If you’re based in the UK, it’s extremely likely that you’re familiar with Alice’s Night Circus. The one woman whirlwind has been treading the boards of the UK steampunk scene and can be seen regularly at Ministry of Steampunk events such as TimeQuake and Weekend At The Asylum, among others.
Getting to see Alice perform was always a difficulty for me. I’d booked to see her play at Morecambe’s A Splendid Day Out in 2016 but couldn’t get there until after the show. I also couldn’t get to the 2016 Asylum event. So it was with a lot of excitement that I got to see her perform for the first time at Whitby Steampunk Weekend in February 2017. I was quite honestly blown away by her performance. Receiving notice that I was to get an advance copy of the album for review was a highlight of a wonderful British Summer and I’ve been listening avidly to it ever since.
The album opens with the strong number Curious World. This is the song that Alice opens with at her performances due to the breathtaking explosion into the chorus that really shows her vocal power. It’s a psychedelic trip into her mind and steampunk in general. The name Alice comes from Alice in Wonderland and there are multiple references to Lewis Carroll’s famous novels. The first and second verse seem to come from the perspective of the White Rabbit inviting Alice into Wonderland – a perfect metaphor for steampunk. The third verse appears to be Alice inviting everyone else into the world; “take off your pinstripes, your costume awaits at the door”.
Moving on through the album, we’re taken to The Machine. It seems to be Alice standing her ground on her right to individuality. Refusing to become a token of staunch capitalism by remaining out of the rat race of wake, work, sleep, repeat. There are dozens of metaphorical references through all the songs and The Machine is no different as it also uses various references to cogs and gears turning to represent the machine of industry and general working life. How if we become a cog in the machine of life, we can never do anything except help it turn.
The whole album is stuffed with inspirational language, especially Stand Up. This seems to be a rally cry for those who are bullied or victimised in life but have held their head high and not succumbed to the pressure. It’s a really positive message with the impact and power normally found in music by artists such as Florence and the Machine. So much so that it can make hairs stand up on your neck as you realise the message Alice is pushing.
Arguably my favourite song on the album is Dark Water. It’s a slow ballad style song full of sadness and morose. The dark water to me seems to represent mental health such as depression and how you have to breathe it in to just survive. But then overcoming your shadows and releasing the darkness “’till you exhale the storm within” will help you get over it “and let the light flood in”.
Following Dark Water is Medusa – another slow and haunting song. It seems to be about a toxic relationship and how it can turn you to stone. How you can be unable to change anything but just stand there and allow the passage of time to erode you. However, after that the album steps up the tempo – possibly the transformation that the album title alludes to – and we jump into an upbeat, pop style song. However, just like Victor & The Bully will create a dancey song but actually sing about death, War of the Worlds is bouncy and light, but has a deep message to it about how we fight pointless wars yet we’re all just trying to feed our families.
The penultimate song is more of a light relief. We hear a comedic, yet macabre story of Mr Strange in the song Penny Dreadful. It starts off light hearted and jovial with a cabaret style melody. But then as you listen to the lyrics about a chap finding a woman and “changing her” with his needle and thread, it begins to dawn on you just how this is actually about someone who seems to be suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder by Proxy.
The final song The Show Must Go On is an interesting reflection on what to do when something so special ends in your life. It can seem despondent as though there’s nothing left. But instead you should move on up and let the world become your stage.
Metamorphose is a really interesting album. It’s full of inspiring messages of hope mixed in with the bizarre world of Lewis Carroll and a carnival atmosphere. Alice clearly has her own voice but there are elements of other artists that she could have been inspired by. For example, Stand Up has a familiar feel of Florence and The Machine. While Penny Dreadful has the vintage lounge feel of Caro Emerald.
In the melody, there’s a wonderful mixture of classic instruments and electronica. Angel choirs sing and drums roll and crash to give choruses a bang. In turn they compliment the lyrics which have messages of wisdom that surpass someone of Alice’s age.
The official album release is on 28th August, 2018. Alice will be attending and performing at The Weekend at the Asylum August bank holiday. There she will be promoting the album.
You can find out all about Alice’s Night Circus by visiting her website here: Alice’s Night Circus website