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RETROSPECTIVE: The Mechanisms— Story Telling and Death

The Mechanisms were a British folk, steampunk, and rock musical storytelling cabaret. A band of musicians playing the characters of immortal space pirates telling stories of war and tragedy across the infinite galaxies and universes.

Spanning six albums, one single, and a plethora of original fiction based on their albums and characters, the crew of the Aurora retells stories within our world with a fantastic twist. Have you ever wanted a war based on the classic fairy tales? How about a space western based on Arthurian legend? The Mechanisms provide this, and more.

The album that attracted me to The Mechanisms was 2017's The Bifrost Incident—A Norse mythology focused train mystery. The album is rock heavy, featuring the likes of Odin as a genius but mad ruler, Loki who appears to have lost herself, Thor as an angry second in line, and Sigyn as the Midgardian resistance leader and Loki's wife. The album is action packed, and features beautiful music all around, and ends in a classic tragic ending, which is a common feature in The Mechanisms’ storytelling.

One of the fantastic elements of The Mechanisms, beyond the grand retelling of stories we already know, is just how queer their canon is. Each album features a variety of characters with different pronouns, genders, and romances and yet not a single musician is bound to only play their own gender.

I can think of many different lines from each album that stand out, but here are two of my favorites.

"When I was a little girl, my mother always told me “Someday your prince will come, my love” But as I grew, I knew it was a princess who would hold me I looked to the stars for you, my love" Cinders Song—Once Upon A Time In Space

"Years passed, and the child grew from the girl Morgause into a sharp young man who chose his name as Mordred." "Death"—High Noon Over Camelot

Another refreshing part of consuming all The Mechanisms have to offer as a queer person is the fact that this queer media is tragic.

I know what you're thinking.

"Don't you guys have to deal with tragedy all the time?"

Well. Yeah.

The tragedies presented in these albums are far different. As a young person who consumes queer media often, often the queerness is the reason for tragedy. They die because they were young, in love, and gay or the trans person suffers and dies because they are trans. Frankly, I'm tired of this narrative, I'm sick of consuming media with this narrative, because in all reality it isn't really written for us.

I view queer fictional media in two lights, there's the kind that is made for people like us, and the kind made for straight people.

The torture and suffering porn that is produced again and again in the likes of every long running cop or medical show isn't exactly for us, and I honestly don’t think it was ever made for queer people in mind.

At the same time, I don't want "perfect" queer media. We're just as flawed as everybody else, I don't need every queer story wrapped in a perfect little bow. I want to see people like me facing the world and experiencing the good and bad. We experience tragedies as queer people. I'm just sick of queerness being painted as a tragedy.

The Mechanisms succeed in what I want out of "queer tragedies." Every single story ends in death, no matter what way you spin it, there's no happy ending in sight for almost everyone within each album. But at the same time, the queerness of the album's characters is not the reason they may die. Instead, we often see the same queer characters built up as heroic, they try to do good even faced with death, and even in death they are granted tragic, but fulfilling endings.

Recommended Tracks:

  1. Lost In The Cosmos—Tales To Be Told Vol. 2

  2. Our Boy Jack—Once Upon A Time In Space

  3. Sirens—Ulysses Dies At Dawn

  4. Red Signal—The Bifrost Incident


Quite literally in fact, they performed their last show in January of 2020, killing off all of the performers' characters in means they saw fit.

What I adore about their ending was the realization that it was time. The band had been going since 2010, and with time, comes change, so continuing the act became harder and harder. Thus, the decision to call it quit was born.

Many of the members have gone on to work on other projects, including music, streaming, voice acting, writing, and podcasting. The creative ability shown throughout their time with The Mechanisms still shines through personal work.

[See individual music by the likes of Ben Below, Jessica Law, Rachel L Hughes, and Kofi Young, work by Tim Ledsam with Softwire, and podcast and novel writer Jonathan Sims]

For me, The Mechanisms sparked a creative flash, both the itch to consume classic stories, (I literally picked up the Iliad again because I was craving more Greek Myth) or sparking up my interest in music composition again.

No matter the fact that they no longer create under the moniker of The Mechanisms, what their work shows is that through ingenuity and reinvention, there are always tales to be told.

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