Fantasy bands are a niche of the music industry that in my opinion just don’t get enough love. Here, we celebrate all things weird, magical and mystical with a few of our absolute favourite fantasy bands and musicians.
It doesn’t get any more fantasy than Starset. They’re a band led by a fictional group of scientists, the Starset Society. Said society wants to spread awareness about “the message” they’ve received from space, which warns the population of the dichotomous effects of technology and capitalism. The story is so in-depth that in 2017 Starset collaborated with Marvel to turn the backstory into its own graphic novel. Their cinematic sound is unique and futuristic, making every track of theirs sound like a blockbuster movie soundtrack. Transmissions (2014), their debut LP, is a concept album, with lyrics at a first glance seeming like metaphors for mental illness. However, there is a whole story that gets even richer once you know the backstory of the band. When they perform, they even wear full spacesuits, changing the venue into a complete out of this world experience.
Pirates are awesome. Metal is awesome. Alestorm combines these two concepts and unsurprisingly, the end result is what I imagine the idea of ‘awesome squared’ to resemble.
While Alestorm may not be as committed to their gimmick as some other fantasy bands, the pirate theme runs through all they do. No song is complete without at least three references to rum, songs tackle the concepts of grand sea battles, or the best mead-halls in every port, and their live shows are replete with flags, canons, and in the case of their 2018 ‘Pirate-Fest’ tour that culminated in Southampton’s own engine rooms; an enormous inflatable rubber duck.
Neglecting to ever take themselves seriously, the Scottish pirates never fail to entertain, be it through their incredible live shows (complete with venue-spanning rowing circles), or through hilarious tracks like ‘Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship’, ‘Buckfast Powersmash’ and some with names too raunchy and swashbuckling for polite conversation. Alestorm are still going strong in 2020, with the release of Curse of the Crystal Coconut, their sixth studio album, and as long as there’s rum to steal, and subsequently sing about, it doesn’t look like they’ll be going anywhere anytime soon.
Steam Powered Giraffe
Steampunk robots, dressed in formalwear, singing vaudeville. That’s what to expect from American fantasy band Steam Powered Giraffe. Made up of current band members ‘The Spine’, ‘Rabbit’, and ‘Zero’, Steam Powered Giraffe has been going strong for over 12 years now, pumping out 6 studio albums and 2 live LPs in all their magnificent android glory.
Steam Powered Giraffe have got to be one of the most fantastical fantasy bands out there, or at least from what I’ve seen. Entirely dedicated to their aesthetic, the band routinely dress up in full on android face paint (think golds, silvers, rivets, the whole she-bang), all following some different form of the steampunk aesthetic, from dieselpunk (The Spine) to clockwork (Rabbit) to swing-style (Zero). Past members like Jon and Hatchworth followed an art deco aesthetic. Whilst on stage, the ‘robots’ are accompanied by robot puppets and ‘Walter Workers’ (humans), who ‘oil’ them, control the puppets, and also man merchandise tables. They have massive dedication to their aesthetic and stagecraft.
Also, their music bangs. My favourite album of theirs is probably their second, The 2 Cent Show, based around, you guessed it, a vaudeville show costing 2 cents for entry. With a simple. beautiful classic style, their sound draws you into their designed world easily, and it’s a joy to behold.