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Since signing to Napalm Records in 2007 and releasing debut album, 'Captain Morgan's Revenge' the following year, Alestorm, the self-proclaimed "True Scottish Pirate Metallers", have accumulated something of a mass, cult following throughout Europe. Personally, I've never been particularly keen on their music, although admit to enjoying the couple of live performances I've seen in the sense that both experiences have been simultaneously fun and funny. Fun, that is, because the band don't take themselves too seriously, and most certainly funny due to the large number of crowd members dressed in pirate attire (much more so than the band from memory) as they wield skull & crossbones flags and random plastic weaponry. So what of Alestorm's sophomore full-length effort, 'Black Sails At Midnight'? My first impression is not too bad at all. But just what constitutes pirate metal? Evidently the band's image, lyrics and vocal delivery all convey such a piratical vibe, whereas the music itself combines elements of various metal subgenres including folk, symphonic, power and thrash. The folk influence is made more emphatic through vocalist/keyboardist Christopher Bowes' Martin Walkyier-esque delivery (circa 'Vintage Whine' era Skyclad), albeit with a pirate dialect. Perhaps a weak point of the album is a lack of innovation in the songwriting as many of the rhythms, riffs and melodies fall into the "heard it all before" category - perhaps not with concomitant pirate-style vocals, but definitely unoriginal and pastiched from other bands. For example, 'Keelhauled' sounds like a fusion between Turisas' famed cover of Boney M's 'Rasputin', 'Drunken Sailor' and Skyclad's 'Penny Dreadful'. Despite lacking originality, the songs will undoubtedly excel in future live performances, for that is the context in which Alestorm's material is best digested. At least that is the case for me. A metalled up version of Latvia's 2008 Eurovision Song Contest entry, 'Wolves of the Sea', that ends the album will almost certainly work better as a live track than its recorded version here. Proclaiming yourselves to be a pirate metal band is a niche identity that will surely become an evanescent gimmick as time progresses, as is the case with most other novelty acts, although Alestorm are currently riding high on a wave of popularity, and 'Black Sails At Midnight' will no doubt be snapped up in thousands by their loyal brethren of buccaneers. One final note must be made of the anti-copyright theft voice-overs on the promo, by far the most befitting I've ever heard. It sounds like Christopher Bowes himself, speaking in his pirate dialect - "Yarrr! You're listening to the new Alestorm album.....remember, piracy is a crime", and other sporadic shouts of "yarrr"! Most inventive; more so than the music itself. Overall, though, good mindless fun.
Napalm Records
Review by Mark Holmes
1st June 2009
1) The Quest
2) Leviathan
3) That Famous Ol' Spiced
4) Keelhauled
5) To the End of Our Days
6) Black Sails at Midnight
7) No Quarter
8) Pirate Song
9) Chronicles of Vengeance
10) Wolves of the Sea
"Proclaiming yourselves to be a pirate metal band is a niche identity that will surely become an evanescent gimmick as time progresses...although Alestorm are currently riding high on a wave of popularity..."