I’m going to try and make it through this review without falling into some sort of piratical cliché, therefore I am writing this drinking a cup of tea with not a glass of rum or eye patch to be found and promise to avoid the obvious jokes.
This is Alestorm’s fourth full length offering but it seems so much longer since 2008’s Captain Morgan’s Revenge in terms of both passage of time and musical ability. This is almost a different band compared to the 2008 version (granted that the line up change sort of makes that sentence true rather than just a concept), everything from recording quality to the musicianship has been amped up over the last six years.
As if a mission statement, the opening track, Walk The Plank is a far heavier and grittier Alestorm than we’re used to. The keys (and I’m not sure if they’re provided by Elliot or Chris, or both) are far wider and sweeping with multiple effects rather than the straight up accordion tone.
As if to counter this though, Drink follows on as Sunset On The Golden Age’s (which will henceforth be known as SOTGA because I’m a lazy sort of guy) answer to Rum and Wenches and Mead. From the “haw you, gies a beer” opening I was pretty much sold. Needless to say, this one will go down well live. Though the inevitable downpour of beer from the “Drink, Drink, Drink!” fist pumps (you know they’re coming) already makes me feel massively sticky.
It wouldn’t be Alestorm without any pint held aloft level catchy choruses, and 1741 (The Battle Of Cartagena) provides every ounce of that. Despite the silliness of Alestorm, this more than proves their ability to write some strong metal epics. Featuring everything from chiptune through to Bal-Sagoth-y vibes and the aforementioned chorus it’s one of the highlights of the disc.
If you’re missing the old Alestorm sound though (and I’m addressing those on YouTube who will inevitably be commenting on every new song with THEY WERE BETTER WHEN THEY WERE TRUE PIRATE METAL!!11! as YouTube dwelling metal fans are so oft to do), Mead From Hell will be right up your street. The accordion sound coming back with a vengeance with yet another catchy chorus will satisfy everyone, and if the lyrics don’t please you or give you at least a momentary pause then you’re simply incorrect.
To be entirely honest, I could spend the rest of this review writing about how *song name* has a catchy chorus. Mainly because it’s true, like them or loathe them, it’s hard to get their choruses out of your head when you hear them (I’m going to spend tomorrow at work singing “I’m on a quest, a quest for ships” all day, I just know it, that or I’ll be informing people that “I have a wooden leg” over and over). The fans will be more than happy though, more shouty bits at drunken metal gigs are good bits. Songs like Surf Squid Warfare will present some challenge though, they may be catchy choruses, but they’re also long, the tongue tying struggle is one to look forward to hearing when they visit your town on the upcoming tour.
The lyrics have gone from daft to ridiculous with Wooden Leg in particular standing out, though Mead from Hell is a close second. The album also brings us a new cover; there’s no fun in metal band covering metal band though when a metal band can cover some sweet dance grooves. Though I won’t expect to walk into any night clubs and hear the Alestorm version, I’m half expecting to walk into a rock club to find a group of metal folk getting thoroughly down to Alestorm’s cover of Taio Cruz’s Hangover.
When I glanced at the track listing I was pleasantly surprised to see the album ended on an eleven minute epic. I decided epic because that’s what we call things when it’s music and eleven minutes long. Unless it’s Opeth, then it’s a pretty standard song. Surprisingly it’s not all that epic in terms of music unlike Death Throes of the Terrorsquid and so on, it’s a much darker heavier affair.
As I said back at the start, this is a vast ocean away from what Alestorm started as, it’s always fun as a fan when a band twists and turns when they grow instead of releasing the same thing time and again. When they wrote Scraping The Barrel on Back Through Time I feared we were seeing the end of the band on the horizon, but it’s clear from SOTGA that there’s more petrol in the tank.. or wind in the sails.
Yarr and shit.