Tom Slatter: Fit The Fourth

Steampunk prog storyteller’s batty odyssey continues.

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Slatter conceived the sinister world of ‘Seven Bells John’ in 2009 with Spinning The Compass.

Here, he builds and resolves the journey, amid other strains in his twisty world, framed by old school prog instrumentals. His macabre musical-theatre narrative swells in The Steam Engine Murders And The Trial Of Seven Bells John. With Dickensian ambience and ‘mockney’ lines like ‘it makes a saucy tale’ stirred into stories of dark deeds, it’s a bit like Oliver Twist reimagined by a batty steampunk wizard. Indeed, speaking of wizards, there’s more than a hint of Rick Wakeman’s Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, plus King Crimson-esque pastoral qualities in the vocals and softer passages of So Far From The Shore. Crunchy organ chords in Seven Bells Redeemed make for a darker, groovier evocation of the steampunk aesthetic, which merge into blissful synths before succumbing to classic 70s proggery. Slatter’s vocals are wavering by this stage, contorted into the story. The closing cries of ‘a murderer!’ fall somewhere between a wobbly Greg Lake and an am-dram Phantom Of The Opera. Still, the unrefined but fierce conviction of Slatter’s vision will probably find great favour with a passionate niche.