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Sunday, January 06, 2008

CD Review: Alestorm - Captain Morgan's Revenge

Alestorm - Captain Morgan's Revenge
2008 Napalm Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



If anything, the insanely popular Pirates of the Carribean films has awakened interest in piracy lore worldwide, be it from Jolly Roger emblems on t-shirts at your local beach to a carousing stir in the metal underground featuring flank and plank pub tunes with amplitude. While not a metal band, The Pyrates Royale are known to haunt Renaissance Festivals and bars along the American east coast while there's a scurvy crew of Jersey metalheads out there calling themselves Swashbuckle. Add to this league of metal cutlass wielders Scotland's Alestorm.

While Running Wild's classic pirate epic Under Jolly Roger will likely remain the measure to beat as far as this increasingly bizarre subgenre goes (even if the only real pirate song on that 1987 favorite is the title track), one can expect future motivated bands like Alestorm to set sail under the black banner in search of their booty, which is an audience to clink mugs with. After all, there is something metal about pirates that makes for a harmonious undertaking. Piracy in the 1600s was full-on antiestablishment, and for better or worse, there's always been a romantic stamp about strapping a bandana and punching a gold hoop in your ear (not much has changed, obviously) and giving a hearty hail to your kindred rogues in the midst of torrential adversity.

Alestorm's Captain Morgan's Revenge is a fantasy slab inspired by the life of Sir Admiral Henry Morgan, the Welsh bucanneer (and former English naval conqueror) who ravaged the Carribean for profit after being arrested for violation of a peace treaty between England and Cuba. Morgan's piracy employs thereafter are marked (with many facts in question) by a legendary line of sacking, pilfering and alleged torture of rich citizens in order to gain access to riches. Ironically, Morgan was one of the few pirates who retired from the trade, and with very little repercussion.

For Alestorm's purposes, the squid-faced Morgan on their album cover certainly makes you want to dismiss them for knocking off the tentacle-chinned Davy Jones of the Pirates of the Carribean movies, but to their credit, Alestorm makes no crossbones about their intentions. With the unapologetic zaniness of Tankard or Korpiklanni, Alestorm throws a mostly metallic wind to their songs of whoring, drinking and pillaging. With madcap tunes like "Wenches and Mead," "Set Sail and Conquer," "Terror On the High Seas" and "Nancy the Tavern Wench," what you see is what you get. The only surprise--if you will--is their utilization of a keytar from vocalist Christopher Bowes to supplement the laidback tones of a traditional hand accordian.

Otherwise, Alestorm pounds and sometimes thrashes its way through Captain Morgan's Revenge at a nearly reckless pace. Frequently Bowes tries to synthetically capture the grandeur of Hans Zimmer's Pirates of the Carribean film scores on his keys to hoist Alestorm's masthead on the speedier cuts like "Set Sail and Conquer" and "Terror On the High Seas" as well as the power metal-based "Over the Seas" and "The Huntmaster." One of the album's finer moments comes with the acoustic-grounded pirate rouse "Of Treasure," which appears here to lend the album a little more authenticity. The inebriated gang vocals of "Flower of Scotland," however, closes Captain Morgan's Revenge with a loose-cannon nuttiness that simply prompts one to tell the barkeep to cut these guys off before they wreck further havoc.

While Captain Morgan's Revenge isn't exactly pretentious, it is a goofy cannon shot over the port bow that sounds occasionally corny, particularly if you're hankering for something meatier like Testament's "Raging Waters." Regardless, Alestorm presents nothing more than you should expect; often they're capable thrashers and if you listen to this album enough, they'll have you hooked on their crazy choruses. So pour yourself a rum shot and bone up on the legend of Edward Teach, better known to the world as Blackbeard before listening; then you'll be in the proper mindframe for Alestorm.

Rating: ***

5 comments:

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countshockula said...

I saw Swashbuckle this summer. They were alot of fun. Crowd sing-a-longs of "yo-ho" are always fun.

kill the meister said...

This band is awesome. The kind of kick yer bloody arse metal that is sorely needed in these here parts!

scarybaldguy said...

"Captain Morgan's Revenge" was featured on the XM channel "Boneyard" this evening. I'd never heard of Alestorm until then. By the end of the first chorus, I was singing along. Feckin' BRILLIANT!

Anonymous said...

ALESTORM FUCKING ROCK!
Saw them live and Captain Morgan's Revenge is awesome. Good true scottish pirate metal is what we all need!