Okay, first of all let’s have a go to unravel the genre this scottish band has labeled themselves with. ‘Scottish Pirate Metal’ sounds twisted enough and though it does give initial ideas of how the band might sound, dismantling the term into a more user friendly form is probably a good place to start a review. Imagine a mixture of Running Wild, Manowar, Skyclad and Flogging Molly soaked in a heavy dosage of rum and delivered in a fashion that tastes like the salty splatters of the raging high seas on your lips. Makes more sense? Probably not, but maybe that’s not an issue – Alestorm is a band for fun and party, as their debut album Captain Morgan’s Revenge proves.
“Captain Morgan’s Revenge” clocks around forty minutes and offers a selection of ten tracks every single one guaranteening a full-on pirate song folded into a metal form. The comparisons to german legends Running Wild are inevitable but are caused mostly by the common theme rather than musically following all that similar paths, with the exception of an occasional guitar-driven melodies that take inspiration from traditional songs and folk without completely being either. Other than that, Alestorm tries to achieve their own mix of styles, and though the outcome is peculiar enough, the easy flashbacks from other bands makes the band’s music less unique as the idea might’ve been.
The songs’ basic idea stays pretty much the same throughout the record; a song with a pirate-themed lyrics, a dose of folk elements in form of melodies and instruments plus a coating of classic heavy metal. On top of this all, the most prominent element on the songs is Christopher Bowes’ coarse singing, which is bound to divide the listeners in the camps of lovers and haters. Bowes’ voice is rough, rugged, one-dimensional and occasionally struggles to keep in the key. On most other kinds of music this would probably prove to be the doom of the band, but in the pirate context it actually fits in pretty well and as the songs mainly consist of fighting, drinking and womanizing, Bowes does indeed sound like a true sea dog. A comparison with horror rockers Lordi comes to mind, another case where the singer hasn’t got much of a voice, but in the context in question fits the songs spot on. Same thing here.
The songs on ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’ that work best are the ones that use the pirate recipe without ending up emulating other bands too much. The opening swath, ‘Over The Seas’ begins with an almost cinematic intro and sets course with riff-packed gallop that presents a fine opening for the album, showing what’s to come. The title track follows next and has a powerful feel to it with thunderous drums setting the pace, and adding up a catchy gang chorus that is one of the more Running Wild -sounding moments on the record. A sound of an accordion adds a nice touch, though a tad dissappointingly a closer scrutiny reveals the sound having been made with keyboards, whereas a real accordion would’ve undoubtedly added an even better feel. Still, the title track rises as one of the best ones on the album.
And so the album spins on and scottish pirate metal keeps on pouring in. “The Huntmaster” and “Set Sail And Conquer” show what Manowar would probably sound if a good dose of folk would be inserterd in their music – the grandiose, self-indulgent and powerful choruses clearly borrow a trick or two from the original battle-metal kings. “Nancy The Tavern Wench” and “Wenches And Mead” are basically drinking songs as is the case with the album closer “Flower Of Scotland”. The last song probably would’ve been more effective piece without over-the-top, off-key drunken choir singing. Thrashy “Death Before The Mast” is a clear Skyclad pastiche, that though shreds on valiantly doesn’t really get close to anything the famed folk-metallers used to write.
On “Of Treasure” Alestorm, however, gets a hold of something a bit more special and the track rises as the most atmospheric track on the whole album, capturing the pirate feel more so than any other track featured here. The song sets the pace down and has a more melancholic feel to it. The lyrics manage to paint a more serious picture and especially the addition of a tin whistle (this time a real one, well done!) makes the listener almost feel the salty caribbean wind blowing on his face and hear the waves breaking under the ship’s bow. In fact such is the effect of this particular song that the crazed stereotype lyrics of the rest of the material start to feel almost too light.
As whole, the album doesn’t quite reach it’s full potential. The band has a good swashbuckling approach to their metal and prove to be able to come up with decent material, but the overall effect of the album lacks lasting power. ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’ is a nice attempt to create something a bit different, but despite an occasional success the overall result feels more like combining old ideas from various bands to form new songs that actually coming up with anything groundbreaking. Good, fun grog-drinking songs but unfortunatey not much more. Alestorm has potential, but with ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’ the metal pirates are still trying to make sense of their map. Hopefully next album will lead them to the treasure.
1. Over The Seas
2. Captain Morgan’s Revenge
3. The Huntmaster
4. Nancy The Tavern Wench
5. Death Before The Mast
6. Terror On The High Seas
7. Set Sail And Conquer
8. Of Treasure
9. Wenches And Mead
10. Flower Of Scotland