Steampunk Friday - Music

| Friday, July 8, 2011 | |
This Electrocypherscript Aetherlog entry is about Steampunk Music... a bloody huge thing to try and codify in a single blog post... hopefully this will be the second and last "really long article" so here I go.

In general, there are three things that make up genre music. First, partly how the band identifies itself with costume choices. Second, partly the content of the lyrics. Songs about cogs, machines, airships, macabre carnivals, etc. tend to be giveaways. Third and last, partly a few musical concepts that seem to be common: industrial machinery or tools helping provide the backbeat - especially clockworks, steam equipment, hammers, etc., the use of 1 or more classic and common-to-the-Victorian-era instruments, or sampling or drawing inspiration from the composers that created music at the turn of the last century. Only three, but a pretty broad three... and to say that "the debate rages on" would be an understatement. As we all know, everyone's cup of tea is different, nevermind the biscuits.

So, rather than try to define what has yet to be defined... these are MY personal observations and opinions when it comes to "Steampunk Music." The bands I've listed below are generally regarded as part of the "Steampunk Music" movement. Depending on the band's musical roots, they're coming into the movement from different starting points (industrial, punk, goth, folk, etc. etc.)... so you'll notice they can sometimes have wildly differing styles.

Your mileage may vary depending on your own tastes in Steampunk. I make no attempt to coerce or convince, as mentioned last week ... there's plenty of room on the airship after all.

Last two notes. First, I am simply focusing on "Steampunk Bands" in this post, partially to help "get the word out" and I'm not listing any "steampunky songs" from non-Steampunk bands (which there are many of those). Second, most of these bands are "garage bands" at best... so if you're not the kind that likes stuff that hasn't been professionally recorded; please accept my apologies in advance.

  • Abney Park - They did a frontal assault on the Steampunk community with "Airship Pirate" (on their Lost Horizons album) and have not let up since (AEther Shanties follow-up album). Many lists show them as the #1 Steampunk band and for good reasons.

  • The Cog is Dead - Anyone who's been woken up by the bleating of their digital alarm clock should love "The Death of the Cog" ... and all the rest of their songs. I like to call these guys the tops of the "Wild West Steampunk Sound" (The Copper War will show what I mean).

  • Deadly Nightshade Botanical Society (DNBS) - I don't know why these guys don't make EVERY list of Steampunk bands... well yes I do, they're not really on YouTube and that's a drawback. Link provided to samples from their albums below. They also feature a talented female lead vocals which is often a big plus.

  • Doctor Steel - Ok so strictly speaking he's more "Dieselpunk" but this guy is just fun. He does songs (Audio Experimentation) when he feels like it and just talks at you on YouTube when he doesn't (He's trying to take over the world after all). I often I find myself spontaneously humming a Doctor Steel song (usually Back and Forth) more often than not.

  • The Extraordinary Contraptions - I'm pretty neutral towards most of this band's stuff, but I include them as an honorable mention due to "Prelude for the Nocturnis" which is just awesome. A sea shanty about a steampunk submarine!? Yes please.

  • Unextraordinary Gentlemen - Good music... crappy YouTube presence. The bass guitar and sledgehammer in "Black Iron Road" is worth the price of a Google search at the very least. Sometimes I think they're trying too hard to be Avant Garde (but they're by no means the only band guilty of that in this genre).

  • Vernian Process - Their "Behold the Machine" and "The Forgotten Age" albums have a lot to like. If you're looking for lots of great soundtrack/background/mood music albums light on lyrics... you could do worse than these guys, but there are probably very few better (if any).

  • Victor Sierra - French Steampunks. Seriously how cool. What I've seen so far I like (A Steampunk Symphony). I can't wait for more stuff to come over the Aetherweb.

Ok, so I have no idea how to classify these next two. I'll use the term that Mr. B "coined" (Well I think he coined it, I just put it in quotes to avoid having to don Fighting Trousers and deal with Professor Elemental). So...

In the "Chap Hop" category of music (white guys rapping with British accents) we've some tunes that are probably not for everyone. But... I find it nearly impossible to be in a bad mood after listening to Chap-Hop.

  • Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer - I'm pretty sure Mr. B was first with songs like "Straight Outta Surrey" and "All Hail the Chap." His "axe" of choice? ... a banjolele!

  • Professor Elemental - Fighting Trousers. Seriously. It says it all. Now, realize he's written that song as a "direct shot" at Mr. B. - kinda silly overall I think. The song is brilliant. "Cup of Brown Joy" I think was his first "big hit" ... a song about tea. What could be more English?

  • ... note that a LOT of Doctor Steel's stuff I'd put here in "Chap Hop" too in the sense that's it's a white guy ... basically rapping ... with Steampunk (mad scientist) themes. But he's not a chap (no British accent) so he gets a red card.

These last groups... I dunno how to classify them either. Maybe "minimalist" ... or maybe Steamfilk? Less punk, more folk. That's probably not entirely fair to them. They each have a song or two I really enjoy.

  • The Clockwork Dolls - I have to be an a particular mood to enjoy Steamfilk. I think "Impartial (The Battle)" .. one of their more easily found YouTube vids is really good. But I must admit I don't listen to much Steamfilk. Their cover of Lady Gaga's Poker Face is worth a chuckle.

  • The Clockwork Quartet - I like the quality of their lyrics and what they say. There's just a ... something ... missing that keeps me from really loving these guys. "The Watchmakers Apprentice" and "The Doctor's Wife" (both on YouTube and easily found) are pretty cool.

Thus concludes my primer of various available auditory stimulations considered by many to be within the genre; broadcast direct from my lab to your personal omnifunction visoscopic difference engine.


Tim Covington Says:
July 8, 2011 at 8:18 AM

Thank you for the link to The Cog is Dead. Their music fits perfectly with how I dress for Steampunk (Western Steampunk).

Matt Ragan Says:
July 8, 2011 at 9:23 AM

Very nice. That's my preferred as well. I came to it from Cowboy Action Shooting so I just continue to wear what I wore for that...

Though I've observed most event organizers get real finicky about packing a pair of Ruger .357 Vaqueros on your gun belt. That's why I "steampunked" a Nerf Maverick and built a holster for it. :)

Joshua Says:
July 8, 2011 at 9:58 AM

Hey guys,

Josh from Vernian Process here, oh dude, I'm so stoked you guys mentioned us. I'm a huge fan of the Privateer Press worlds, especially Iron Kingdoms, and Warmachine. I don't play my self, but I love the back story, designs, and general tone of the world. So it's really neat to see that you guys dig our music too.


P.S. We have a brand new single out, based on Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes:

The WildFerret Says:
July 8, 2011 at 10:05 AM

Hey Josh,

thanks for stopping by our humble little blog :) I do like your new single. The mix between that calliope sound and the electric instruments really is awesome :) I do admit to knowing Adbney Park and The Cog is Dead, this is a first for me to hear of Vernian Process :) I do have to say I like what I hear. Thanks for the link to your new single.

Joshua Says:
July 8, 2011 at 11:25 AM

Thank you! You should also check out our music collective (the Cog is Dead, and many of the above mentioned artists are part of it).

You'll have to excuse the minimal website, we are currently expanding it into a much more user friendly style.

Matt Ragan Says:
July 8, 2011 at 1:52 PM

Brilliant song and what a great website. I'm saving that link, thank you my good sir!

Anonymous Says:
July 11, 2011 at 10:12 PM

On behalf of The Clockwork Dolls, thank you for posting about our music!

-Allison Curval

The WildFerret Says:
July 11, 2011 at 11:01 PM

Hi Allison, Thanks for stopping by our humble blog and keep up the great work. :)

Drachnien Says:
February 24, 2012 at 3:52 PM

I'm a fan of all of these but I have to make special mention of the clockwork quartet. the fact that they use things like typewriters as percussion just adds to it for me. They have an offshoot band that play gigs

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