2022: The Year in Music
Thursday, December 29, 2022
Steampunk events came roaring back in 2022 from pandemic-induced hangovers, and steampunk bands followed suit by stepping up their appearances at festivals and conventions. The year also saw new albums from some of the top musical acts that cater to steampunk fans, including Frenchy and the Punk, Abney Park, Victor and the Bully, Madam Misfit, and Feline and Strange. CPYist, a new steampunk-inspired band from Germany, released its debut album along with some eye-popping videos.
Here’s a closer look at major musical happenings over the past year.
Mystical Vibes from Frenchy and the Punk
The duo, consisting of Samantha Stephenson (Frenchy) and Scott Helland (The Punk), released Zen Ghost, their seventh full-length album. They wrote and recorded the songs “during the pandemic-induced downtime of 2020-2021,” they explained, and they described the album as having a “dark mystical vibe” with “almost gothic-like” guitar grooves. The Oct. 28 release followed a successful Kickstarter campaign in March.
The album consists of 10 songs, two of which – “If The World Doesn’t End First” and “Temple of Sleep” – were subsequently released as music videos.
The duo also had a busy touring schedule that included appearances at the Stupid Cupid Steampunk Ball, Watch City Steampunk Festival, Key City Steampunk Festival, and Big River Steampunk Festival, plus a December tour of the UK.
See our Frenchy and the Punk profile page for more info and links.
Abney Park: Musical Drama and Outer Space Jaunt
As prolific as ever, Abney Park released two albums this year. First came Giants of Fire & Steam, described by bandleader Robert Brown as an “audiobook musical” combining a radio play and 18 original songs. Originally envisioned as a stage musical, it includes a cast of guest vocalists who portray characters in a story spanning the far future and 19th century Northern California.
Then, in November, the band released Intergalactic Juke Joint, consisting of 12 new, original compositions. It was preceded by two music videos, “Their Own Folklore” and “Deep in Space.”
Abney Park continued presenting live streaming concerts from their Seattle-area studio, but also stepped up their in-person appearances, including their first-ever performance at the Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln, UK. They also took the stage at the Brass Screw Consortium Steampunk Festival in Port Townsend, Wash., and the new Steampunk Adventurers Weekend in South Florida.
More info and links: Abney Park profile page
New Lineup for Victor and the Bully
Victor and the Bully released Embrace the Disgrace, their third full-length album, but the first with the new lineup of Victor Ghastly, Crowboy, and Halo. The album features 14 tracks, many with dark lyrical themes and a range of musical styles including symphonic rock, electro-swing, and Eastern European sounds.
The trio took their music on the road in a big way, with performances at numerous UK events, including the Asylum Steampunk Festival, plus appearances at the Stupid Cupid Ball in Connecticut and C.O.G.S. Expo in New Jersey.
Band leader Victor Ghastly also found time for Topsy Turvy, an EP produced in collaboration with Professor Elemental. It features six main tracks, five of which are also included as instrumental versions.
More info and links: Victor and the Bully profile page
Madam Misfit Opens Pandora’s Box
The UK-based electro-swing steampunk musician released Pandora’s Box, her second album. It features 10 tracks, including collaborations with Professor Elemental, Thomas B. Wild Esq., Emma Clair, and Victor and the Bully.
She also released two singles and music videos from the album. “Happy to Hold” features a swing hop version of Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” as the Madam raps her frustration about being left on hold. “Skin You’re In” is a celebration of body confidence.
The album is available as a CD and digital download from the Electroswing Thing label.
She revealed the album’s name during the inaugural episode of The World of Steampunk, our new video series.
Madam Misfit was also busy with performances in the UK, including appearances at the Asylum Steampunk Festival and the “Chap Hop and Cheese” concert at the National Space Centre in Leicester. In the latter show she shared the stage with Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, Professor Elemental, and Thomas Benjamin Wild Esq.
More info and links: Madam Misfit profile page
Lullabies and Laments from Valentine Wolfe
The gothic metal duo released a new full-length album, Lullabies, Love Songs, and Laments, consisting of nine songs “that reflect our love of all things gothic, haunted, and otherworldly,” they wrote. “As with every Valentine Wolfe album, we worked hard to present more of what we feel makes our music a reflection of us: you’re going to hear haunted choruses of [vocalist/keyboard player] Sarah [Black], maelstrom metal riffs that are essentially caprices for solo bass, haunted atmospheres and fragile neo-classical textures that give way to waves of gothic metal.”
This followed the earlier release of A Night of Victorian Spiritualism, an eight-track album of dark atmospheric songs, some inspired by Edgar Allan Poe poems. It served as a soundtrack for an immersive event, also entitled “A Night of Victorian Spiritualism,” held April 30 in the Atlanta area. The album is available as a digital download.
You can purchase their music from their website or via Bandcamp.
More info and links: Valentine Wolfe profile page
More Covers from Unwoman
This was a year of cover songs from the cello-playing singer/songwriter, with one full-length album plus several EPs.
First up was The Charity Sessions EP, a collaboration with Klingon Pop Warrior, who sings Klingon-language versions of well-known pop and rock songs. The musicians joined forces in 2021 to record five songs as part of a charity fundraiser, then launched a Kickstarter campaign in February to produce professionally mastered versions. The EP is now available on Bandcamp.
But Unwoman’s major release this year was Uncovered Volume 7, featuring her versions of 15 rock and pop songs including “Voices Carry” (originally recorded by ‘Til Tuesday), “My Name Is Ruin” (Gary Numan), “The Tradition” (Halsey), “Walking on Broken Glass” (Annie Lennox), “Hungry Like the Wolf” (Duran Duran), “I Know Places” (Taylor Swift), “Nights in White Satin” (The Moody Blues), and “Our Mother the Mountain” (Townes Van Zandt).
Unlike her previous cover albums, it’s available exclusively as a digital download, not on CD.
She also released two EPs, each consisting of four tracks: Music to Snuggle Your Old Lady To and the holiday-themed Have Yourself a Gloomy Little Christmas.
More info and links: Unwoman profile page
Fate Gear’s Killers in the Sky
Fate Gear, the all-female steampunk metal band from Japan, released what amounts to a concept album in two parts. First, in April, came Killers in the Sky, a seven-track EP in which bandleader Captain Mina and drummer Haruka were joined by a host of guest musicians and vocalists. They followed it in November with Killers in the Sky Part 2, featuring new keyboard player Kurosaki and several guest vocalists.
They also released two music videos: “Live in Blood,” from the first EP, was filmed aboard the historic battleship Mikasa, while “Unbreakable Wings,” from the second EP, was recorded at Iruma Air Base near Tokyo. The “Live in Blood” video has more than a half-million views on YouTube.
The band was set for a European tour in 2022 but it was cancelled due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Now they’re planning to return in July 2023, with dates in Germany, the Netherlands, and England.
Purchase links: Killers in the Sky | Killers in the Sky Part 2
More info: Fate Gear profile page
Feline & Strange: Art Demands Sacrifices
Feline & Strange, the German group consisting of “moody opera singer” Feline Lang and “angry metal cellist” Christoph Klemke, released Kunst Fordert Opfer (Art Demands Sacrifices), an 11-track album “about the pandemic, life, art, and all that shit,” they write.
It’s their first album with lyrics all in German, though they recorded English-language versions as bonus tracks.
The album includes the magnum opus “Requiem,” a three-part, 17-minute suite described as a “funeral song to all of Western civilization.” The track features a large cast of guest musicians from Germany’s “Steampunk Musik Kollektiv.” It’s accompanied by an equally monumental video.
The band preceded the album’s release with four singles, including the title track. Learn more about the new album on the website.
More info: Feline & Strange profile page
CPYist: Straight Outta Deutschland
Germany is also the home of CPYist, a new steampunk-inspired band that released its debut album Never Neverland along with a series of dark, eye-popping music videos.
The trio consists of guitarist Marquee Steven_XL, vocalist Butch Bloodwood, and drummer Dogda Beat. They describe their sound as a mix of styles including industrial, dark wave, and EBM (electronic body music), “all framed by the mysterious and extravagant steampunk optics along with dark theatricality.”
The visual style also draws influence from the Carnival of Venice. The name, they say, is derived from the term “copyist,” reflecting their use of samples and loops.
Learn more on the band’s website, YouTube page, and Facebook page.
New Slambovian Dreams
The Slambovian Circus of Dreams released their sixth album, A Very Unusual Head, featuring songs recorded over the previous four years. They describe their sound as “surreal Americana,” and “rootsy rockin’ psychedelica.”
The new release, the band writes, is a “collection of songs which touch on science – ‘Force of Nature (Stephen Hawking’s Lament),’ the creative mind – ‘Solve It All Dali,’ theology’s wandering path – ‘Brilliantly Dumb,’ and the vision and hope we seem to have mislaid but can find again if we only ‘Step Outta Time’ and ‘Look Around.’”
They were the headline act this year at the Rock & Roll Steampunk Fair in Washington, New Jersey, and also headlined at the 2019 Key City Steampunk Festival in Maryland. Learn more on the band’s website.
Something Different from Mr. B
Chap hop maestro Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer released a short film and accompanying EP, both entitled À La Recherche Du Mr. B Perdu (In Search of the Lost Mr. B). It tells the story “of what happened when I was chapnapped by my nefarious little puppet sidekick Mr. Little-B,” he explained in a message to fans.
The 10-minute video began on a dark note—figuratively and literally—but viewers were rewarded for their patience. “Expect excitement, drama, pathos, exotic locations, and a drop of plagiarism,” he wrote.
The EP, which serves as a soundtrack to the movie, is available on Bandcamp.
More info: Mr. B profile page
A Halo in Time(lapse)
A Halo Called Fred took the concept of time-lapse video to the extreme with “In the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul,” a music video recorded over eight years. It features band leader Adam Dickinson (aka Geverend Dee) lip syncing the song at a rate of one frame per day from July 1, 2014, through March 27, 2022, a total of 2827 days. The song was originally featured on the band’s 2016 album Lies, Damned Lies, and Songs.
Dickinson also released “Make It Through Alive,” the first entry in a collaborative music project he calls Geverend’s Exquisite Cadaver.
The goal, he says, “is to create a collaborative songwriting environment by which different musicians share incomplete musical ideas and build new songs out of them.” The new track, available as a single and music video, features contributions from Anthony Ilczuk and Wes Dawson.
The project is separate from A Halo Called Fred, but he says some of his bandmates may get involved. The project’s name refers to a collaborative art technique invented by surrealists in the early 20th century.
Somehow, he also found time to re-launch the annual Freaky Mutant Weirdo Variety Show as an outdoor steampunk festival. Held June 4 at Vasa Park in Hackettstown, New Jersey, it featured live entertainment along with a steampunk market and teapot racing. The lineup included A Halo Called Fred plus Frenchy and the Punk, This Way to the Egress, Trio of Madness, The Munchausen Society, and the Karnevil sideshow. The event was previously held indoors.
More year in review coverage: The Year in Pictures | Board Games and RPGs | Books and Comics | Kickstarters | Movies and TV | Video Games
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