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Vernian Process - Behold the Machine

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Vernian Process was one of the first musical acts making Steampunk music. It started as a one-man-project by Joshua Pfeiffer, but evolved to a project with many musicians now. The musical style, which is sometimes referred to as "Steamwave", reminds of dark wave with a lot of additional steamy sounds and string instruments.

The album Behold the Machine I perceived already at the first listen as a masterpiece of music. The opener "Behold the Machine" starts with machine sounds, initially very slow, then raising the speed as the vocals set in. Like a Victorian market crier the singer warns the listener against "the machine", which was built "to destroy the human race". Interesting is that the song varies the tempo and intensity of instruments and vocals a lot of times.

The second song, "The Alchemist's Vision", sets in with a dark cello instrumentation, shortly after the drums start, followed by the words "All the trinkets", which seem to suddenly appear out of nowhere. The vocals are different than in the song before, darker and deeper. Nice synth melodies fill the vocalless parts in between. My favourite part is the chorus with the words: "Change my heart, change my cold heart. Now I have... now I have nothing but time". "The Alchemist's Vision" is to me the most outstanding track on this album. The melody stays for days in one's head.

"Unhallowed Metropolis" is more epic, dark wave with echoing synths. The song is about a city, over which a Dark Age has arisen. "Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, we've had our chance, Lord knows we've tried". Welcome to Fritz Lang's Metropolis!

The following song is one of three interludes, "Into the Depths", inspired by the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. Atmospherically it leads over to the song "The Exile". "The Exile" is a slower song, carried by piano and guitar, which reminds of the progressive rock of the 70s. At 3:50 the song is getting more "rocky", supported with electric guitars and screaming vocals.

"The Last Express" and "Vagues de Vapeur" ("waves of steam") makes one really feel, what Steampunk means. Everything is in those songs: slow piano-parts, strings, electric guitars and very Victorian bell and harpsichord melodies. Just let them carry you away to "a time that never was, but we wish had been", how Captain Robert from Abney Park once described, what Steampunk is about. In "Vagues de Vapeur" Pfeiffer sings analogically to Captain Robert "A time that never was, welcome the old ways, riding, riding, riding on the waves of steam" - pure retrofiction.

The second interlude, "Into the Shadows", also by Bach, is one entity with following song "The Curse of Whitechapel". The lyrics of the latter are very creepy, as they are describing the story of the Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper. It sounds like a soundtrack for a film. The last words "we came back to the 20th century" lead to the next track "The Maple Leaf Rag", an instrumental ragtime song, reminding of the era of silent films.

The "Queen of the Delta" comes in a different costume than the other songs on this album. With guitar licks and vocals supposable inspired by Americana (maybe by the band Woven Hand?) the Delta-Queen is a quite modern-style song, but, however, is still fitting to the rest of the album.

The third and last interlude "Into the Aether" is a wonderful celestial intro to the last track "The Maiden Flight". "The Maiden Flight" is instrumental and lasts almost 14 minutes. It is divided into four parts: "Dawn To Dusk", "Vol Nocturne", "Maelstrom" and "Into The Unknown". The first two parts are like a concert of classical music, with piano and string melodies. At "Vol Nocturne" silent storm and rain sounds are audible in the background. In the "Maelstrom" rain and storm turn into thunder and lightening, beeping sounds gives on the feeling of really being in an airship. After the "Maelstrom" the rain ceases, we are on our way "Into the Unknown". This very last track features psychedelic sounds, as well as the intro of "The Alchemist's Vision". The psychedelic sounds raise at the end, until the melody suddenly... stops.

The album "Behold the Machine" is definitely a musical masterpiece. It is very diverse, seems to cover everything Steampunk is about. The whole album has a dark and epic sound. If you like Steampunk and dark wave, you should definitely try this one.


01. Behold the Machine
02. The Alchemist's Vision
03. Unhallowed Metropolis
04. Interlude I: Into The Depths
05. The Exile
06. The Last Express
07. Vagues de Vapeur
08. Interlude II: Into The Shadows
09. The Curse of Whitechapel
10. The Maple Leaf Rag
11. Queen of the Delta
12. Interlude III: Into The Aether
13. The Maiden Flight
Translator: murd
Add date: 2012-01-13 / Music reviews

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