Music Review: Evolve or Die

ARTIST: V IS FOR VILLAINS

Label: IMW Inc.
Reviewed by Manuel Zarb

Poster for the band V is for Villains, featuring 3 men and a woman in steampunk clothing.What does a band made up of super villains sound like? We may never know the whole truth, but for now V Is For Villains does a pretty great job of answering that question.

Their debut, Evolve Or Die, is an industrial rock album with big ambitions. The production done by front man and lead vocalist Mr. Agitator is clean and crisp, but the music is not. This is dark electronica, jagged and metallic and dense. The lyrics really rubbed me the wrong way at first –they seemed too riddled with angst and obvious phrases –but my opinion has since changed. Just don’t expect glossy, life affirming pop tunes, okay?

Mr. Agitator sings in a higher register than I would have expected in some cases, but his voice does grow on you. More importantly, he sings with passion and conviction, and the moments when his voice interplays with Veronica Jade’s (who provides excellent backing vocals) are some of the best moments on the album.

The electronics on this thing are big, hitting heavy in an epic, mechanical way. I particularly liked Fallon Flynn’s work instrumentally, his grimy guitar riffs sounding both atmospheric and incredibly, awesomely angry. The Pulse’s drums are intense but precise as clockwork, and for me this all comes together best on “All About the Flesh” I would attempt to pick apart everything done on the song, but that would detract from it –suffice to say that every little noise that is made on that track is fantastic, and that the song kept me trapped in a hypnotic state for the entire two and a half minute runtime (they are villains, after all).

Evolve And Die is not perfect, certainly, and some songs sound too similar to the others. But that only means the band has a lot of space to grow. Besides, when music is this likeable, the gripes really are minor. As great as this album is, I can only imagine what V Is For Villains can do if you put them on a stage.

You can visit the band’s website at www.visforvillains.com

Music Review: The Funhouse

TITLE: THE FUNHOUSE

ARTIST: CARAVAN OF THIEVES

Label: United for Opportunity
Reviewed by Josh Aterovis

Cover art for the album 'The Funhouse,' featuring a man riding a carousel horse.The funhouse, as we all remember fondly from our sepia-tinged childhoods, is a place that perfectly combines humor with horror, merriment with the macabre. That’s why it’s entirely fitting that Caravan of Thieves chose The Funhouse as the title of their third release. The album finds that balance as well, often evoking dark imagery but always keeping the tongue firmly in cheek.

The album opens with an intro, “Funhouse Entrance”, a dire warning about looking too closely at the world (it’s a scream) or waiting too long in line (you’ll die having waited your whole life). The opening track leads perfectly into the first song, “Live Forever,” a fun proclamation of the deep-seated human desire that has led many a mad-scientist to delve into the darker arts. The third track is called “I Can’t Behave.” It starts out as a slower number about one’s inability to control themselves around that certain person. “Here comes the devil, I can’t be held responsible,” the husband and wife vocalists croon before launching into a jauntier tempo that implies they don’t really want to behave after all.

The album’s standout, and not surprisingly, the first single, “Raise the Dead” is just about perfect; a foot-stomping, hand-clapping reel about a party where the guests of honor include such long-dead luminaries as Amelia Earhart, Mozart, Joan of Arc, and Emily Dickenson. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a party I’d want to attend. Presuming, of course, you’re not toasting to a bunch of flesh-rotting zombies.

Several songs are just fun trifles. “Eat You,” “Candy”, “I Don’t Wanna”, “Monster”, “Mexico”, and “Shim Sham” each have their charms but, for me at least, the other album standouts were “Sister Went Missing,” a story-song in the vein of “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” with a twist ending, and “Haunt Me”, a beautiful ballad about love from beyond the grave.

When I got the album for review, Caravan of Thieves—a band comprised of husband and wife Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni, Ben Dean, and Brian Anderson—was described as Steamfolk. While their visual aesthetic is somewhat Steampunk, and their music certainly has a fun, vintage feel to it, their website describes them as gypsy folk, which I think is probably the more accurate descriptor. They have a giddy blend of resonator guitar, ukuleles, junk appliance percussion, banjo, violin, and double bass that really captures the feel of a slightly off-kilter carnival ride. The Funhouse is one ride you don’t want to miss.

Against grand jury repression

Today SteamPunk Magazine signed on to the following statement:

On Wednesday July 25th, the FBI conducted a series of coordinated raids against activists in Portland, Olympia, and Seattle. They subpoenaed several people to a special federal grand jury, and seized computers, black clothing and anarchist literature. This comes after similar raids in Seattle in July and earlier raids of squats in Portland.

Though the FBI has said that the raids are part of a violent crime investigation, the truth is that the federal authorities are conducting a political witch-hunt against anarchists and others working toward a more just, free, and equal society. The warrants served specifically listed anarchist literature as evidence to be seized, pointing to the fact that the FBI and police are targeting this group of people because of their political ideas. Pure and simple, these raids and the grand jury hearings are being used to intimidate people whose politics oppose the state’s agenda. During a time of growing economic and ecological crises that are broadly affecting people across the world, it is an attempt to push back any movement towards creating a world that is humane, one that meets every person’s needs rather than serving only the interests of the rich.

This attack does not occur in a vacuum. Around the country and around the world, people have been rising up and resisting an economic system that puts the endless pursuit of profit ahead of the basic needs of humanity and the Earth. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement to now Anaheim, people are taking to the streets. In each of these cases, the state has responded with brutal political repression. This is not a coincidence. It is a long-term strategy by state agencies to stop legitimate political challenges to a status quo that exploits most of the world’s people.

We, the undersigned, condemn this and all other political repression. While we may have differences in ideology or chose to use different tactics, we understand that we are in a shared struggle to create a just, free, and liberated world, and that we can only do this if we stand together. We will not let scare tactics or smear campaigns divide us, intimidate us, or stop us from organizing and working for a better world.

No more witch-hunts! An injury to one is an injury to all.

For a full list of signers and more background on the issue, see the aptly-named No Political Repression blog.

It’s no secret that SteamPunk Magazine, while not a political project itself, is published by an anarchist collective. In fact, we’re on our third anarchist collective publisher to date, and we’re distributed by a fourth. Nor that steampunk itself has anarchist roots that run deep. But the demonizing of people based on their choice of literature is not the only reason we oppose grand juries. SteamPunk Magazine founder Margaret Killjoy posted about the grand juries on his blog and points out:

A grand jury is a strange creature. If you’re called to testify in front of a grand jury, you have to talk. Your constitutional protections don’t apply. Your right to remain silent doesn’t exist. You become legally required to snitch, to provide whatever information they ask of you, about whomever they ask. If you don’t talk (which, for the record, you should not), the judge can arbitrarily put you in prison for contempt of court. It’s not a criminal charge, so you’ve no right to those wacky things like “a trial.” You just go to prison because some bastard in a suit or a robe or whatever decides s/he doesn’t like that you won’t tattletale. If they put you in prison, it’s usually for six months. And when you get out? They can make you testify again. And if you refuse, right back in you go for another six months. Somewhere, Kafka and Orwell are fighting it out in some afterlife to decide who gets to use that idea for a book.

Suggested courses of action include:


Thursday, August 2. Come to Seattle to stand against the Grand Jury witch hunt! There will be a demonstration in solidarity with those affected by the raids and subpoenas starting at 7:30am and throughout the day. The demonstration will be at the federal court house, 700 Stewart St., in Seattle.

Can’t make it to Seattle? Plan another event or demonstration in solidarity! Please email us at nopoliticalrepression@gmail.com to tell us about your event.

Please donate! There is a “Donate” tab on our website http://nopoliticalrepression.wordpress.com/. We are trying to raise legal fees for all of those affected. We also are trying to provide material support for those that are resisting the grand jury.

The Future of Steampunk Comics

In Issue #8 we interviewed Greg Rucka, creator of Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether; here, his co-creator Rick is interviewed by Zak Zych on the comic-making process and the future of steampunk comics. Check it out!

The Steampunk Future of Comics – A Video by Zak Zych from Zak Zych on Vimeo.

Dylan Fox in Alt History Magazine

Cover of Alt Hist Magazine Issue 4, featuring a picture of sailors on a ship.In Dylan Fox’s Restless, Commodore Paul Nelson leads a flotilla British ironclads through the East China sea to the Chinese mainland. They escort the Colossus Engine, a weapon of unparalleled terror and destruction, and carry orders to subdue China and claim it for the British crown. A young Han girl called Bik Shu shovels coal in the ship carrying the Engine, on a mission from a long-dead wuxia to protect her homeland…

The issue also features:

  • ‘Kleine Menschen’ by Eric Jackson is a historical fantasy story set in World War II Germany.
  • ‘Feast of Faith’ by Shane Rhinewald explores the struggles of common soldiers during the First Crusade who don’t have enough to eat.
  • ‘Three Months of Summer’ by Svetlana Kortchik is a love story that happens during the German occupation of Ukraine in 1942.
  • ‘The Stork’ by George Piper is a backwoods horror that will scare and surprise you.
  • ‘Battalion 202: A Blinded Falcon’ and ‘Battalion 202: Into the Darkness’ by Jonathan Doering are two alternate history stories about the resistance to a German invasion of Britain.

Pick up a copy from the magazine’s website. You can also read an extract of ‘Restless’ online!

Things to Look For At Steampunk World’s Fair

post by Katie Casey

Are you headed to Piscataway, NJ this weekend for Steampunk World’s Fair? A bunch of Steampunk Magazine contributors will be there, myself included. I’m presenting on a few panels, and I’m also going to be seeking out events that deal with the overlap between steampunk and LGBTQ culture. Here’s a few of the highlights that I’m hoping to catch; if you have any recommendations between now and Friday, send them my way!

Visit Combustion Books, our publisher, at their table, and look for the Catastrophone Orchestra’s Shadow Cities presentation!

For those of you who like to enter contests, there will be the Queen of Steam Drag Show, and/or the Annual Facial Hair Contest; I personally will hug anyone who enters both.

For entertainment, I’m looking forward to a weekend full of burlesque shows. A few that look promising are Violet DeVille’s transgender burlesque performance, and Uncle Monty’s Mollyhouse presented by Royal Baritarian Players! Molly houses refers to 18th century English taverns for all manner of sexual deviants, and a modern version should be all sorts of fun. They’ll be at the Goblin Market and helping to host the Absinthe Tasting.

If you’re looking for something more intellectual, I’m presenting in a few panels hosted by SPM contributor Steampunk Emma Goldman. Visit us on Friday at 6:00 PM for “Great Activists of the 19th Century,” and again on Sunday at 2:00 PM for a discussion on political aspects of steampunk. There’s also an excellent-looking panel on Victorian sexuality, and several on multicultural steampunk, which I’m quite looking forward to.

Hope to see you there!

Steampunk World’s Fair!

We’re all excited and getting ready for the 3rd Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey next week, and hope a lot of you are able to join us.

It was the World’s Fair that actually directly led to the rebirth of SteamPunk Magazine: the magazine had been languishing for some time after the burnout of our UK editor (who took it over after MY burnout), but the SPWF renewed my faith in our culture. So I can’t thank the organizers of this event enough.

Magazine contributors will be running a number of panels, and bands we’ve featured will be performing. It’s going to be wonderful.

AetherFest

Next weekend in San Antonio, Texas is AetherFest. This will be our first time at AetherFest, (and my first time in San Antonio), but after meeting the organizers at other events across the country, we’re excited as hell. I (Margaret Killjoy, the current editor) will be performing as an accordionist for the first time in years, as part of my new solo project Best Before 1886.

Steampunk Adventure-Of-Your-Own-Choosing Tour!


 

 
 

SteamPunk Magazine editor Margaret Killjoy is on tour with his book What Lies Beneath the Clock Tower, the steampunk Adventure-Of-Your-Own-Choosing novel lauded by Cory Doctorow and Alan Moore among others. The tour will include stops at three wondrous steampunk events, including the Steampunk Ball in Pittsboro (NC), AetherFest in San Antonio (TX), and The Watch City Festival in Waltham (MA).

Confirmed Dates

Creature Entertainment Studios

I just found out that SteamPunk Magazine art editor Juan Navarro (who has been illustrating for us since issue #2, I believe!) has put his indie comic book publishing company, Creature Entertainment Studios, up on kickstarter. This isn’t an untested idea: the company is made up with experienced but day-jobbed comics creators who make all kinds of glorious pulpy comics and are distributed by Diamond, but in order to develop more lines of comics, they need more help.

And the rewards they’re offering are varied, available cheap, and really interesting. Everything from hand-drawn art to out-of-print comics to “A team of us will develop your idea into a comic.”

So check it out and consider contributing.

As an aside, I’m a huge fan of crowd-funding. I love how it democratizes art. In ye olde days, you had have a patron from the church or royalty in order to make your living off of art–hell, even to have the resources to make really interesting art. Then, in the bad-old 20th century, it switched and you had to have a corporate patron. They preferred the word “sponsor,” of course. Either way, your ability to make art was dictated by the whims of the elite, the same as before. And now we can do it ourselves. And that’s fucking awesome.