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Abney Park: Lost Horizons

Well, while I've been waiting for new music to be released, at the beginning of a slow year, it has been the best time to get out and look for some new music and bands. I bumped into the website of Abney Park after watching some videos for Vernian Process, which I recently reviewed. I am so glad that I did. This is the first in what will be a series of reviews of the band's best albums.

This is a very visual band, so please check out youtube for some of their live videos. I am new to this 'Steampunk" scene, but wow what a great way to give people both a complete visual and aural experience!

Abney Park is a Seattle – based band, who got their start in 1997, under "Dread Captain" Robert Brown, who is also the lead vocalist, songwriter, accordion, harmonica, and darbuka player. The band includes, Kristina "Angel" Erickson, keyboardist and vocalist; Nathaniel "Two Sheds" Johnstone, guitarist and violinist; Daniel Cederman on bass and acoustic guitar; and Jody Ellen providing backing vocals. For Lost Horizon, Finn Von Claret was the lead female vocalist and dancer during shows.

This album is a fantastic break from the normal routine of rock and roll. It is original and full of the sound and vision which I remember from the early days when MTV videos were charged with innovation and full of stories. The acoustic melodies are mixed perfectly with the steam and metal of violin, guitars, synths and drums. The stories and vocals draw you in and provide more than you bargained for in an MP3 download. Music that inspires you to want to go see a live show. To join the pirate crew on the "Ophelia" for a journey full of adventure.

The album, sub – titled, "The Continuing Adventures of Abney Park" represents the band circa 2009.

"Airship Pirate" is a fantastic track made to get any newcomers up to date with the band in a hurry. It tells the story and concept of the band in all its bold bravado, with choruses that will have you singing along with them. "With a crew of drunken pilots. We're the only airship pirates..." And so they are…Those airship engines, synths and pounding drums that open the song help bring even more grand bravado.

More of those great thumping drums and native sounds as the story of "The Emperor's Wives" unfolds, full of power and spirit. Captain Robert with a distinctive, deep vocal delivery and that microphone he throws around helps to create the persona of the band. 'The Captain' also carries a darbuka to add to the dimension of the pounding soundscape. Finn Von Claret's voice is wonderful as she supports perfectly. She adds just the right flavor to this and the next song. This is a pounding, gyrating, synth filled magic storm, with Kristina "Angel" Erickson, providing excellent keys. You feel like you've stepped into a 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' sound and vision - scape.

"Sleep Isabella" is easily my favorite song on the album, and possibly already my favorite AP song of all. Robert Brown and Finn Von Claret's voices are at the top of their game. Nathaniel "Two Sheds" Johnstone's violin is the feature instrument along with the deep native drums. The bass and Kristina's keys magically fill the rest of the dimensions of the soundscape. Simply perfect in every way. I can listen to this song on constant replay, and never get bored. Close your eyes, and dream of…"Lost Horizons".

"She" is another great vocal song with Robert and Finn working perfectly together to weave the mystery. That harpsichord – like sound from Kristina magically opens the song and guides you along the adventure. The guitars and drums fill the four walls of the room like a tidal wave of sound. The beautiful backing female vocals from Finn are a perfect match for Robert's. The balance is just right. A perfect song for the perfect woman.

Steam and metal tool sound effects along with some incredible synth and keyboard sounds from Kristina, as "The Secret Life of Dr. Calgori", opens. Robert brings forth another cool story from the steampunk archives. The adventure in the lyrics and vocals is greatly augmented with incredible keys and synths from Kristina. Nathaniel Johnstone's violin brings the acoustics, to fill the background soundscape.

"This Dark and Twisty Road" is probably the second best song on the album. The acoustic and electric guitar mix that opens this adventure is fantastic. Robert's voice delivers the story full of passion and emotion. The drums and Kristina's keys, that fill the soundscape, are joined by Finn's beautiful echoing voice. The guitar solos will make you want to put this one on constant repeat as well. The "run little girl" refrain brings back memories of Morrison's "You're Lost Little Girl". When they finally create a greatest hits CD, this and "Sleep Isabella", better be on it.

"Herr Drosselmyer's Doll" is a fun look at the Frankenstein myth, from another perspective. You really should watch the You Tube video, filmed live from the Edison in LA, to see how Finn brings this song to visual life. Robert tells the story with Kristina's calliope - like keys playing in the background. The power drums beats out the thud of the carnival trance as Nathanial's violin fills the gaps.

The darkest song on the album is "Virus". It starts off, just like a virus, with soft, almost friendly keys, before Robert's vocal delivery of the dark lyrics changes the rhythm and feel of the song binging the warning from the story. The drums, sound effects, and Kristina's synths help build a mysterious dark soundscape.

"I am Stretched On Your Grave" is a 'steampunk', gothic, love song that sounds like a poem written from the time of chivalry on that green island in the North Atlantic. How much are you willing to mourn the loss of someone you love? Robert tells the story with passion and emotion as the pounding drums, bass, sound effects and synths help create the visionscape. The violin solo is wonderful, but too short.

"Post Apocalypse Punk" is the low point of the album. After an album full of perfectly written and played, multi – dimensional songs this is a drop off. This sounds like something off the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack. It's a good, fun song, but I'm not sure it fits well on this album of great acoustic storytelling. I wish they could have included something like "Dear Ophelia" or "Until the Day I Die". However, if you look back to the opener, it fits well with "Airship Pirate".

Track Listing
1."Airship Pirates"
2."The Emperor's Wives"
3."Sleep Isabella"
5."The Secret Life of Doctor Calgori"
6."This Dark and Twisty Road"
7."Herr Drosselmeyer's Doll"
9."I Am Stretched on Your Grave"
10."Post-Apocalypse Punk"

Added: March 10th 2011
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3635
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Abney Park: Lost Horizons
Posted by Mark Johnson on 2011-03-18 16:05:01
My Score:

Checked again on the iTunes version I have, and there is no extra song. You must have the CD version. Gonna check with the band about getting that version. Thanks for the heads up. I prefer CDs anyway. I'm working on reviews for Aether Shanties and The End of Days, which I have a CD copy checking if there are any extra songs on them, thanks to you.

Thanks again. Especially for your interest in the review.

Abney Park: Lost Horizons
Posted by Prof. JMRF. C.-P. III on 2011-03-15 02:31:53
My Score:

Did you listed to "The Ballad of Captain Robert"? It's an easter egg at the end of the album following a very long period of silence...

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