Friday, March 7, 2008

we’re the only airship pirates

Fire's high and the airbag's tight,
Food's low but the skies are bright.
Props spinning all through the night,
...we're low on cash but seen another target.

Let's talk a bit about Abney Park. Since my Queen has now discovered them, and she's all a-twitter with new band love.

Abney Park formed in 1997 in Seattle, Washington. They originally took their name from the Abney Park Cemetary, and in fact, their first three albums were atmospherically gothic in tone, very much drawn with dark sensibilities in mind.

Goggles down, cannons up.
My blood starts pumping as I drain my cup.
I give the wheel a spin and turn this girl around,
We're way above ground and we're closing on our target!

Past this point, they toured local venues, club-banding it up and down the coast, along the way playing (in hotel bars and in convention rooms) several of the larger fantasy/science fiction/media conventions. They started gaining net popularity in early 2000, with much of their music available at low- or no-cost through and similar music-search services.

Flying Jib is filled with air
East India ships filled with despair,
we even up, her broadside's bare
...our cannons flair but it's just a show of muscle.

They never quite broke into the big time, but they had a core group of ardent fans, and were able to release quite a fair amount of recorded material, on five CDs and EPs, plus songs on several compilation albums through Cleopatra Records, and songs heard in three movies--including Lord of the Vampires and what arguably may be the worst film ever made about the goth subculture, the self-titled Goth.

Steady on, she doesn't need to burn.
She tries to flee, she tries to turn.
Grappling fire, we latch her hull.
...she's starting to roll, but we've got her on a leash!

Okay, so far, sounds like a fun group if you like goth, why am I telling you this?

Because of what happened in 2005. Because of the release of their album Taxidermy.


(Magdalene "Screaming" Veen: backing vocals, couture, bellydancing during and between numbers.)

Taxidermy brought them not only greater recognition, it brought them one hundred and eighty degrees from their former musical style--with the release of Taxidermy they went from goth-industrial leading to dance-goth, to worldbeat-infused steampunk. Just as Pirate Jenny was the foundation band for "pirate core" music, so Abney Park may be the flagship band for steampunk rock, or "steamcore".

With a crew of drunken pilots, we're the only airship pirates!
We're full of hot air and we’re starting to rise
We're the terror of the skies, but a danger to ourselves now.

Steampunk, in the gothic subculture, has been a slow-growing influence for the last decade. Abney Park seems to be the only band that's attempted--and achieved--synthesis. (Some gentles have since mentioned to me Vernian Process, which yes, is in the same vein, but a: came later; b: seems to be almost entirely, or entirely, instrumental; and c: relies heavily on the goth side of music, not so much the steamcore side. Still, in intent and presentation, yes, I'd agree, they're another steampunk band.) They've also integrated world-infused music from a dozen different cultures into a sound so uniquely theirs that all their music sounds both astoundingly familiar, and like nothing one's ever heard before.

Expendable crew starts to reel her in.
Our swords are sharpened and we're ready to sin.
I'm three miles up, we're about to swing aboard.
My tether's made of leather so I'm not about to fall here.


(Robert "Dread Captain Roberts" Brown: founder of the band and lead vocalist, singer/songwriter, doumbek, piloting the Ophelia.)

It's an intriguing shift, I think, from the morbidity and inherent nihilism of goth to the spangled electricity of steampunk--no less dark, on occasion, but there is so much of an odd, quirky sense of dire hopefulness to steampunk in general, let alone 'steamcore' music.

A swish of air and my boots hit deck.
No cash, no fuel, no–-not a speck!
Grape shots made this bird a wreck.
And a glance below deck shows a crew of nuns and orphans!

There's a bit of Savage Garden to them, a bit of Midnight Oil feel, just a hint of Big Pig. And, drifting in from their older incarnation, something of Sisters of Mercy, something of Opeth, something of Korn. Yet none of these entirely capture their sound, evolving or not--there's literally no one else like them--yet.

There may not be, they may remain solo pioneers--but it would be cool if the idea caught on.

With a crew of drunken pilots, we're the only Airship Pirates!
We're full of hot air and we’re starting to rise
We're the Terror of the skies, but a danger to ourselves now.


(Left to right, Kristina Erickson, Nathaniel Johnston, Jean-Paul Mayden-Bass [who has since, I believe, been replaced by Daniel C.], Magdalene Veen [who was just announced to be leaving the band for a bit to concentrate on her art, though she may be rejoining them later], and Robert Brown.)

Do check out their site. You might also wish to peruse some of their music via YouTube:

Airship Pirate, Abney Park (rehearsal clip)
Dear Ophelia, Abney Park (live performance at Dragon*Con from the new album)
The Wrong Side, Abney Park (one of their older songs, paired to visuals advertising an 'upcoming show' at the time--you can hear the goth fading away to the brighter, more mechanized sound they've got now)
Death of the Hero Abney Park (live performance at Convergence of older material)
Stigmata Martyr, Abney Park (original number, not a Bauhaus cover--but quite clearly goth music, though even back then, infused with worldbeat)

How they've changed over the years. And now they're ours.

Who wants to see if they're interested in a concert on the grid? :)

(Also, this capsule review would not have been possible without the assistance of the mention in Dr. Fabre's journal.)

(Lyrics are from Airship Pirate by Robert Brown; band is, of course, Abney Park. Copyright 2008.)


Seraph Nephilim said...


Emilly Orr said...


Glad you approve. They're definitely a group to watch.

Anonymous said...


I just have to correct a mistake in your post here:

Vernian Process was formed in 2003, and while AP were formed before, they were not incorporating a Steampunk aesthetic until 2005, after the first VP album was released.

Vernian Process said...

Sorry that last comment was from me, it wasn't supposed to be anonymous.

I also forgot to point out that VP has both vocal and instrumental work.

On my newest album the majority of the tracks will contain vocals (both my own vox, and guest vocalists from other Steampunk related groups, yes there are many of us out there). In fact Robert (of AP) has generously donated some recording equipment, so I can finally get a proper studio together.

I must state that I find it quite odd that you feel that instrumental music can be any less steampunk influenced, than vocal music.

Surely lyrics are only one part of a whole sound?

Regardless, I hope you take some time and explore my body of work, as I'm sure you will find plenty of Steampunk music in there.

I would suggest checking out my myspace page first, as I keep that one up to date with the newest material.

Emilly Orr said...

Thank you indeed; I'm both honored to speak with you, and apologetic I've made mistakes.

First off, let me state that instrumental music can be, and is, quite Steampunk-influenced, but that everything I'd managed to dig up on you/the band felt more dark ambient, more 'gothic', to use the term--which isn't precisely accurate anymore, either, as 'gothic' music (and musicians) itself has diverged greatly into many different genres over the years. But what I heard felt more goth than Steampunk. Obviously, I didn't listen to enough of your work!

I'll definitely be looking for more clips, songs, and requesting more from afficionados of Steampunk music I know.

I'm also overjoyed to learn there are more steampunk bands--I must do more research!

Thank you indeed, for correcting such errors--an upcoming entry will definitely address this!

Vernian Process said...

Oh no problem. I forgot to thank you for linking my project in the first place! =)

If you are looking for more Steampunk oriented projects I would suggest d-loading my compilation "An Age Remembered". You can find it on my website if you select compilations from the side bar, and scroll all the way to the last comp, you will find it there.

However I have recently discovered even more projects that weren't featured on that comp. Including:

The Clockwork Dolls, The Legendary Shack Shakers (kind of weird Victorian Psychobilly), and Beat Circus (Experimental Circus Music Madness).

Emilly Orr said...

This is going to take time, I can see this now.

Still can't find anything on the Clockwork Dolls to save my life. Found the Legendary Shack Shakers, I've heard something like them, now I have to remember where...and Beat Circus is just odd. Fun, oh, so much fun, but like a mutant calliope on acid.

But I'm dedicated to looking, now. :) And I've downloaded a great deal, muaha!

Emilly Orr said...


Tracked 'em down--Legendary Shack Shakers, they remind me a lot of White Ghost Shivers.

Though again, White Ghost Shivers, I'd classify them as roots music, one of the new folk/new Appalachian crew--good, definitely good, but not so much steampunk.

Vernian Process said...


Anonymous said...

whats up everyone

Just saying hello while I read through the posts

hopefully this is just what im looking for, looks like i have a lot to read.

Emilly Orr said...

Who are you?