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Music / The Birthday Massacre

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From left to right: Owen, Falcore, Chibi, O.E, Rainbow, and Rhim.
I think my friend said "I hear footsteps",
I wore my black and white dress to the birthday,
Massacre, birthday massacre, birthday,
I wore my black and white dress.
"Happy Birthday"

The Birthday Massacre are a Canadian synthrock / alternative band who formed in 1999 under the name Imagica. In 2002 they changed their name the name to The Birthday Massacre after one of their earlier songs in order to avoid confusion with another group. The song "The Birthday Massacre" was then renamed to "Happy Birthday."

According to their vocalist Chibi: "It kind of works well for the music that we're making. Sort of contrasty, you know? Birthday, and massacre. Light, and dark. Cute, and evil."

As the band wrote on their official website:

The Birthday Massacre is an audio/visual project that has been in development since 1999. The sights and sounds of the Birthday Massacre branch into the wide range of creative themes and blend together a colorful palette of music genres and contrasting imagery. By combining imagery, sound, fashion, and performance, we aspire to create an experience for our audience that is both unique and multifaceted. Through the use of creative media, we have developed a world inspired by emotion, memories, satire, horror, romance, fantasy, nostalgia, and tragedy; a world we hope to evolve and explore for a long time to come.

And they are awesome.

Their current line-up is:

  • Sara "Chibi" Taylor - lead vocals
  • Michael Rainbow - rhythm guitar, backing vocals
  • Michael Falcore - lead guitar
  • Owen Mackinder - keyboards, keytar
  • Philip Elliot - drums
  • Brett Carruthers - bass

Former members include:

  • Dank (1999-2001)
  • Adm (2002-2004)
  • Aslan (1999-2007)
  • O.E. (2000-2010)
  • Nate Manor (2010-2020)
  • Rhim (2003-2020)

Their discography is:

  • Nothing and Nowhere (2002, re-released in 2004)
  • Violet (2004)
  • Walking with Strangers (2007)
  • Looking Glass (EP, 2008)
  • Show and Tell (live album/DVD, 2009)
  • Pins and Needles (2010)
  • Imaginary Monsters (EP, 2011)
  • Hide and Seek (2012)
  • Superstition (2014)
  • Imagica (2016)
  • Under Your Spell (2017)
  • Diamonds (2020)
  • Fascination (February 2022)

And their DVDs are:

  • Blue (2005)
  • Show and Tell (2009)

Violet Tropes for Violet Visions:

  • Animesque: The video for "Looking Glass".
  • Anti-Love Song: "Burn Away".
  • Album Title Drop: Show and Tell is a line from "Kill the Lights" ("This story's missing a wishing well / No mirror to show and tell.")
  • All Just a Dream: The video for "In the Dark" or so it seems.
  • Arcade Sounds: Briefly heard at the start and end of "Video Kid."
  • Ascended Meme: The rabbit logo started out as nothing more than a loading screen on the band's website, and was never intended to be anything other than an interesting thing to look at while the site loaded. Fans got other ideas, and started showing up to performances wearing bunny ears; eventually the band decided it was iconic enough to incorporate into their album art.
  • Ax-Crazy: The protagonist of "Happy Birthday."
  • Break-Up Song: "To Die For," "Kill the Lights," "Always," "Secret," "Forever," "Left Behind," and "Over."
  • Canada, Eh?: Mostly averted, although in one interview they do have an argument over how to pronounce "about."
  • Cover Drop: The first verse of "Oceania" describes the cover of Superstition.
    From the ocean, we were washed up on the other shore.
    We didn't know where we'd been, or who we were before.
    We were two brothers and a sister with three poisoned hearts,
    We walked so close together, but our souls were always far apart.
  • Cover Version:
  • Creepy Doll: The dolls in "Blue." And "In the Dark."
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Despite the dark lyrics and (occasionally) dark music, TBM are known as friendly, funny and really nice.
  • Died on Their Birthday: The song "Happy Birthday" is sung from the perspective of a narrator who slaughters a "birthday boy," as well as other family, friends, and assorted party guests.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: TBM has quite a bit of this, actually.
    • Their first "real" album, Nothing and Nowhere, is musically distinct, featuring much softer vocals from Chibi and prominent use of digital drum machines and high-presence synthesizers. Later works feature high-production drum and guitar work with low-gain synths.
      • The cover art for the limited 2002 release looks odd next to its catalog brethren, featuring a peculiar-looking castle with none of the common motifs note . The band's title logo is also rendered in Papyrusnote . The 2004 label release was re-packaged with updated artwork and logo.
      • Violet and Walking With Strangers contain re-recordings of several Nothing and Nowhere tracks, and these re-recordings showcase TBM's standard production value.
    • The Imagica demos are earlier and weirder, featuring soft, lilting vocals countered by harsh, distorted instrumentation reminiscent of 1990s' synth-rock and industrial. Some of this can be attributed to budgetnote , but the 2016 remasters show that it was more than just production value creating this sound.
      • Dead stands out even within Imagica's odd retinue as having basically no stylistic counterparts in their entire catalog. So what's different about it? Well... everything.
      • The "raven girl", Imagica's mascot-apparent, never appeared in any later album, merch, or web resource.
    • Their very early fashion, shown in a photo set from 2000note , evokes standard-issue Goth fashion, making them nigh-unrecognizable compared to today. The shift away from this seems less a stylistic upgrade than an entire makeover, and the "cute/creepy" fashion theme established by 2004 has more or less stayed in place, with iterations over time.
  • Easter Egg: Their old site, Nothing and Nowhere, had an Easter Egg in each section of the site.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: Not her main style, but Chibi can sometimes be seen in old school Gothic Lolita, such as on the insert of th Show and Tell CD.
  • Embarrassing Nickname:
    Owen: When I first joined the band, they called me 'Waffles'...
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Of the band's present line up, all but Falcore attended the same college in London, Ontario. Despite this, Chibi and Rainbow are apparently the only ones who knew each other before this period.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Lovers End" is about... Well...
    • YMMV perhaps, but it seemed more like the girl was cheated on and then took her revenge by locking her (former) lover in a cellar, which eventually led to the boy suffocating to death.
  • Fading into the Next Song: All of Walking With Strangers and Pins and Needles. From the other albums:
    • Nothing and Nowhere: "Promise Me" -> "Under the Stairs" -> "To Die For."
    • Violet: "Prologue" -> "Lovers End" -> "Happy Birthday," and then "Violet" -> "Red," and then "The Dream" -> "Black" -> "Holiday" -> "Nevermind."
  • Fan Disservice: Chibi's severed head at the end of the "Blue" video.
  • Fanservice: Chibi.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The Doll in the video for "In the Dark" seems like a friendly character, but in the end of the video she returns and kidnaps Chibi.
  • Fingore: The first couple of lines of "Midnight" go "I can't decide. Which one of us will leave here alive? Your fingers breaking as I place them over mine."
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: "Kill the Lights."
  • Girlish Pigtails: Chibi has these occasionally.
  • Grief Song: "Without You", and possibly "Left Behind", depending on interpretation.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: The artwork of each album features at least one Franken-bunny.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Seems like the protagonist of "Queen of Hearts" is like this.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: "Goodnight" seems to be about this.
  • Instrumentals: "Black," "Red," "Prologue," "The Night Loop," "The Spooky Loop," "Before Dark (Intro),"Nowhere," and "Trinity."
  • Killer Rabbit: Their logo.
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover: Chibi.
    • In one interview, the band was asked what they missed most while touring. The guys all said their girlfriends. Chibi said her cat.
  • Last Note Nightmare
  • "London, England" Syndrome: The band began in London, Ontario. At least one interviewer confused this with London, England.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: They practically thrive off this trope.
  • Male Band, Female Singer: Every lineup has been an all male band with Chibi fronting them.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The teacher in "Looking Glass."
  • Mind Screw: The videos for "Looking Glass" and "Blue."
  • Mood Dissonance: "Blue" whiplashes between light, airy verses with upbeat keyboard accompaniment and a much heavier chorus with dark lyrics sung in something approaching a growl. It's jarring, creepy, and cool.
    • And "Broken," which has Chibi singing sweetly on the verses and much deeper on the chorus.
    • "Down" has beautiful melodic verses which distort into a sort of yelling and hard riff before the chorus.
    • "Lover's End" reverses the pattern, with a deep growling verse, switching to a high, airy chorus that sounds almost like a terrified shriek.
  • Murder Ballad: "Lovers End" and "Happy Birthday".
  • Music Box Intervals: "Blue."
  • My Nayme Is: Owen, who used to spell it O-en.
  • Nerds Are Sexy
  • New Sound Album: Superstition, which is very heavy on the synthesisers and has a very '80s feel.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: The entire band.
  • No Name Given
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Looking Glass", "Science", "Movie", "Red Stars" (sort of - "red star" (note the singular) is heard during the chorus), "Queen of Hearts", "The Dream", "Sleepwalking", "Lovers End", "Secret", and "Midnight."
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: "Blue."
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Most of the band, though finding out any of their real names is pretty easy with Google. Of every member over the years, only Owen, Michael Falcore and Nate Manor have used part of their real names.
  • Performance Video: "Nevermind", "Superstition", and "One".
  • Perky Goth: Chibi in spades.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Chibi is 5 foot 2 inches tall, and she is awesome.
  • Power Ballad: "Movie".
  • Rape as Drama: "Nevermind" and possibly "Queen of Hearts".
  • Rhyming with Itself; The chorus of "Shallow Grave:"
    We put her down in a shallow grave
    She wears a dress like a body bag, every day
    And this way she won't have to run away
    And she can keep her regrets at bay, every day.
  • Sailor Fuku: Chibi in the video for "Looking Glass."
  • Shout-Out: In the beginning of "Video Kid," the beeping noises sound identical to the ones made by the grandson playing the video game in the beginning of The Princess Bride.
  • Soprano and Gravel: "Blue" is definitely an example of this.
  • Stage Names
  • Stalker with a Crush: "Over" is a Break Up Song about 2 exes who have become this and are secretly spying on eachother.
  • Stepford Smiler: Discussed in "Play Dead:"
    Thinking hurts and thoughts don't rhyme
    For those of us who've never tried
    To find a face behind our lipstick smiles.
    And as our pretty faces die,
    Our broken hearts will wonder why
    The makeup just won't hide the scars of time.
    • And possibly "Promise Me."
      • And possibly "Sleepwalking."
  • Subdued Section: "Forever," "Burn Away," and "Blue."
  • Surreal Music Video: "Blue"
  • Take My Hand!: The video for "In the Dark" has this, though before their hands touch, the Doll is dragged away by an unknown force.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: The main character, 6, in the music video for "Looking Glass" has a crush on the teacher.
  • Team Pet: Gangle, Chibi's toy. From this video:
    Rainbow: I think Gangle brings peace to Chibi.
    Chibi: I bet you Gangle brings peace to us all.
    Rainbow: I don't think we realise it. I think consciously, like I think that Gangle brings peace to you because you're his caretaker.
    Chibi: Yeah.
    Rainbow: But it's kind of like having...
    Chibi: But it's kind of like having a little friend, like a little...
    Rainbow: Gangle's like a little mini-Buddha.
    Rhim: He's good to talk to.
    Rainbow: I don't talk to him.
    Chibi *talking over the top of them* : A few years ago, we were playing and he came flying out of the crowd, right at me, and I looked into his eyes.
    Rhim: Arms wide.
    Chibi: Arms wide.
  • Teens Are Monsters: "Play Dead."
  • Torture Always Works: "Midnight" has the line '"The only thing I need is time / To change your mind," I said'. Combined with the line about 'your fingers breaking as I place them over mine'... Yeah.
  • Twist Ending: How many people thought the video for "Blue" would end with a shot of Chibi's severed head lying several feet from her body?
  • Villain Protagonist: The POV Character of "Happy Birthday," and quite possibly the protagonist of "Midnight" too.
    • And maybe the protagonist of "Blue."
  • Vocal Evolution: Due both to lack of experience and bad production, Chibi's voice sounds noticeably weaker on Nothing & Nowhere than on a later release like Walking With Strangers. She also doesn't sing as loud on Hide and Seek, due to having polyps on her vocal cords during recording (she had surgery to remove them after recording finished and quickly recovered).
  • Walking the Earth: The trio in "Oceania", with hints of The Atoner.
  • Yandere: The protagonist of "Blue" gives off major yandere vibes.
    • Also possibly the protagonist of "Midnight."
  • You Are Number 6: A literal case in the "Looking Glass" video — the main character's mask bears the number 6, and we have no clue as to her identity, or anyone else's, for that matter (all the students wear identical masks with numbers).