I don’t think I cannot properly start off this blog without saying one thing…
Seriously, thank you to everyone who read, spread, commented, and subscribed to my blog after the Steamhipster post. I was not expecting that kind of feedback at all. You are all wonderful and fantastic. Yes, even those who disagreed with me. Say what you will about the Steampunk community, but you guys know how to make a girl feel special!
Today, I’m laying off my frustrations and getting back to talking about things I love. I’m still keeping this one pretty Steampunk though.
Ladies, gentlemen, and those in between, let’s talk about Hellblinki!
If you don’t know, Hellblinki is a band from Asheville, NC that describes themselves as a band that “combines elements of American folk, European cabaret, Guerilla Operatics, and Punk Rock Experimentation into an intoxicating brew of transcendent madness…”
I usually just go with “weird and fun in the best possible ways,” but that is accurate as well.
I first became familiar with the band at Dragon*Con 2009 when I walked in on the tail end of their Saturday night show that later went onto be them backing Voltaire. I think what initially caught my attention was Valerie Meiss’ haunting vocals and the fact that everyone but me had party favors. What I really remember about them though was the next night when they attacked Abney Park with newspaper cannonballs in a pirate ship made of cardboard, and I apologized profusely to their bassist at the time for nearly breaking his hand as we talked about Coraline.
Of course, since my life takes me in weird directions, a little more than a year later, I was sleeping on Valerie’s couch after a gig The Contraptions played with them in Asheville. That gig involved an impromptu, yet amazing cover of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ that involved Andrew singing through a modified telephone receiver, and Valerie singing with a puppet version of herself.
I guess the whole point I’m trying to make there is that Hellblinki is a wonderful band that is always bringing about the unexpected. Be it puppetfied covers of 80s power ballads, Disney princess songs about the Zombie Apocalypse, creepy bluegrass songs about what lurks in the woods, or making the main hook of a song random noises made with ones mouth.
So when they announced a Kickstarter to raise money for a 7″ single last August, I could not resist backing the project. One of my favorite bands making a vinyl single? Sign me up!
The project was ultimately successful, with the band raising a little over $2500 from fans. I’ve had the digital version of the single since late November, but earlier this week, I received the physical single!
Before I talk about the music, I have to gush about the physical specs. The single has beautiful artwork from Andrew Hellblinki on both sides, though those with hangups about female anatomy and/or childbirth may want to brace themselves before flipping the sleeve over to look at the ‘I Am’ side (nothing graphic though)! The vinyl itself is a gorgeous white 7″ that balances quite well with the black and orange of the cover. I also couldn’t help but giggle at the conveniently placed hole for the spindle. Puts a new spin on putting one’s eye out.
The songs also sound gorgeous coming from a record player and are not laden with the digital crackle that sometimes accompanies modern vinyl records. If you’re like me, it may take you a second to realize that the record needs to be on 45 RPM instead of 33, but it sounds great at both speeds. Hell, ‘I Am’ sounds more frightening at 33.
Which brings me to my assessments of the actual songs.
I first heard ‘All For You’ and ‘I Am’ at Dragon*Con this past year. ‘All For You’ didn’t stick out in my memory as well after the con was over, but when I heard the recorded version a few months later, I was surprised about how it managed to get under my skin so quickly. It’s a sinister and haunting track that part horror movie soundtrack, and part unrequited love song. I don’t know if it was the synth, the saw or Andrew’s crooning, but ‘All For You’ seriously reminds me of all those times I felt simultaneously horrified and sympathetic of a character’s actions in a book, TV show or movie. With imagery of the end of the world, plagues and genocide, it’s easy to feel frightened by the subject matter, but the touch of heartache almost makes the actions of our protagonist understandable. If a song can make you feel Stockholm Syndrome, this is the one that does it.
The B-side, ‘I Am’, tends to be a bit of a debate at Hellblinki’s live shows. Andrew claims the song is about childbirth, but Valerie counters that it is really a song about Daleks. At the surface level, the staccato, synthesized nature of the song brings about a lot of mental images of everyone’s favorite genocidal alien pepper pots. It’s even easy to expect someone to shout “EXTERMINATE” at some point. However, when really listening to the lyrics, it really does bring about thoughts of what Turanga Leela calls “a disgusting, beautiful process.” Of course, the song also makes it sound like the next Antichrist is about to be born, but that just might be my own personal fear of children under the age of five talking. And like I said earlier, the song at 33 RPM makes me want to hide under my desk and hope whatever is incoming can’t break down doors.
Overall, the first 7″ single from Hellblinki is a solid effort that features two of the most fear inducing songs in their library. Hellblinki promises that there will be more of these singles in the future leading up to their next album, but in the meantime, you can purchase this single at Bandcamp and on Hellblinki’s website.
Tomorrow, I’m going to be reviewing something else relating to children, but it’s a lot less fear inducing. Unless you find Steampunk duckies scary…