This review has been something I’ve wanted to post for a while, but I wanted to give everyone enough time to get their copies of The End of Days by Abney Park and listen to it for themselves before I came on here and told you what to think about it. If you haven’t received your copy of End of Days yet, or haven’t yet bought it (?!) and want to enjoy the music yourself before outside opinions influence your reception and perception of the music, please go ahead and skip today’s post.
That being said, The End of Days ROCKS.
I received my copy of The End of Days with nervous anticipation. After the glory that is Aether Shanties, I was worried about how Abney Park would manage to top their previous album. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? What if it was too different from Aether Shanties? Conversely, what if I liked The End of Days more than Aether Shanties… would Aether Shanties feel like I was cheating on it?
Fortunately, The End of Days is fantastic in its own right, but is different enough from Aether Shanties that I don’t feel I’ve betrayed all those memories from Aether Shanties.
The End of Days is Abney Park’s third Steampunk album and its eleventh since its inception. It is an impressive work that reminisces in the mutual tradition of Aether Shanties, but stands on its own as something new and markedly different. The End of Days has the same instrumental components that have created Abney Park’s signature Steampunk sound, but The End of Days contains many new instruments played by both band members and contributing artists that add a new and distinctive layer of sound including Unwoman on cello, Carey Rayburn on Vintage Muted Trumpet and Richard Lopez on Trombone and Alto Flute. These guest artists add a rich new layer of sound to The End of days that was not in any previous album.
Lyrically, The End of Days is a definite departure from Aether Shanties. Whereas Aether Shanties is largely about the adventures of Steampunk fiction, The End of Days is largely (although not entirely) about the factual Steampunk lifestyle. Many of the songs either directly or metaphorically speak about the struggle to live a Steampunk lifestyle despite the pressures of mainstream and corporate America. This album is in many ways, a tribute to the growing Steampunk lifestyle. Anyone who claims that there is no real lifestyle associated with Steampunk absolutely must listen to The End of Days.
The End of Days is most definitely a darker album in its focus on Steampunk reality rather than fantasy. It’s laced with themes of struggle and rebellion and calls upon the Steampunk community to embrace the punk suffix of Steampunk. It’s not meant to bring you down, but rather to enlighten and encourage to reconsider your life’s course and your definition of Steampunk. What does it really mean to you? The message in The End of Days is one I wholeheartedly embrace, because I’ve been advocating for the Steampunk lifestyle for years now only to be told that there’s no such thing, and that it’s just cosplay, so chill out. The End of Days is a musical argument to the contrary.
As with any album regardless of the artist or genre, I have a few tracks that emerged as my favorites from End of Days and deserve special attention here:
- The End of Days- An excellent track that sets the pace and tone for the album. The End of Days is the embodiment of post-Apocalyptic Steampunk. Despite being about the end of civilization as we know it, the song manages to bring a positive message to humankind’s future in true Steampunk fashion.
- Neobedouin- I dare you to listen to this song and not dance! It cannot be done! This is an excellent track to follow The End of Days with the same post-apocalyptic themes.
- The Wrath of Fate- I LOVE this ballad of an airship wreck and the resolve of captain and crew to sail again. This song and its adventuring theme could have easily fit into Aether Shanties, but it is surely rich with metaphor representing the band’s struggles.
- Victorian Vigilante- Another song that’s sure to inspire dancing. I adore the heavy Victorian imagery in the lyrics, and Nathaniel’s performance on the banjo is very impressive. I have to admit, when I first heard of the plan to include the banjo into this album, I was a tad bit mortified. The banjo’s sound conjures up all sorts or unwanted images of hicks and the film Deliverance. Not exactly what I wanted from an Abney Park album. Thankfully, my concerns were misplaced. Nathaniel’s outstanding performance on the banjo brings an element of the epic to this track.
- Letters Between A Little Boy & Himself as an Adult- I cried the first time I heard this track. Hearing a song that simultaneously encaptured my disappointments in the past and hopes for the future took me by surprise and unexpectedly moved me. If you’ve ever daydreamed or doubted what you are “supposed to” do with your life, this song is for you.
- Off the Grid- A true Steampunk lifestyle piece in every way, Off the Grid is a fun listen and embodies the desire to break free from the mainstream. This track is an overt challenge to Steampunks to examine themselves, break away from the drudgery and live their dreams. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded that our dreams are valid and worth pursuing. Off the Grid does just that.
Overall, I’m very pleased with The End of Days. Its unifying theme is one that speaks to me in a very personal way and the music is fresh and unique, just what one is to expect from Abney Park. If you haven’t picked up a copy of the End of Days, I must demand to know what in the world you are waiting for. This is a fantastic album musically and lyrically that contributes a broader discussion of Steampunk as a social movement with its own lifestyle and philosophy. Do not miss out on this album.