On paper The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing could easily be perceived as something of a novelty. Combining the now somewhat hipster associated style of steampunk (though this four-piece is far from hipster) with songs about Victorian inventors, aristocrats and life in general and delivered while wearing suitably pseudo-Victorian costumes and featuring a man playing the saw.
On third album, Not Your Typical Victorians, they manage, for the most part, to transcend novelty and have created a dark, brooding, extreme metal tinged, steampunk record that not only has its literal basis in Victorian themes and iconography, but could also be seen as a reflection of today – oh! and despite all this it’s still fun as well.
After their now traditional introduction that gives a feel of travelling back in time (with at least two former Doctors included) the opening title track is very much what we’ve come to expect from the awkwardly abbreviated TMTWNBBFN – thrashy punk music and back and forth call and response vocals from frontman Andy Heintz and guitarist Andrew O’Neill.
From there though A Clean Sweep (child labour), Turned Out Nice Again (pollution), Miner (horrific working conditions down the mines), Third Class Coffin (class divisions) and How I Became An Orphan (general conditions of working class life), take things in a much more serious direction dealing with the sort of issues Dickens tried to highlight in his work.
But, as you can see, most of these have links with current society in one way or another – though whether this current political side is the intent of the band I’m not sure but its something that has been laced through their previous albums (to a lesser extent) as well.
Within all of this is a blackly comic nod and a wink (not surprising considering O’Neill’s other career) makes tales of sweeps dying up chimneys and freak shows the likes of which housed The Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick (The Worst Sideshow Ever) genuinely funny as well as being good songs and far more digestible than they might otherwise be if they were delivered entirely seriously.
Musically the album develops TMTWNBBFN’s sound with O’Neill’s extreme metal influences particularly coming to the fore. Alongside punk-metal sounds that have been their consistent stock in trade thus far, there are accomplished black and death metal moments coming from O’Neill’s guitar as Heintz and O’Neill’s vocals at times head into more extreme areas as well.
Steampunk has never been a genre with a consistent sound but certainly here it goes into heavier places than I’ve heard from any other bands in the past.
With Not Your Typical Victorians The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing have taken quite a step forward in terms of being a serious musical act, but keeping what made their past records so enjoyable intact while managing to neatly sidestep novelty pigeonholing by being entirely their own thing and true to that. In that regard, while musically entirely different, they stand alongside another steampunk favourite of mine, The Crowman – well, that and songs about drink.