Cover of How The Dead Live by Jordan Reyne

Featured Artist: Jordan Reyne

A few days back I found an æthermail in my inbox, inquiering if I would be willing to review and feature Jordan Reyne on this blog. My first thought was: Who? But I cannot know every single steampunk-related artist out of the top of my head, can I?

And by the way: When The Cog is Dead contacted me, I had not heard about them before, either.

Anyway, I was rather intrigued by the offer and so I followed the link provided in the æthermail and what I found was very different compared to all the other Steampunk artists I have thus far encountered and reviewed and very fascinating, to say the least. I am also rather reluctant to judge her Steampunk. Still, the album I am going to present here contains some features which place it at the very least in the fringe of Steampunk culture.

So now, here are my impressions concerning How the Dead Live by Jordan Reyne:

Cover of How The Dead Live by Jordan Reyne
How the Dead Live by Jordan Reyne

How the Dead Live is by far the heaviest and deepest album I have listened to in a long time. It is a concept album, commissioned by the New Zealand Arts Council (!). It tells the story of Susannah Hawes, one of New Zealand’s first pioneer women.
The album tells Susannah’s live’s story, and she had a hard live. How the Dead Live is dark, gloomy and it conjures images of hardship and toil in the listener’s mind. It is also an album which tells another history. History usually consists of lessons  concerning the following factors:

  • Great People
  • Great Battles
  • Great Catastrophies
  • Great Projects

History tends to forget people like Susannah Hawes. How the Dead Live is a musical attempt to correct this situation. It tells the history of an ordinary woman, living a hard life, with very little mirth in it. But this life was one of those on which New Zealand was built. She was one of the many who laid the foundations of a nation. Her name has vanished into oblivion – until now.

For this reason alone, the telling of a different history, the album is of interest to Steampunks. After all, we base our subculture on a historical epoch that never was. Yet, there is a second reason: Jordan Reyne stresses and intensifies the atmosphere of hardship and toil within her album in a very unique way:

The background noises are taken from early industrial-age tools and machines. In an alternate reality this album may have been done by a Regency-era version of the Einstürzende Neubauten.

The songs themselves are slow, heavy, melancholic. How the Dead Live is not an easy album to listen to and it took me some time to get into it. My personal preference is with faster music. This does not make How the Dead Live a bad album. As I said, the album is deep, it has a strikingly unique set of arrangements and it tells a very significant story. I would not recommend listening to it on a rainy day, the melancholy would get to you.
But it is an excellent album to spend some time with. The album offers so much on so many levels. The depth of the music and the story and history it tells. It is a very unique piece of work.

How the Dead Live to me is a bit of an aquired taste but it is also well worth the effort of getting into it. The more you listen to it, the more enthralling and fascinating it becomes.

On the Zeppelin scale it ranks at seven out of ten and an extra light zeppelin for creative use of industrial noise!