features that Walking with Strangers achieves is the way keyboards fuse into the guitars to produce an ambiance of excitement, while riding solid drumming which keeps a subtle rock tone and alleviates the music from its synthpop character. Just this combination seems to be creative enough, but Chibi’s vocals really add up to a special trip as they journey through accessible and enticing melodies at the same time as they portray a chic message. Walking with Strangers turns out to be the soundtrack to a girl’s life in the nocturnal enthusiasm. Chibi’s work on Walking with Strangers is pivotal to its success.
I do not want to fail to point out that the individual talents are very well adapted to the common interest in The Birthday Massacre, and that the final result is absolutely compact and well defined.
One after another, the songs on Walking with Strangers all share a common accomplishment at putting together the pieces to become unforgettable. After very few listens the album starts sounding as warm and familiar as apple pie. In between tracks production has added little bits of interesting sounds, like a ticking clock at the beginning of Science, or the glorious crescendo of keyboards and guitars which mark the separation between Kill the Lights and Goodnight.
Choosing the best cuts from this set is no easy task. Walking with Strangers is a non-stop expedition into a world full of fantastic songs. Some of the most noticeable moments in the album are the instant classic Goodnight, the fervent Falling Down, and the thriving hit Looking Glass. It is, nonetheless, indispensable to mention that Science, Red Stars and Remember Me could very well be considered archetypal The Birthday Massacre songs. As I mentioned before, the album does not stop its offering of wonderful moments.
Weekend stands out as my own favorite track on the album as its vibe is especially symbolic of what The Birthday Massacre signifies. Chibi kicks off the song with fashionable lyrics: “Lights out, boys sleepwalking on the weekend”. The song progresses very simply, being carried by an innocent, almost-danceable beat and intelligently processed guitars which decorate the verse. The energy of the song blasts off as the chorus elevates itself through heavily distorted guitars and a pounding bass, and Chibi reaches her performing peak with her vocals: “I promise you one day, I promise you always!” Towards the end of the song, the last chorus gives into the keyboards allowing O-en to take control of the melody in euphoric explosion. It is in this moment that the recipe feels absolutely complete, with guitars blaring, programming adorning, keyboards detonating, and the beat putting it all together.
In its counterpart, Movie, the closing track, seems to be the weakest moment in Walking with Strangers. Not too creative or energetic, the album closes off with a track which only allows for the listener to back out from the previous voyage. It is as if the band needs to provide a point of reference at the end of the album for the listener to realize that the preceding pieces were simply great.
Walking with Strangers is a distinct step forward for the band. Clearly evolved, though following the same concept as their prior effort (Violet), Walking with Strangers achieves a very novel kind of industrial rock, with a style that dwells ambiguously into the macabre, but is mainly based on outstanding melodies and pleasurable beats, riffs, and keyboards. This is surely a very satisfying record.