AVAST YE….Oh, bollocks to it, I really can’t be bothered. Every bloody Alestorm review seems to start with some reviewer doing Pirate impressions – well not me, lets leave that to the band! Nope, no nautical silliness from this reviewer, no matter how tempting! Besides, I think I’ve only copped for this review because I own stuff by Running Wild, Lonewolf and Orden Ogan (my penchant for rum, eye patch, wooden leg and parrot named Polly are obviously just an added bonus…), but truth be told, in the past Alestorm have failed to float my…NO! I won’t do it! Failed to…capture my excitement, yes, that’s better, much less Piratical.
A mate leant me their debut back in 2008, telling me rather dismissively that they were a “Bunch Of Scots dressed as Pirates”, which they were, but apart from the image and lyrics it wasn’t the shanty-ridden Pirate Power Metal I was used to, or hoping for. With suspicions of a Pirates Of The Caribbean band-wagon jump, their following EP did little to change my opinion so I have to admit I have had little to do with Alestorm since, apart from seeing them live at a later date when they seemed to make much more sense (the fact that I can’t quite remember when or where might be another pointer as to why they made more sense…!).
But I want to hail our home-grown talent! I want the UK to have something Metal to shout about, and there’s plenty to shout along to on an Alestorm album, so with an open mind and a readiness to be impressed I embark on a voyage of…No, No, NO! No Pirate or sailing references! I…errr…start the listening process (that will have to do…) to see what Alestorm have to offer in 2014. I’ve been looking at it all wrong y’see, Alestorm have bugger all to do with Running Wild or their ilk and their target audience couldn’t give a toss who they were either. Yes, Alestorm are first and foremost a Metal band, but have their roots in a slightly punkier vicinity, having more in common with Tenpole Tudor or The Skids than German Power Metal. And justly so! ‘Drink’ for instance is a more Metal Dropkick Murphys and once you realise that Alestorm are the ideal band to set the Uni bars alight, then they certainly deliver.
Every song is a bouncy, sing along stomp. OK, personally I would much prefer to hear traditional instruments rather than the synthesised keyboard modes, but saying that, I also concede that I don’t know what the band are supposed to do with a squeeze-box player for the rest of their live set. There’s a welcome drinking song/Pirate feel to all of the songs, with some notable comparisons that the band have no doubt achieved without trying. ‘Magnetic North’ at times sounds like Tyr for instance, so does ‘1741 (The Battle Of Cartagena)’, as well as having a Finntroll feel to it (Albeit with the ever-present Pirate undertones of course). They sprinkle Metalcore moments into a couple of tracks (which again shows their target audience), and the thrashy feel of ‘Wooden Leg’ is like a mix of Tankard and Korpiklaani. There’s elements of fellow drinkers and countrymen Drunken State at times too.
But none of this prepares the listener for the excellent ‘Hangover’. Although it’s a Taio Cruz cover, it’s still a great version and an absolute belter of a track! Like a Heavy Metal song for Ibiza, it should be filling dance floors all over Europe! With a fantastic Woah-woah hook-line, a Big Country-esque folky riff, bouncing beat with double-kick drums when needed, and a 19-year old’s inspirational dream lyrics like “So I can go until they close up, and I can drink until I throw up, and I don’t ever ever want to grow up”. A fabulous drinking song if ever I heard it – something to rival Korpiklaani’s ‘Happy Little Boozer’ in every way. The ultra-singalong chorus of the following (and final) track, the epic title track itself, brings the whole thing to a rousing crescendo. With those two tracks still reverberating around my head, the urge is actually just to play it all again…but louder! Shaking the roof trusses on my house, yep, Alestorm certainly shiver me timbers. What? It’s a normal every day phrase down our way…
Alestorm have stuck at it, ridden the novelty storm (I’m allowing that one too…), kept plugging away and proved their worth at gigs and festivals throughout Europe. They are great fun, pure and simple. They aren’t trying to rival Dream Theater, or win any serious Technical Metal awards, they are just dressing up, and playing catchy songs with silly lyrics about the more glamorous side of being a Pirate. Twenty years younger and I’d be down the front with the rest of my mates, sweating through my eye patch, waving my inflatable Parrot and cutlass (neither term is a euphemism by the way) and madly stomping my fake wooden leg. Nowadays, I’m older and more cynical. Unfortunately I have to stand at the back and actually listen to the music, which for Alestorm is only half the experience. But I can happily still sink a few too many and appreciate tracks as good as ‘Hangover’. Cheers!
(7.5/10 Andy Barker)