Scotland’s favourite purveyors of Pirate Metal, Alestorm, have once again sailed into port with a new album, Sunset on the Golden Age (Napalm). Keeping a shtick going after four albums is no easy task, but Alestorm do a fair job at showing there’s some life in the old sea dog yet.
Captained by Christopher Bowes (vocals & keytar) and his merry crew (Dani Evans – guitars, Gareth Murdock – bass, Elliot Vernon – keyboards and Peter Alcorn – drums), Alestorm have always had their critics and with Sunset on the Golden Age they’ve made an album that shows them at their best and worst.
The album’s lead single ‘Drink’ is the typical feel-good shanty you expect from the band with lyrics about alcohol, folky tones and shout-a-long choruses, it’s addictively catchy and good fun. Other early tracks such as ‘Walk The Plank’ and ‘Magnetic North’ are great, combining those folk elements with bombastic horns resulting in some of the most energetic music they’ve made in a while. Back Through Time‘s ‘Death Throes Of The Terrorsquid’ showed that the band could mix their Rum & Cutlass style with serious musical chops, and there’s a couple of moments on where they show the same of musical aspirations here.
The self-titled closing track is an ambitious 11-minute beast, while ‘1741 (The Battle Of Cartagena)’ is easily the musical highpoint. A seven-minute multi-part epic, it shows the band have more to offer than gimmicks and can compete with the likes of Turisas and Korpiklaani when they want to. Sadly it’s mostly downhill from here.
‘Wooden Leg’ is a short sharp thrust of hardcore punk given a pirate makeover, while tracks such as ‘Surf Squid Warfare’ and ‘Mead from Hell’ add almost thrash elements to mix. While they aren’t terrible, they don’t stand up to the focus and quality of the first half of the record. Alestorm have a history of cheesy pop covers, and, depending on your point of view, their latest cover of Taio Cruz’s ‘Hangover’ is either a genius or downright awful. Horribly catchy, but sounding like a Nu-Metal meets Ibiza pop song, it’s completely at musical odds with the rest of the album but no doubt destined to become a sing along classic.
Though enjoyable, Sunset on the Golden Age is a mixed affair. It swings from high quality booty to Pirates of the Caribbean-esque clichés and cheap jokes, and generally lacks cohesion or consistency, much like a rum-soaked pirate in many respects. It won’t change your view on the band, but if you liked previous jaunts, this could just be the ship for you.