Review: The End of Days

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.

You can purchase The End of Days via the Abney Park online market where it is available as a CD or a digital download.

Ranch Hand Robbie’s “The Wrong Side”

There’s a new tune that won’t escape my mind. It’s burrowed in there and won’t leave me alone. I’ll find myself unexpectedly humming its melodies to myself at work to keep myself entertained as I crunch numbers and compile mailing lists.

It’s The Wrong Side, by Abney Park.

You may be like, “Oh yeah, I remember that song from their pre-Steampunk days. It sounded a lot like this:”

And I’d nod and say, “Yes, that’s the one, but not really.” Because Abney Park just did a remake of this old classic, and now… IT’S EPIC! Prepare to have your mind blown by banjo solos and bunny ears!

Seriously people, I can’t get this out of my head. Maybe it’s because SteamCon is right around the corner and the sound is so fitting for the con’s theme this year. I hope Abney Park puts this up as a single to download… I’d love to be able to listen to it outside of youtube.

And since we’re on the topic of Abney Park, I thought I’d let you all know I recently received my copy of The End of Days. Expect the review of the album tomorrow.

The End of Days is Out

Last night at 2 AM Dallas time, midnight in Seattle, Abney Park released The End of Days. The online release party was an online chat with the band and their various enthusiastic fans as we listened to a radio broadcast. If you didn’t attend the pre-release chat, you missed out on quite an experience. There were so many people in the chat that I often had to focus on just a few usernames at a time just to make sense of the conversations going on. Among the topics discussed were:

  • Sex
  • Alcohol
  • Pizza
  • MMOs and D&D
  • Seattle and SteamCon
  • The perpetual buffering of the radio station

The last topic always caused quite a stir among chat attendees, sending waves of text flying up my screen protesting the abrupt end of songs. Apparently, there were too many Abney Park fans listening in, so we broke the radio a few times!

At last, 2 AM rolled around, and I’m pretty sure that EVERYONE on the internet decided they had to buy the Abney Park RIGHT NAO. And, well, we broke the site. There was much qq-ing and gnashing of teeth, but a few hours later, the site was back up and sales for the new album was underway.

I’m very happy to report that I was able to snag one of the first 200 albums! Yay!

From what material was able to hear on the radio last night, this is sure to be an outstanding addition to the Abney Park repertoire. I can’t wait to hear this live at Steamcon!

Be sure to look for a review of The End of Days later this month after I’ve received it and had a moment to appreciate it before I start picking it apart for a review.

And, if for some strange reason, you still haven’t seen this, here’s the video of their title song, The End of Days.

The End of Days

It’s almost here! Abney Park’s latest album, The End of Days, is set to go on sale on October 15th at midnight, Seattle time. The first 200 copies of the album that are sold will be signed and numbered by the band, and then shipped out that Monday for your audio enjoyment.

The album is made up of 13 tracks. Here’s the list:
The End Of Days
The Wrath Of Fate
I’ve Been Wrong Before
Fight Or Flight
Victorian Vigilante
Letters Between a Little Boy & Himself As An Adult
Beautiful Decline
Off The Grid
To The Apocalypse In Daddies Sidecar
Space Cowboy

The lineup for this album is positively impressive. Along with the amazing talents of the Abney Park band, there are guest artists galore, from Richard Lopez on Trombone and Alto Flute, Carey Rayburn on Vintage Muted Trumpet, and Erica Mulkey (better known as Unwoman) on Cello.

Though I’m still positively in love with Aether Shanties, I’m very excited to hear the new goodness that is sure to be The End of Days. So… who’s staying up late with me on the 15th to snag a copy of this album?

Abney Park Concerts!

Lots of exciting news out of Abney Park lately. I think it’s only fair to state upfront that this post is likely to make you want to move to the West Coast like RIGHT NOW.

Our favorite crew of airship pirates is at it again, with a flurry of activity leading up to their performance at SteamCon in November.

This Weekend in Vancouver BC!

September 25th in Portland OR!

October 8th in San Francisco

October 9 in Los Angeles CA

There are  so many opportunities for all you on the west coast! *jealous* There’s nothing quite like seeing these guys live, so for all my west coast readers, do consider trying to make it out to one of these performances.

You’ll also be happy to know that Abney Park is hard at work on their latest album, which Captain Robert has recently announced will be out sometime in November. I’m willing to bet they put it out before SteamCon in later November.

To The Apocalypse In Daddy’s Side Car

I recently got an update via the Abney Park newsletter that previewed the lyrics for one of the new songs on their new album and the story behind it. Captain Robert has been undertaking a the modification of a 1936 Chan Jaing Motocycle. You can see it in its unmodified state here.

And when a camp counselor asked Captain Robert’s daughter where she would go if she had a time machine, she responded, “To The Apocalypse In Daddy’s Side Car!” And because this is the most epic answer ever, fans have demanded that it be turned into a song on Abney Park’s next album.

And so, here are the lyrics for To The Apocalypse In Daddy’s Side Car as written by the good Captain Robert:

We’ve got 3 wheels and a frame of rust
Blue sky above, and behind us dust.
Half tank of gas won’t carry us far,
But your safe tell apocalypse in Daddies side-car.

Got Shot gun shells and 12 cans of beans,
And a old stuffed doll coming’part at her seams.
Your little lace dress you’ve worn too far.
As you watch the appocolyse from daddies side-car.

That life we once had held us far too confined
We’ve left job and school far far behind.
You chew your gum as I chew my cigar,
As you ride the appocolspye in daddies side-car.

We swam the whole day In Oasis’s pool
And the shade beneath palms became our home-school.
We danced past bed time at a desert bazaar,
Now you nod your head In Daddies side-car.

Hooray! I can’t wait for their next album, but I must admit, I’m still in love with Aether Shanties and all its glory.

If you want to get awesome updates on Abney Park like this one, be sure to sign up for their mailing list. You’ll get all the latest info from the band on their the latest exploits.

Captain Robert’s Infamous Pyrates Blood Sauce

A day late for 4th of July barbecues, I’m afraid, but I wanted to share this wonderful recipe from the good Captain Robert, lead singer of Abney Park for “the meat of something that died.” Win!

Captain Robert’s Infamous Pyrates Blood Sauce
1 cup stolen red wine (dry),
1 shot of rum (cook drinks)
4 tbs Red Wine Vinegar,
1/2 cup molasses,
1 cup ketchup,
2 tbs Dijon Mustard,
1 ts Chili Powder,
2 tbs Worchestershire Sauce,
1 ts Celery Seeds,
1 ts Kosher Salt,
1/2 ts Curry Powder,
1 ts Ground Cumin,
1 tbs Cayenne Pepper
1 tbs cooks own blood,
1 diced habanero

“Simmer till thick, spread on the meat of something that died, that you then cook over an open flame. Eat, receive praise.”

I can’t wait to try this out! It sounds delicious! Thanks Captain Robert!

For more updates from Captain Robert, be sure to check out his Live Journal account.

Airship Ventures

During the Q&A session with Abney Park at A-Kon 21, somehow Captain Robert got on the topic of airships (crazy, I know) and regaled the audience with an incredible tale of high flying adventure!

A while back, Abney Park was approached by a company called Airship Ventures. They worked out a deal wherein the band would play a concert in the belly of an airship in what would be the first airship flight of the 21st century. The band crafted miniature instruments specifically for the cramped quarters of an airship in preparation for this historic event. Tickets to said event sold out in 12 seconds. 12 freaking seconds. I’d hate to be the person who was waiting for purchasing to start, when a spot on the TV distracted him for a moment:

“Oh, I’ll just watch some TV while I wait for this epic Abney Park concert’s tickets to go on sale.”

13 seconds later

“That was a dumb commercial! Time to buy my…. Damn it!”

All seemed a go until the day of the historic airship launch and the high flying concert, when a thunderstorm grounded the flight. Though incredibly disappointing, it was the right decision, especially when one considers what happened on the last airship flight of the 20th century:

Yeah... probably better to err on the side of caution.

And while the band did not get to perform in the first ever airship flight since the Hindenburg disaster, there are still airship flights of San Fransisco Bay, LA, and the Monterrey Coast flown by Airship Ventures. What better place to hold a Steampunk meeting than in an ACTUAL AIRSHIP?

Be aware, though… flights will cost the aspiring airship pirate quite a pretty penny to get the privilege of traveling in what is one of the most Steampunk manners possible.

And, as for the Abney Park concert, it’s on hold, but I think everyone is hoping that it goes through at some point. It’s just too epic not to do.

A-Kon 21 Overview

Whew, what a week! Sorry for the delay in updating, folks. This week has been terribly rough and containing far too many after-hours projects a row. But now I’m back and very excited to tell you all about the wonders of A-Kon 21.

I think we all know that I was skeptical about the amount of Steampunk activities that were going to happen at A-Kon. Why would they have Steampunk events at a explicitly Anime convention? I still am not exactly sure, but I’m pleasantly surprised that there was a strong Steampunk presence there. So, without further ado, a quick summary of A-Kon 21! 😀

Thursday night was Registration night which naturally meant standing in a long line to receive my badge. I had just come from work and picking up a friend who flew in from MINNESOTA to hang with me for the weekend. It just so happened that I managed to fall in line right in front of a Dieselpunk named Larry and his charming wife and we became fast friends. Over the weekend, we learned that we lived relatively close to one another and that we had a number of of interests (besides Steampunk) in common.

Click on the photo to check out Larry's blog!

Friday I wandered about A-Kon for a bit and browsed the various merchants wares. I picked up lots of business cards of products I liked so that I could show them to you all in future blog posts! Friday was the official start of Steampunk events, and the first one was a “Steampunk 101” panel led by the Sky Dogs and the Delirium of Grandeur. At this panel, they discussed what they thought Steampunk was and offered up various categories of Steampunk. I thought the panel was interesting, especially when compared to the current direction of the Great Steampunk Debate. There certainly are a lot of different opinions and perspectives on what Steampunk means to people. I promise I’ll write a post later on this panel.

Later that evening was a Steampunk Tea Social which sounded lovely on paper but in reality was made a bit uncomfortable by the lack of tables and chairs. Also, hot beverages are usually not the drink of choice for those wearing many layers in the 100 degree weather of a Dallas summer. I chatted with Larry and his wife and a couple of new acquaintances who were pleasantly charming. There was an a Capella group there to provide the entertainment for the night, but they seemed to lose everyone’s attention after they sang the same song four different times. Imagine that.

And just when I was starting to worry about the future of this convention, in walked Captain Robert, who I’m sure you all know is the lead singer of Abney Park. There he was, just hanging with us. I couldn’t believe it. I had not expected to see any of the members of Abney Park until Saturday night at the concert, and yet, there he was! I was literally shaking with excitement- a fact that Captain Robert did not fail to overlook as I took a photo of some of my new friends with the Captain.

“She’s shaking,” he said.

“I know,” I said to myself.

After the photo was taken, I asked if I could have a photo with him as well, to which he responded, “Come into my arms.” I’m pretty sure I squeed in excitement. Captain Robert put an arm around my waist and commented again on my shaking, before concluding, “It’s our love, darling.”

The tea social ended shortly after this photo was taken, which was proceeded by the Steampunk Ball. It quickly devolved into the raved I feared it would, but not before Captain Robert led us in the dance to Airship Pirate and played air-violin for us during the song’s violin solo. Needless to say, it was epic… And that, my friends, was just Friday night…

Saturday was only more epic. At a Q&A session with the whole of Abney Park, I was asked by Nathaniel where I got my top hat which is quite the compliment considering how many top hats they see… After the panel, I got the email addresses of the band so that I could forward the information on to them. Wheee!

So then, the concert. Oh god, the concert… I sat for three hours to get a front row view of the action (with a little help from my friend Larry, who rocks) and it was positively amazing. Abney Park was everything I could have hoped they would be, and more. It was amazing!

They played all of their hits… in fact the only one I really missed was Under the Radar, a personal favorite of mine. By the concerts nearing end, however, everyone was screaming for them to play Airship Pirate, to which Captain Robert informed the crowd that they could not play it because they did not have their violin stand… unless… someone would hold the violin for Nathaniel during the song. And guess who got picked to come up and rock out with the band! (I’m still searching for a good photo of this. If anyone finds one, please let me know…) Nathaniel even gave me his pick that he played the night with after the song was over.

In autographs after the concert, I got a hug from Nathaniel and he asked me to add him of Facebook which was another squee moment. I can’t wait to see them again at SteamCon.

So, needless to say I had a spectacular time a A-Kon. I met many wonderful Steam and Dieselpunks and I can’t wait to see Abney Park again. It was hard to go back to work after such a Steampunk weekend, but fortunately, I have SteamCon on the horizon. I doubt it could come fast enough, though!

What is Steampunk

Yesterday, I highlighted an event going on in Canada’s most Steampunk city, Victoria. Today, though, I’m bringing you a newscast from the epicenter of Steampunk, Seattle.

You’ll have to click here to see it because for some reason, WordPress won’t let me embed this particular video into Trial By Steam itself.

If you can tolerate the newscaster who obviously has no clue what Steampunk is, this is a decent piece on the scene in Seattle and specifically, Abney Park’s contribution to it.

I’m not really sure why they added Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow in with examples of Steampunk films. I’ve always thought that film to be more Dieselpunk than Steampunk. And I really wish Captain Robert hadn’t said that a pair of goggles can be enough to make you a Steampunk. That’s the last thing we need people to think: Oh, I’ll just slap on these goggles, and now I’m all edgy and rebellious. Yeah…. sure you are.

Overall, though, it isn’t a bad overview from an outside source trying to understand who we are and what we do. And the last part about the Steampunk film festival has already happened… it was the event after the workshops at Steampunk University, so I’m terribly sorry if you missed it and are just now finding out.

So, what do you all think about this piece?