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Alestorm... The frontier of pirate themed music, combining folk influences with power metal to create catchy swashbuckling tales of treasure, adventure, mead and women. The 2008 Captain Morgan's Revenge is their debut album after signing with Napalm Records and changing the bands name from Battleheart.
Over the Seas is the perfect way to start an album by Alestorm. Driven by a sense of epic adventure, solid riffs and a catchy as hell chorus this definitely tells everyone right away what these guys are all about. And speaking of epic and catchiness, naturally I have to mention the title track Captain Morgan's Revenge as this is a 6 minute long story of some pirates who are doomed to die because of their actions against their captain. This track is structured amazingly well and has brilliant lyrics written by frontman Christopher Bowes. Chris writes the majority of the lyrics and they are very focused on pirates as you should expect them to be, coming from a band whose trademark is to sing about pirates like on Set Sail and Conquer.
Slowing things down with Nancy the Tavern Wench I think was a good idea as almost all the other tracks are mid to fast paced. This song has superb use of keyboards to give a real feeling of actually being in a pirate tavern. With Christopher Bowes once again proving his worth to the band by being the one who provides all keyboards, it shouldn’t be a surprise that all songs have at least a hint of keyboards however one or two have an abundance of it, like the only jokey song of the album Wenches and Mead.
Chris Bowes and Gavin Harper write all the music on this release but it really is Gavin on guitars, in my opinion, that makes this album stand out because all the songs have great structures, excellent riffs and not too over the top solos like on thrashy song Terror on the High Seas and The Huntmaster. Dani Evans on bass gets heard from time to time as well just like throughout Death Before the Mast which is the fastest track on this album that shows off these young guys musicianship and skill.
The drums on this album are good but nothing super stand-out. The amount of double bass used is crazy, too much if you ask me. You can hear it on songs like The Huntmaster. But it isn't all bad news because you get nice surprises like Of Treasure in which Alestorm use a variety of instruments ranging from acoustic guitars to tin whistles and other traditional instruments.
To sum it up here, this is an excellent debut album which any folk metal fan would enjoy especially if you have a thing for catchy songs, pirates and adventure.
Of course being backed by a label of some name and performing on a few major festivals really early in your career all might have an extra boosting effect on one’s quick rise to fame but in the end the music speaks for itself. The haters reared their heads when the Scottish pirates rose to fame quickly, leaving many older and struggling bands behind them. But the world has never been fair. Nor is metal about fairness and of course piracy even less. Alestorm took the ship. And they took it with what they can do best: creating a concept, using musical disadvantages to their best (the vocals being the most obvious) and most importantly: writing friggin’ catchy tunes!
Let’s be frank, Running Wild were a famous name. Especially their name is a famous one amongst those with fond memories of the late eighties metal scene. However, only a few of their tunes were actually really familiar with the general metal public outside of Germany with ‘Under Jolly Roger’ obviously being ‘that one song’. But it would be rather idiotic to compare anything which has distorted guitars and pirate-themed lyrics to Running Wild, wouldn’t it? What if every black, death or even thrash metal band with satanic lyrics would’ve been discarded using the argument ‘Venom already did that’. And they in turn were only just taking some of Black Sabbath’s ideas to a new level. You get my point, just stop comparing, it’s useless. But I must admit, if Alestorm were to cover ‘Under Jolly Roger’ it would sound perfectly normal among their own material. If the keyboard were to take over some parts that is.
The easiest description would be this: take a 21st century neofolk pirate-themed group like the German Vroudenspil, take away their instruments, replace them by modern drums, bas and (distorted) guitar and there you go. And last but not least, add keytars with an obsessive knack for cheesy eighties keyboard-sounds (think Europe’s Final Countdown meets Jermaine Jackson & Pia Zadora ‘s When the Rain Begins To Fall)
Easy and simple. However, if one were to make the tiresome RunningWild comparison, let’s just say Alestorm took the essence of the Jolly Roger tune and drenched it in the sound and atmosphere Skyclad created on their first three albums (without the lyrical depth obviously) with a watered down sauce of Italian keyboard cheese, making it less speed metalish and but inflammably catchy epic-thrash-folk. If you don’t get what they sound like by now, your frame of reference is seriously underdeveloped.
Now to the essence of their quick rise to fame: The sheer power of Alestorm lies within blending all these elements perfectly and writing very catchy choruses and keytar doodles and appealing to the large amount of larpers, re-enactors and other fantasy minded folk in the modern day heavy metal scene, which, quite frankly, is a pretty large group. And the bigger a band gets, the more haters look around the corner. ‘Alestorm is not metal yaddayadda’, ‘Alestorm make a mockery of our beloved scene urgh rugh vikinggrunt urgh’, ‘Alestorm is not fantasy nor folk but Disneymetal blahblah’ and such can be heard everywhere. Who gives a damn anyway. If I were to dislike certain bands and artists for not ‘being metal’, I could throw away about 60% of my collection. Being metal (or not) has nothing to do with quality.
Why then do I not like this album as much as their third one? Simply said the quality of the songs varies a bit too much and the album has a pretty bad ending. All goes well for the first 4 songs. All of’em songs that turned out to become live favourites. Highly catchy and energetic. And let’s be frank, if you hear the line ‘With the power of ale - He could not fail’ you either hate this band immediately or you smile, get the tongue-in-cheek message and proceed listening. It’s not until the fifth and sixth song that the album gets a bit stale. ‘Death Before the Mast’ and ‘Terror on the High Seas’ aren’t bad songs per say (Terror being the best of the two) but are slightly thrashier and would have better suited as b-sides on an EP or bonustracks on some future compilation. They’re just too one-dimensional to live up to the rest.
The album then again presents some instant sing-a-long classics with ‘Set Sail and Conquer’ and ‘Wenches & Mead’ (which have turned out to have become live favourites as well) and of course the laid back tune ‘Of Treasure’ which gives the album some extra breathing space and shows the band don’t have to be loud all the time to be convincing.
‘Flower of Scotland’ is performed poorly. Obviously there’s a purpose and message behind this but still that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable. It’s pretty lame to push ‘stop’ during a last song of any album. An album should finish in a climax, a ludicrous fast tune, an epic one, anything but this! This is where the band turns ‘failstorm’ and throws the last minutes overboard. Bad, bad ending.
Twenty reviews in not even one single year for the debut album of a metal band speak volumes about the success and rise to fame of "Alestorm". With many young enthousiastic fans that praised this music as a new and unique genre came also many rather traditional metal maniacs that stated that this band would follow a trend instead of being authentic and that the whole concept wasn't that new.
I have to admit that I have to agree with the more traditional metal fans. The band jumped on the recent hype waggon because pirates are popular again since the "Pirates of the Carribean" movies and soundtracks and because many folk metal bands and medieval rock groups emerged in the last decade. As the Scots have no Vikings to tell about, they remembered their pirate ancestry and hit right in a commercial hype. The lyrics are in fact not historically founded very poor and superficial and the band members are surely no experts of piracy. The music is simplistic and full of stereotypes, the lyrics turn always around the same topics and the varierty on this album is actually quite poor and the hype exagerated.
But there is also the other side to consider. Alestorm deliver the masses what they were longing for and created an album full of catchy anthems with choruses that can still easily be sung after the consumption of a few bottles of rum and beer kegs. This is party metal music for alcoholics and even thouigh the music has many flaws, the band is quite sympathetic as they don't take themselves to serious and simply put a smile on your face and an ale on your lips. You drink and laugh along to humorous tales like "Nancy the tavern wench", to headbanging tunes like "Set sail and conquer" and you dance along with your mates to simplistic but effective tunes like "Wenches and mead". Personally, my favourite track is the epic title track "Captain Morgan's revenge" that has an interesting tale to tell, is musically rather diversified and mature and proves that this band could play on a much higher standard than they actually do. Of course, there are also some boring and repetitive tunes that can't be saved by some catchy choruses like the weak opener "Over the seas" that gives a negative impression of the whole album right from the start or the rather ridicolous "The huntmaster" where lyrics such as "with the power of ale he could not fail" are simply a little bit too stupid even if we consider this as a party album.
In the end, one shouldn't take this release too serious and expect something groundbreaking or new. This isn't an album that convinces in a lyrical, musical or intellectual way. The hype and the average rating for the band is certainly too high. But those guys especially work well when they play live or when you listen to them at your favourite metal pub towards the end of the night. This band plays party metal disguised as folk metal with some power metal influences. Alestorm copy a lot of bands from the Viking metal genre such as or "Turisas", from the power and heavy metal genre with bands such as "Running wild" and some other popular bands like "Children of Bodom" and add some folk influences and traditional tales to the mixture to create a magic potion filled with lots of cheesy fun, stereotypes and catchy melodies. That’s the easy and trendy way but as you can see the concept works very well and one must at least give them that point even if I prefer "Turisas" amongst others to them in the same genre. Personally, I really like to listen to them from time to time to have some fun for special occasions but after that I prefer to take a long break before I listen to them again. It’s quick fun but nothing truly profound or addicting when you’re sober. But party music for alcoholics is what they can, that's what they do and where they're good at and one shouldn't expect much more.
I've been a fan of this band for like, ever. Well, since their first demo anyway, when they went by the completely unremarkable name of Battleheart. Now everybody likes them, and already the haters are emerging, butterfly-like, in protest; a band knows they've made it when that happens. It was a slightly surreal experience to be relaxing in the car of a person I'd only met a few days previously, and to discover a copy of "Captain Morgan's Revenge" sitting in her glove compartment. 'What are you doing with MY band!?', I roared, and struck her with an empty bottle of Old Navy until she was dead. Then the car crashed. Actually, that last bit didn't happen.
Enough! So, what is this Alestorm malarkey all about? Well, they play pirate metal. In their case, this involves chunky classic power metal-esque guitar riffs topped off with keyboard noodlings, and growling goofy lyrics (in a pirate voice, obviously) that have no depth or consequence to them at all, layered richly over thundering and mostly fast-paced drumwork. If you're looking for some kind of deep and meaningful experience, one has to wonder why you picked up a copy of an album named "Captain Morgan's Revenge" by a band called Alestorm. Alestorm, fer crying out loud! This is nothing more than pure drinking and partying music, for people who have a sense of humour and fun. If you are not such a person, and spend your days in darkened rooms listening to Burzum and planning the rise to supremacy of the Aryan race, you are not going to like this at all.
Now, of course all of this doesn't make them automatically good. Far from it. However, in the realms of funmetal, Alestorm are just about the ultimate band. They have a sound that is MOST similar to Turisas, but is still definitely all their own: riffs blast forth with adrenaline-pumping speed and power; the keyboards fanfare and widdle away, sometimes playing expansive "Pirates of the Caribbean"-esque orhcestration, at others a grin-inducing folky swagger; the vocals are gruff and ruff and full to bursting with salty sea-dog charm; lyrics are all about wenches, and drinking, and seeking out treasure, and are brilliant to sing along to - preferably interjecting as many AAARS and YO HO HOs as humanly possible; the guitar solos are fast and noodlesome - good for throwing wild drunken air guitar shapes - and there are even daft keyboard solos that induce excessive grinning behaviour in all but the most dull and stolid of observers. This is also one of very few bands that will give you the urge to air-accordion, which earns them a thousand bonus points. The performances are good, and charmingly charismatic (except for the inaudible bassist and the studio drummer), and the production is sufficiently meaty and mighty to give the whole thing the macho edge it requires. The song writing is fresh, direct, and catchy, not bothering to do anything complex or clever-clever at all, and thus their music is not bogged down by unwelcome pretension that would interrupt the flow... of ale. Finally - and most importantly - the whole album is deeply infused with the sweet musk of good times and rowdy debauchery, which makes it absolutely perfect for what it's trying to be. Considering most bands struggle to create any kind of atmosphere at all, it is a high achievement to so flawlessly and easily hit that sweet spot. Kudos to these young Scots for that.
Clearly this isn't the sort of thing you could call high art, but in no way is it trash either - it's got a unique sound, operating within a niche that inspires interest (and shenanigans), and these songs are rock solid. Consequently Alestorm are probably the best party metal band you could ever hope to wish for. And, to finish off the opening vignette properly: we put the album on, and everyone was singing along within a period of approximately... no time whatsoever. And that's just what Alestorm excel at; they spread a little bit of the good times wherever their music goes. To me, that's a great thing.
This album was something I’d been anticipating for a while, having been completely smitten with “True Scottish Pirate Metal” from the beginning. I remember first hearing the first Battleheart demo and instantly falling in love with this fun, catchy and epic style of heavy metal that was easily in a class of it’s own. What it lacked in high-tech professional production it made up for with being a very memorable barrel of laughs with balls so big they wouldn’t even fit inside the cannons. You simply couldn’t listen to “Nancy The Tavern Wench” without it bringing a smile to your face. With their next EP production improved dramatically, without losing any of the first EP’s charm. Wenches And Mead, anyone?
And a wee while later, after a couple of minor line-up changes, a name change and a nice juicy deal with Napalm Records – a label who’s roster included some of the finest bands in the business – here they are again with their first full length, “Captain Morgan’s Revenge”. So two weeks after it had been released, and when my local record store had FINALLY phoned me up to tell me my order was in, I jumped on the bus, strolled over, picked it up, missed my bus home, went to the pub, got the next bus home, gave this disk a spin, and decided that this album would be one that I’d listen to a lot.
Fans of the Battleheart releases will instantly recognise some titles here. Classics such as “Nancy The Tavern Wench” and “Over The Seas” and several others proudly make their comebacks in new professionally produced form. I was delighted to see these songs returning with label backing, and had long wondered what they would sound like with album production.
The music of Alestorm is a pleasing mixture of epic folk and power metal, with a lot of symphonic elements thrown in and vocals that I’ve often compared to the Sea Captain from The Simpsons. It’s these elements that make this pirate metal so good, and what made the songs on the Battleheart EPs so fun. However, it’s the new songs on this album that stand out above the rest, and as such I shall review these first. Whether it’s the title track with it’s catchy sing-along chores, and mid section that is a revamp of the second Battleheart EP’s instrumental intro (which if I’m honest, I prefer as an intro), or the folk metal classic “The Huntmaster”. This song has accordion melodies a shout out chores that Korpiklaani can only dream of, as well as one of the best lines in the history of metal:
“With the power of ale, he could not fail” – This, as the people of Perth supposedly put it, is “dos”.
Another notable song is the acoustic folk balled, “Of Treasure”. While it isn’t the head banging, beer drinking anthems of the previously mentioned song, it’s the perfect beer drinking campfire song. You’ll be humming along to this on your first listen.
As a Battleheart fan, it’s these newer songs that please me the most. The re-recorded songs from the first EPs however, hmm…
The thing to remember is, you didn’t listen to Battleheart because they had razor-sharp production (the idea of them having such production was always a curiosity though), you listened because the music was such a good laugh and it had such a strong, silly charm that you just had to love it. And while the songs themselves still have this appeal to them on this album, a lot of the care-free “Bunch Of Guys Having A Good Laugh” charm is lost with the slick production. An example is with my all time favourite Battleheart song, “Nancy The Tavern Wench”. On the Battleheart version the keyboards sounded cheap, Chris sounded poor, the drums were programmed and the production sounded very amateur – yet it was such a fun and silly song, the band sounded like they were simply recording a folky drinking song and having a good laugh (which they probably were), and you just couldn’t help but love it. It really was the ultimate metal drinking song. With the Alestorm version though, the band sound like they’ve gone to a studio (which they did) to record a song for a record label (which is exactly what they’ve done), and as a result, much of the aforementioned care-free charm simply isn’t there. Maybe I’m alone on this, but this song doesn’t make me want to get a pint of fine Scottish ale and hold it up and sing along, which is exactly what the old version did. And it isn’t just this song, it’s all the songs from the Battleheart era – especially those off of the first EP. The songs from the “Terror on the High Seas” EP don’t suffer quite as badly, but they still lack that certain something that made the originals sound so special.
This can be likened to the beer of Scotland, I think. Many real ales(torm…sorry, but I couldn’t resist) are made in small microbreweries in random parts of the country, and has the brewers heart and soul in the drink, and is brewed by people who appreciate a unique tasting drink that is made for people with a passion – this is the first Battleheart EP. The Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh is a bit bigger, and it’s ales are made a bit more professionally, but are still drank and brewed by passionate ale drinkers. This is the second Battleheart EP. Tennents lager is produced in a big factory and is made for lager louts who don’t care about what it is they’re drinking, so long as it has alcohol in it. This I’m afraid to say, is Alestorm. Or perhaps Lagerstorm would be more appropriate.
Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh, since I don’t see the Lagerstorm album being aimed at the mainstream media, and it’s still a damn good album. But the soul of Battleheart doesn’t live here, and as a long time fan (I attended the first ever Battleheart gig), I can say without a moments hesitation that this is simply a huge loss. How did I feel after I’d listened to this over and over again to find out what was missing that I loved so much about Battleheart? Disappointed, was the word. And everyone knows how harsh that one emotion feels.
So on the whole, a good album. If you never heard the original Battleheart demos, you could maybe add an extra 15% to Lagerstorm’s score to give yourself a near-perfect album that won’t be plagued by your love of Battleheart. If you were a fan, chances are you’ve already heard this album anyway. And if for whatever reason you haven’t heard it, by all means buy it, you’re still getting a great folk metal album, but you’re not getting a Battleheart album, and to me, that’s what matters.
Hailing from Scotland, Alestorm released their debut in 2008 and, looking at the number of reviews already submitted for the record, it's incredible how they could gain recognition within the metal circles so fast. Looking at all these reviews, it's pretty easy to understand that this band, at the same time, has a lot of big fans, praising this album, and haters too, claiming “Captain Morgan's Revenge” to be shitty. Well, first I've got to say that I'm not a big power metal fan. Yeah, I like to hear Helloween sometimes and I absolutely worship Blind Guardian but I can't consider myself pure power metal lover. And that's why I'm so surprised for enjoying this album as much as I do.
First of all, the keyboards are the most important thing about this album. Do you know Freedom Call or any of those cheesy power metal acts out there? Well, the first time I heard the keyboard work I immediately remembered all those bands. The main difference, though, is that the keyboards, on this record, work surprisingly well. In bands like Freedom Call, they usually remove power to the guitars and harm the songs, but, hey, they work perfectly well here, giving to the album a big pirate atmosphere. The keyboard lines are also fairly folk-ish, at times, and I'm not surprised when I see people calling them 'folk metal'.
Another important aspect that makes the atmosphere of the album so 'big', is the lyrics. Well, you may disagree with me, but, for me, it's fun as hell to hear the singer screaming “I want more wenches!” or “he gave us a map, our quest has begun”. Mostly, the lyrics talk about big quests the pirates take in order to get rich (ahahaha) and, well, wenches. While this may sound a bit childish on paper, they, as I've already said, really help to build the whole atmosphere of “Captain Morgan's Revenge”.
The musicianship of Alestorm isn't that great though, but that's not a big issue, at the end of the day. After all, it's their debut and I'm pretty sure they will improve over the years. Nevertheless, there are some keyboard and guitar solos present on many of the songs, which adds variety to the whole listening experience. The guitar riffs of the album aren't specially original or creative, but they are fairly well written and fit amazingly well with all the pirate atmosphere. Many times, we can't hear the riffs too well, thanks to the keyboards, but, at times, the keyboards aren't played and the guitar assumes the main role: “The Huntmaster” is an example. The vocals aren't that technical either, but they fit with the music very very well. The singer has a pretty harsh voice and his overall performance is very satisfying. The drumming is very competent, the drummer doesn't try to play anything technical, but the beats were all very well written. There is also a constant use of the double-bass pedalsm and, at times, the songs get quite fast with the guy trying some thrashy beats.
The most important characteristic of this piece is the catchiness, though. The songwriting is very very good here, and the songs are all incredibly memorable. Yes, incredibly memorable. Easily, I can tell you now every chorus of the album, they are all very catchy and will remain in your head for weeks, I assure you.
As for the tracks, they are all quite varied which is extremely important: the majority of the tunes are all speed metal influenced anthems, filled with furious riffage and folk-ish keyboard lines, but there's also some more midpaced tracks to be found here, like the calm “Of Treasure” and the slow “Nancy the Tavern Wench”. It's incredibly hard to choose which is the best fast song though... They all kick ass! It's amazing how this record can be so consistent. Anyway, “Wenches and Mead”, one of the last tunes of the album, is one of the highlights, no doubts about it. The song even gets quite thrashy at times. The already mentioned “The Huntmaster” is another strong track, with its furious guitar work. “Death Before the Mast” and “Terror on the High Seas” are both very similar songs: they show the band experimenting with rawer riffs, the two tunes being reasonably fast and aggressive, with the guitar assuming the main role. “Over the Seas” and the title track are in the other end of the spectrum though: the keyboards clearly removing the power of the guitars and the speed metal elements being almost thrown away. Both are two very well done power metal songs. The latter probably is the most ambitous tune of the bunch, with its extended middle section: I hope Alestorm will write more long songs like this one because the track, despite suffering from some problem on its transitions, is pretty strong.
As for the midpaced tracks, “Nancy the Tavern Wench”, the fourth track, can be considered as a half-ballad, with its slow drumming and crushing guitar work. The keyboard are, again, pretty folk-ish on this song and the chorus is excellent, very catchy and memorable. “Of Treasure” features some acoustic guitars and gentle keyboard lines and its chorus is also amazing. “Flower of Scotland”, a little scottish traditional song, closes the album.
Despite Alestorm aren't the most technical and original band, I've got to say that this album is a very accomplished debut. The riffs aren't that great, that's true. The vocals aren't anything special, yeah, I agree. But the songwriting is top notch and the record carries a very particular and strong atmosphere. I've heard this record for months and everytime I listen to “Over the Seas” I always listen to the rest of the record, because it sounds even better as a whole. A promising debut and absolutely recommended. One last note to the amazing production: there aren't so many debuts out there so well produced, really.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the beginning of “Over the Seas”.
-the middle section of the second track.
-the choruses of almost every song.
The reaction ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’ has set off is even more mirth-inducing than Alestorm themselves. There honestly seem to be those who’ve practically prayed that this will be a metal album that studies frankly the truthful, gruesome nature of high seas piracy from yester-year – to find that it is a rip-roaring, tongue-planted-a-mile-deep-in-the-cheek piss-take (or piss-up) seems to have been taken by these humourless scurvy curs as a personal affront.
Thinking about what would have been beneficial for the album, on the other hand, instantly renders the unpleasant truth of a pirate’s life redundant as lyrical material. Why? Because all those fantastical, fictionalised and hugely exaggerated childhood tales of pirates and their adventures that most of us grew up on are what captured our hearts and minds, avoiding historical accuracy as it makes for a very fucking unadventurous yarn. Alestorm know this better than anyone, and have harnessed that logic superbly.
Oh to be sure, this is hardly a paradigm shifter by any standards. ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’ features very little in the way of remarkable riffs, the drumwork is hardly going to give Flo Mounier a run for his money anytime soon, and the accordions belted out via keyboard have been long since taken care of by Korpiklaani and Finntroll.
Nor can it lay claim to being an especially diverse (variety is not exactly a key concern in Chris Bowes’ snarling vocal delivery) or textured album – in its unwavering simplicity, at times it bears a stronger resemblance to long-standing Irish punks the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly than anything on the metallic spectrum.
The album’s strength, instead, lies in the fact that Alestorm seem to be entirely obsessed with what makes a song a hook-ridden, anthemic sing-along, rather than attempting pointlessly to stand out as individually capable instrumentalists. Certainly it would be nice to hear a few more of those tantalisingly short guitar and keyboard solos, but to do so unnecessarily would detract immensely from their inescapably catchy musical riot. We listen to albums of this breeding because they can inspire a madcap drunken jig with absolute ease, and on this count Alestorm succeed magnificently.
Standout tracks include the infamous ‘Wenches And Mead’, a ridiculously entertaining thrasher loaded with beautifully over-the-top keys, pounding double bass and a chorus so infectious one must be six feet under to be immune to its charms. It’s joined by the dual barrage of ‘Over The Seas’ and the glorious title track, both of which have the power to raise beers and horns in salute – not the least the latter, with the term irresistible barely beginning to adequately describe it. ‘Nancy The Tavern Wench’ is the record’s centrepiece; undoubtedly a glorious salute to metal brotherhood and community is hidden amongst the debauched pirate references, accompanied by a slow-paced ode to Nancy’s Harbour Cafe.
While Alestorm will never win any prizes for technical songcraft, they and all the metal fans across the world who enjoy a hopelessly wonderfully indulgent drunken shout-a-thon can sleep soundly, secure in the knowledge that they have provided in absolutely spades. ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’ is nothing more than daft, exhilarating fun, and has no pretensions beyond that. Thank bloody Christ.
The Scots are an awesome bunch, right next to the Irish. They've given us kilts, scotch whiskey, highland bagpipes and an awesome accent. Now they give us Alestorm, who calls themselves "True Scottish Pirate Metal". The band, made up of singer and keytar weilder Christopher Bowes, guitarist Gavin Harper, bassist Dani Evans and drummer Alex "Hasselhoff" Tabisz--although he didn't appear on the album, that goes to session drummer Migo "Oger Mampf" Wagner--formed in 2004 as Battleheart--and without a drummer. They played for three years before changing their name after hearing about the band Battlelore, who had already signed with their current label, Napalm Records.
The band plays pirate metal, which was first played by the German band Running Wild, and also performed by Verbal Deception and Swashbuckle. Guaranteed, they're going to be compared to either three of them, so let's get the comparisons over with. In a sense, they shouldn't be compared to Running Wild, because even though said band originated the term "Pirate Metal", they also sang about other themes like history. Piracy was almost a passing fancy, in a sense. And compared to Verbal Deception? Well, I don't think that pirates and cookie monster vocals mix. As for Swashbuckle, their vocals are also a weak point. Chris Bowes actually sounds like a pirate who's spent too much time at sea, which makes the "Pirate Metal" thing more authentic. This is a major strength for Alestorm. While the previously mentioned Running Wild did create the "Pirate Metal" genre, again, their fascination with it was almost a passing fancy, with usually one or two songs per album dedicated to piracy, with the exception of "Black Hand Inn". Alestorm dresses up like pirates, sings like pirates and has a keytar (courtesy of singer Chris Bowes) that can sound like a concertina. You'd think they just stepped out of a history book or "Pirates of the Caribbean".
The sound for Alestorm is Power/Folk metal with some celtic punk influences like Dropkick Murphys. The sound has been compared to Turisas, which does sound like them. But to say that Alestorm sounds too much like Turisas is bullshit. Come on, you're going to compare four Scotsmen who dress up in clothing right out of the golden age of piracy and sing about pirates to 6 Finns who dress up in war paint and bear skins and sing about medieval battles? What the hell are you smoking? There is only a minor resemblance in sound. The sound is driven by Chris Bowes' keytar and Gavin Harper's guitar, both of which can perform duel solos just like the best twin guitar teams. The bass is mostly unnoticed, but it does get some breathing room. The drums are fantastic, keeping the whole band together. Gavin's guitar is hard to describe, but there are times when he plays almost with a thrash metal sound, which he does an a couple tracks. Chris' keytar switches in an instant from sounding almost symphonic to sounding like a concertina. Most of the songs are mid-paced or faster, with the exception of three slower, more folky-sounding songs.
The album starts off with a bang. Unlike some--not all--power metal albums that start with a one-to-two minute intro track, "Over The Seas", the first track, starts off with an epic, almost symphonic bang, right out of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, setting us up for an exciting adventure. The lyrics are kind of cheesy, almost cliched pirate stuff about searching for treasure, but hey, this is a power metal band. The chorus is absolutely anthemic--"Over the seas/we shall ride! Searching for treasure/into the night!" with fist-pumping power. Of course, the "we shall ride" part is pretty cheesy, since they're not actually riding, per se, but it still works.
The second track is the title track, and it's the band's mot popular song. It starts with an intense intro that sounds thrashy at times (with some mock explosions, I might add!) before calming down and telling the story of a crew who mutinies but is cursed by their overthrown captain that they will all "soon die or worse". The crew is most likely hung by the powers that be (the Royal navy) during the song, and they accept their fate if it will mean that they will be rid of their curse, which seems to change from death to being unable to feel joy. The song includes a long instrumental section that at times seems a little tedious before ending strong. The song's epic/symphonic sound, once again, sounding almost like something out of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies (there seems to be a trend here) possibly contributes to its popularity.
The third track is entitled "Huntmaster", a cheesy, almost humorous song about a guy who seems to resemble Captain Jack Sparrow, which some differences. Namely, the song's protagonist is framed, while Jack suffers from a mutiny. The song's riff is the previously mentioned thrash-eque sound with palm-muted riffs, albeit a little slower. The pre-chorus is silly. It is one of the weaker songs on the album, but good none the less.
"Nancy The Tavern Wench" is the fourth track, and the first "slow" song on the album. The song starts off with Chris using his keytar like a concertina. The lyrics are about a tavern that is, quite frankly, not a good place, but is described as the "best place in the whole of the city". The song is a modern drinking song that shows that band's celtic punk influence. In a sense, it's sort of like a folk metal version of Dropkick Murphys. The chorus is the best showing of this influence.
"Death Before The Mast" starts with the bass before transitioning into a frantic, fast-paced almost thrashy number. The music fits the lyrics perfectly, which are about a pirate fighting against Royal Marines in his last battle. The chorus is full of confusion about the battle going on, describing several things going on at the same time. The solo passages also contain a hint of confusion and panic.
"Terror on the High Seas" is next. The song is just as thrashy and intense as the previous track, but is more victorious for the pirates. The song even includes a mock explosion. The song is more in tune with the then-contemporary view of pirates (contemporary menaing the 17th and 18th centuries) as bloodthirsty killing machines than adventurers that we see today.
"Set Sail and Conquer" is a more steretypical power metal song lyrically. It starts with a galloping riff that continues through the verse before the riff becomes more thrashy in the chorus. The psuedo-symphonic backdrop of the keytar is more pronounced here than the previous two track. The lyrics are more cocky than the rest of the album, since the pirates are more sure of their victory.
The song is followed by "Of Treasure", which is an acoustic song in the vein of old sea shanties. The lyrics vaguely resemble the plot of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl". The differences are that there are no mentions of a mutiny, which is what befell Captain Jack.
The penultimate track starts off with a bang. "Wenches and Mead" is a fast-paced party anthem, about, what else, gettin' drunk and gettin' laid, two things that pirates do best besides rape, pillage and plunder. The song contrasts big time with the previous track. The chorus is basically what every guy wants--"I want more wenches/ hey, hey/more wenches and mead".
Finally, we get to the last track, "Flower of Scotland". Nothing like a little Scottish pride to finish your debut album. And what better to do it with than the Scottish national rugby anthem. The song is seen as a weak point among many reviewers, and I have to agree, in a sense, but disagree at the same time.
All in all, this a damn good album, with a few kinks that oughta be worked out, though. No album is perfect, so I'll have to go over the weak points: One of them is that it wasn't long enough. Its length left me wanting and I felt somewhat disappointed. Another was "Flower of Scotland". I felt that it wasn't necessary. There are also musical weaknesses, like some of the instrumental sections were too long and got kind of boring.
I also wanted them to sing "Yo Ho a Pirate's Life For Me", but in a sense, it goes both ways. First off, I'm glad that they didn't do it because even they would admit that's kind of silly to put a Disney song on a metal album, but I'm disappointed because it could have shown their sense of humor. But it would be interesting if they had a song on their next album about Captain Jack Sparrow or "Pirates of the Caribbean".
Alestorm is a rising for in the power/folk metal world. I suggest that you listen to the ones giving this album a good review. No album is perfect, especially debuts. But what really matters is that this album is FUN. Fun to listen to, and fun all around. That's it's biggest strength, right there. So drink up, me hearties!
Bagpipes, kilts, plaid, haggis...Scotland has a lot to answer for, and now they have "blessed" us with Alestorm and their debut album "Captain Morgan's Revenge." While it's not as aurally offensive as an earful of bagpipes music, I find myself utterly baffled by the praise heaped on this album. Now, I won't condemn Captain Morgan's Revenge for its relentless piratical theme, as it's potentially a rousing topic for any metal album, and not because Running Wild did it first, either. No, its greatest failing is that it is so unrelentingly bland and gutless that I was in danger of falling asleep a quarter's way through.
When I was in high school, some of the students formed a band that had some degree of popularity within the school. Bear with me, readers, for this is far more relevant than it seems. One of my teachers, infinitely saavy about pop culture and the like, told me that this band would never make it big because they didn't have their own sound. Have you ever heard a song you didn't recognize, but you immediately knew the band simply from hearing them? Then you, my friend, have heard their "sound," much like any decent writer has a "voice" through which they can be recognized. Alestorm, however, don't have a sound of their own. Nothing about their music is unique or original, and I'm certain that if it weren't for the pirate theme no one would be paying them any attention at all.
The Metal Archives describes Alestorm (god, what a stupid name) as "Folk/Power Metal." Unfortunately, there's nothing particularly folkish about their songs save for a few cheesy keyboard lines, and "power" is not an adjective that should ever be used to describe their music. That leaves "metal" and to be honest I think Alestorm skirts the line of what can be really considered "metal." Metal is many different things to many different people, but one thing it should NEVER be is weak and gutless, but those are the two words that kept coming to mind every minute of Captain Morgan's Revenge. One of the things that separates great albums for mediocre ones is passion; the sense that the artists behind it truly believe in what they're doing. Alestorm, on the other hand, have about as much passion as a lizard in torpor.
Now, don't get me wrong; Captain Morgan's Revenge isn't a "bad" album in the sense that it won't make you want to jab a pair of icepicks into your ears. What it does, however, is occupy that particular middle ground where it's not bad enough to memorably bad, but not good enough to be memorably good, either. After the first listen through absolutely none of the tracks stuck in my mind, and I had no desire to listen through them again. The music, as best as I can describe it, is terribly generic. I can imagine the band members now, unpacking crates labelled GENERIC METAL RIFFS, GENERIC METAL DRUM FILLS, GENERIC METAL VOCALS and mixing them together into some stew with all the flavor of dry biscuits. Alestorm aren't bad musicians; there isn't any gross incompetence in their playing, and you know what? That's the best thing I can say about them really. They're competent. But that's like saying Dan Brown or Tom Clancy can string together a coherent sentence in English; it doesn't say that they're capable of writing something that isn't utterly forgettable tripe.
Riffs? Where? Alestorm's rhythm section chugs along without any aggression evident, and should you by chance come across a riff that catches your ear, rest assured, dear listener, that you've probably heard it somewhere before. The bass and drums? Well, I would say something about them if I could remember them. I guess I should be thankful this album is so unmemorable as it won't staying be long in my mind unlike some other bad albums (St. Anger, for instance). Vocals? If you guessed that I'd describe Christopher Bowes' vocals as "generic" you'd be dead on, because they add nothing to the music. They're not memorable, they're not unique, they're just, well, "there." At no point does Bowes ever sound like he cares a whit about what he's yammering on about, and if you just dropped the vocal track altogether I doubt the album would be worse for it. But the real crime on Captain Morgan's Revenge has to be the keyboards; I believe their sound is best described by the words "fruity" and "faggoty." To make matters worse, they keyboards aren't limited to occasional use, either. No, knowing when and where to use keyboards effectively would require actual talent, and since Alestorm have little of that, they're content to spew them all the album. It all creates a weird dissonance; you have lyrics about pirates, supposedly tough and masculine "real men" complimented by some incredibly cheesy synth lines sounding like something out of the worst excesses of the 80s.
As I said earlier, I doubt that this album would have gotten the attention it has if it were not for the pirate theme therein. Sadly, Alestorm steadfastly refuses to approach the topic of piracy with any seriousness or originality whatsoever. It's as though they as a band could not decide on a lyrical theme and so they settle on pirates because hey, it hasn't been done as much as say, singing about Satan or the occult or whatever. As a result the lyrics have as much to do with real pirates as Peter Pan and The Muppets' Treasure Island. There's plenty of yacking about treasure, drinking, and wenches, with some tracks like "Wenches and Mead" coming off as pathetically juvenile. You know what, guys? I'm sick of this Disney pirate bullshit. A pirate's life was brutal, miserable, and unforgiving. It wasn't "Yeah, I'm a pirate!" but rather "aw shit, I'm a pirate!" What a more interesting album that would have made, instead of this cliched buried-treasure-and-rum nonsense Alestorm spews out.
There's very little to recommend this album, and if it weren't for the pirate theme about it I'm certain it would not have gotten anywhere near the number of positive reviews it has. I'm not sure where Alestorm is going to go for their sophomore effort, as their pirate gimmick was already stale before they began. I guess I'll wait and see where they go from here.
I’ve been somewhat lukewarm when it comes to the folk craze that has been rampant in the metal world of late. It has produced its fair share of gems such as Ensiferum and Falconer, but nothing about it as a whole makes me want to turn in my leathers and love for guitar shredding in exchange for a horned helmet and a dragon boat. The acoustic interludes are often pleasing, the catchy folk hooks are welcoming, but often the sense of wonder leaves after the first few listens. Ultimately what is lacking from the genre is some riveting riffs and technical wonder to complement the otherwise simplistic ideals that make the genre so accessible. To put it in a single statement, what Viking folk metal lacks is power.
Alestorm’s “Captain Morgan’s Revenge” is by no means a ground breaking album in the sense that most often look for, but you’d be hard pressed to find anything that has ever truly been that original. Metal evolves as all art forms do, through gradual incorporation of existing ideas with a fresh outlook. The pirate themed lyrics have been done before by the likes of Running Wild, but I’d argue that Rolf Kasparek never pulled off as authentic a pirate’s voice as this, nor were the 80s power metal pioneers willing to fully depart with the occult oriented themes that they started off with and fully embrace the clichés that likely were the every day lives of actual pirates in their heyday the way Alestorm has. Ultimately the only unifying trait between this band and their older, German counterparts is that they play fast and aggressive melodic metal about buccaneers sailing the high seas in search of adventure.
Likewise, you can pull out a good deal of similarities in atmosphere and melodic structure to many folk acts out there. Turisas is the first comparison when you hear the large sounding yet tavern song oriented choruses, but those bear skin wearing Hämäläiset hunters never wrote riff happy crushers like “Death Before the Mast”, not to mention give their bassist at least a little time out in the sun. You could also throw out some commonalities to Wintersun, except Jari Mäenpää tends to avoid lengthy guitar and keyboard solo interchanges more befitting of his fellow countrymen and power metal mainstays Stratovarius. Ultimately you can cherry pick a couple of similarities between any one metal band and attribute it to an earlier one, but usually this robs a band of its full identity and gives a false impression of unoriginality in the music.
Ultimately what matters in any album is do the songs give you what you’re looking for; is the album entertaining or not. And in this sense Alestorm has all the right elements at play on here. Such epic tracks as “Over the Seas”, the title track and “Set Sail and Conquer” throw out a perfect blend of melodic keyboard hooks and heavy end guitar gallops and thuds. “Of Treasure” and “Nancy the Tavern Wench” concentrate more on the folk sensibilities of this hybrid style and give the listener a couple of needed breaks in between what is almost a consistent barrage of “Pile of Skulls” meets “Iron”. And in the case of “Wenches and Mead”, the song is just so damned catchy and up beat that you just want to slam your wooden leg on the floor and shout “Arrg!! Bring me more wenches or I’ll blast this whole tavern down with my ship’s 12 cannons!”
With maybe the exception of Ensiferum’s debut, this is about as good as it gets if you’re a power metal fan who’s looking for something with a strong folk element. Although I think comparing the band to Running Wild alone is unfair and misses the full scope of what is on here, fans of their early to mid 90s material will definitely find a lot to like on here, just don’t expect the same deep and dark conceptual ideas on here. Some may say it’s impossible to take such a gimmicky band seriously, despite the fact that any metal fan complaining about bands using gimmicks is one of the most blatant exercises in self-irony one can engage in. Besides, power metal that is completely without any trace of humor and good cheer is power metal not worth listening to.
Wow! This album is freaking amazing. Other than the last track, Flower of Scotland, this album is really great! From the epic opener Over the Seas, to the fast paced battle chant Terror on the High Seas, the down-tempo ballad Nancy the Tavern Wench, and the acoustic greatness of Of Treasure (sorry if I caused any confusion there).
The album is really complimented by the pounding drums, catchy keyboard melodies, barked vocals and impressive solos. The bass is a bit hard to hear, but he does a good job on the intro to Death Before the Mast, which is the best song on the album, in my opinion. The chorus to the title track always makes me just drop whatever I'm doing and just sing along.
There are really no low points in the album, except for Flower of Scotland, and they all seem like song people would sing in actual taverns, or while sailing. The absoluteley incredible songs include: Captain Morgans Revenge, Over the Seas, The Huntmaster, Death Before the mast, Wenches and Mead and Nancy the Tavern Wench. Set Sail and Conquer, Terror on the High Seas, and Of Treasure are all great songs, though they aren't quite of the quality that the other songs are.
This album is definateley going to get the pirate in you to come out, so go to the store, buy it, put it in your stereo and enjoy!
I first listened to them a few years ago in their demo days when they were known as Battleheart. Frontman Christopher Bowes attempted, at this time, a more falsetto vocal approach on songs like "Heavy Metal Pirates" which wasn't too impressive. Musically, however, they have created something unique and there was much promise for these young Scots.
After they got a record deal, changed their name to the much more original "Alestorm", and vastly improved on their sound, ushered thereafter was one of my favorite releases of this decade. Combining Cronos-like barking vocals, power metal riffs, thrashy drums, and their own seafaring keyboard ambiance, they have successfully created a nice concoction of various metal genres and their own sounding like Port Royal, Jamaica's own "Caribbean metal" (but thats like calling Rhapsody "Hollywood metal", really lame!) Some argue the inception of "pirate metal" being the release of Running Wild's "Under Jolly Roger". Albeit an essential power/thrash album, branding the album "pirate metal" wouldn't be any more appropriate than calling Manowar "viking metal" simply for singing about Valhalla on "Into Glory Ride". Lyrical subjects hardly define genres but I hate quabbling about what genre a band should be called, so lets talk about this wonderful debut.
A personal pet peeve in our ever-expanding metal world of subgenres is the obligatory 1-2 minute intro track that i find redundant (oh Cradle! oh Dimmu!) A lazy person like myself hates having to constantly skip track 1 of every album. A pretty epic (or at least epic-sounding) album like this would leave the expectation of one, but there is none to be found. Only the instantly captivating opening to "Over The Seas": "Many moons ago, in a faraway land, We met an old man with a hook for a hand, He showed us a map that lead to treasure untold, He said, "I'll give ye the map, if ye give me some gold." This goofy yet interesting opening verse sets the mood for the entire album. The rest of the song calls for fun chorus singalongs. The following track, the title track, is the longest track and the most epic song recalling the tragic tale of a crew getting cursed after committing mutiny and murdering their Captain. The song has a great chorus to sing along to yet has the longest instrumental breaks I admit had me a little impatient. Just about every song on the rest of the album, with the exception of the slightly boring "Flower of Scotland", is wonderfully catchy and fast-paced resulting in fun beer-drinking chanting as Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys often accomplish. This young band offers a powerful and fun debut earning maybe a B- for actual talent and songwriting yet an emphatic A+ for originality. They have earned a place beside Sigh and Bal-Sagoth (to name a few) by successfully created their own unique style which is seldom achieved in the metal world. It is hard to say whether or not this "pirate metal" will go stale in the future after 2 or 3 albums but this debut is definitely an essential and refreshing listen.
Highlights - Over The Seas, The Huntmaster, Terror on the High Seas, Set Sail and Conquer, Wenches and Mead
It's my personal theory that, if there is one thing that is truly awesome, then it invariably becomes less awesome the more often we are exposed to it. I'm sure many people consider pirates to be the most bad-ass people who ever lived, but after those disgustingly overrated Pirates of the Carribean movies and that stupid "Ninjas Vs. Pirates" joke, aren't we all just a little sick of the whole pirate deal? Perhaps this colored my opinion of Alestorm's "Captain Morgan's Revenge," from a band who bill themselves as "True Scottish Pirate Metal," which is rather strange, given that I'm sure most people don't associate Scotland with pirates. A good question to ask would be, "if it weren't for the Pirates of the Carribean movies, would this album even exist?" Perhaps the album art, featuring a character that looks suspiciously like Davy Jones from the aforementioned POTC films, should give you an answer.
And as everyone knows (or should know), Alestorm certainly isn't the first band with a pirate theme; that honor goes to Running Wild. Unfortunately, while Running Wild had the songwriting ability to back up their pirate image, Alestorm seems a bit too content to coast on their pirate gimmick. If you strip that away, what you have left is rather run-of-the-mill power metal album that sounds like the B-sides of a Turisas or Grave Digger album. That's not to say that Captain Morgan's Revenge is bad album, but rather it's the metal equivalent of cotton candy: tasty in small doses, but too much and it'll make you sick. It's junk-food metal.
Straightaway the most noticeable thing about this album is how dominant the keyboards are in the songs, and no, this is not a good thing. I personally believe that keyboards are something that need to be used with restraint, and not thrown all over the album like they are here. It doesn't help that the keyboards themselves sound rather cheesy and fake. Take away the keyboards, and you're left with an album that feels just...well...okay. It's just "okay." That's the best word I can think of to describe it; it's not horrible, but it's not that good, either. Take, for instance, the title track, which begins with a thundering opening that portends something truly magnificent to come, but it never does. The song just slowly meanders to the end with several repeats of the chorus, as though they couldn't think of any way for the song to progress. And that's indicative of the whole album, really. I kept waiting and waiting for Alestorm to break out with something that blew me away, but for the most part, it never happened. The closest it ever comes to greatness is "Death Before the Mast," the one track where the music breaks through the layers of keyboard cheese and really shows some balls.
Cheese...yes, Captain Morgan's Revenge is absolutely dripping with dairy product. It's as if the band wants to say "we're PIRATES, goddamn it, and we're going to remind you every fucking second of this album!" The lyrics are pretty embarrassing, reading like a number from The Muppets Treasure Island. Songs about buried treasure, wenches, drinking, sailing the high seas, it all seems so...obligatory. What I'm trying to say is, Alestorm takes a good idea (metal with a pirate theme) and doesn't do anything particularly original or interesting with it.
In the end, Captain Morgan's Revenge is fun and catchy, but no more than that. It doesn't hold up well to repeat listens; it's too gimmicky and trite.One has to wonder where Alestorm is going to go after this album, because they've already bled their gimmick dry with this one album. If they mature as songwriters and start taking their pirate theme more seriously, they perhaps one day they'll release a truly killer album.
I heard this band's two demos as Battleheart and was, truth be told, not that impressed, but this rocks. Alestorm are a genuine Scottish band from Perth and they have cooked up a mighty steaming tankard of metal for their debut album, Captain Morgan's Revenge.
Any band that goes with the pirate theme is going to get compared to Running Wild, but you can't dock this band for not being RW, because they are not really doing the same kind of thing musically. This is much more in the vein of Turisas, except that's not a fair comparison, since Turisas suck ass. I described it on first spin as "Ironsword crossed with Bal-Sagoth and obsessed with pirates", which is maybe not exact, but pretty close. There are a lot of keys on this album, but I like the way they are used, and they are backed up by some kickass riffing with a killer tone. Opener "Over The Seas" is a pretty good tune, but the title track really gets things going with great riffs and a killer chorus. There are faster and heavier tunes like "The Huntmaster" and the almost thrashy "Death Before The Mast". Even the ballad "Nancy The Tavern Wench" has a cool, beer-hall-sing-along chorus that sticks in your head.
The vocals are a thrash-styled gargle, neither tuneless nor clean by any stretch. They have a kind of leering gusto for the material that just suits the music well, and the lyrics are actually quite clever in places. Pirate Metal should be packed with songs about bloodthirsty, smoke-eating action, wenching, and gold, and these songs deliver that in spades with genuine glee and gallows humor.
If you're expecting this to sound just like Running Wild because "That's what Pirate Metal sounds like", then you're going to be put off by a band who are doing more their own thing. By any measure, however, Alestorm's debut is full of music that just rocks. Piratical entertainment of the first order and highly recommended.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
Having built up a predictable cult following for their self-styled brand of "true Scottish pirate metal" at numerous local gigs and across two impressive E.P.s, Perth's Battleheart changed their name to the more tell-tale Alestorm and recorded their first full-length album on Napalm Records. The notion of mixing speedy, raucous power metal with a pirate concept is nothing new, harking right back to Germany's Running Wild in the late eighties, but it's a particularly intelligent commercial endeavour in a decade that has seen trashy Hollywood blockbuster 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and its ilk capturing the hearts of this generation's lowest common denominator audiences with their superficial take on piracy. Personally, I preferred the 'Monkey Island' games.
What makes Alestorm so impressive is that the band has never allowed the gimmick to overshadow the quality of its music, putting their full energy into Dragonforce-styled power metal, albeit yelling tales of seafaring conquest and trezer huntin' rather than falsetto epics about dragons, and even going the whole hog into authentically recreating the sea shanty for the less serious numbers. Having finally come together as a fully operational unit after a couple of years of vocalist/keyboardist Christopher Bowes and guitarist Gavin Harper playing against a programmed rhythm and bass section, the band compensates for its lack of virtuoso talent with its passionate, nationalistic dedication to spreading the true Scottish pirate metal Word that will inevitably inspire a number of lousy imitations in its devastating wake. With cutthroats Dani Evans and Ian Wilson coming aboard to handle bass and drum responsibilities respectively, the Alestorm vessel is in a fine position to conquer the metal world once this debut is released next month - most likely in a Dragonforce manner that will see them overly hyped and derided in equal measure before making way for the next fad. Young metal fans are so fickle.
As anticipated, the band selects the finest bounty from their earlier E.P. releases (alright, I'll desist with the pirate lingo) and makes these the foundation of this longer work, while surprisingly forsaking the customary instrumental openings in favour of a more consistent metallic approach, something that demonstrates their impressive forward-thinking compared to fading genre superstars such as Rhapsody of Fire and Manowar, whose most recent offerings were atrociously pompous affairs riddled with narrative padding. The pirating concept figures prominently into all of these songs as can be discerned from the titles, but despite going for the obvious themes (maps, battles, wenches, trezer), it never feels like a diluted pantomime version of piracy, and it's clear the band has done its research to add authenticity.
Bowes' vocals take on a distinct piratey persona, growling in a gritty folk style on the slower and mid-range songs but being forced into a more traditional metal style in the faster offerings later in the album, reminiscent of Megadeth's Dave Mustaine, and the lyrics will stay with the listener afterwards just as much as the catchiest guitar moments. Each major song is afforded an extensive instrumental section for solos and such, which is actually something of a mixed bag (of pieces o' eight?): Harper's guitars are pleasant enough in their classic metal approach, but Bowes sticks to his cannons with consistent keyboard solos in the glitzy style of Dragonforce that serve to spoil the historical, nautical mood that the band has somehow achieved through anachronistic rock instruments.
There is a distinctive Alestorm "sound" to be found across this album, despite its commendable diversity, and while rooted in modern power metal it borrows extensively from folk metal in the style of label-mates Týr and the Swedish Viking bands such as Månegarm. While it doesn't take on this style as much as I would perhaps like, this at least allows it to develop independently as a distinct entity, and may one day lead to a gloriously debauched battle between the heavy metal pirates and Vikings, one that the fantasy-themed bands can observe from the safe distance of an overhead dragon and write an epic poem about at a later date. Despite its distracting prominence in the solo sections, Bowes' keyboard is the vital background ingredient of this atmosphere, sweeping in a synthesised symphony over the more eloquent passages but mostly taking on the sound of a nautical accordion that works perfectly against the rock instruments even more successfully than I could have hoped, benefitting from the band's newfound high production values.
1. Over the Seas
2. Captain Morgan's Revenge
3. The Huntmaster
4. Nancy the Tavern Wench
5. Death Before the Mast
6. Terror of the High Seas
7. Set Sail and Conquer
8. Of Treasure
9. Wenches & Mead
10. Flower of Scotland
'Over the Seas' really is the perfect introduction to both the sound and concept, and along with 'The Huntmaster' represents the oldest material here, originating on the first 'Battleheart' E.P., but now with added live bass and drums. With middling speed and a chugging style still rooted in their forebears Running Wild, these two songs betray their early conception compared to the rest, but this makes them more suitable to establish the scene that will later be exploded to new heights. Doubtless some listeners will come to this album purely for the cheap thrill of hearing some pirate songs, and with refrains like "with the power of ale, he could not fail," these songs can satiate and inaugurate the casual listeners before unleashing some true metal fury.
In-between these older offerings is the first brand new song in the form of the title track (the title itself is perhaps an obscure reference to the band's earlier instrumental 'The Curse of Captain Morgan'; the sort of trivial footnote that may find its way into a future Wikipedia entry) and the band's sound shows a noticeable development. The speed ranges from full-pelt thrashing to a steadier jig style once again, and the instrumental prominence in this epic piece makes it comparable to Iron Maiden's own seafaring epic 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner,' only shorter, and shows great use being made of the studio facilities. It's one of the most typically power metal songs on the album and thus one that should be eagerly plundered by Dragonforce fans, something that is sped along by the chorus melody sounding more or less directly lifted from that band's 'Black Winter Night.'
'Nancy the Tavern Wench' is the first of three songs to follow a significantly slower, folk-based style with the metal as a mere support, and one of two songs along with 'Of Treasure' to revive the traditional sea shanty in a thoughtful manner, sounding similar to folk metal deviations such as Týr's memorable take on 'The Wild Rover.' Once again, the band stays true to its creative vision without lapsing into self-parody (they're obviously having a whale of a time playing this stuff, but it isn't just a joke to them), and the lead accordion effect of 'Nancy' is fitting as its take on a female character's "theme." The later 'Of Treasure' (oh, so that's how you spell it) goes even further, based on acoustic guitar and flute and even introducing one of those springy things that are such a staple of Viking metal in the works of Bathory, Månegarm and Moonsorrow. I don't know what it's called, but I have a deep-seated fondness for its daft simplicity (please enlighten me if you know). The only other song to fall into this general style is actually very different, but shares camaraderie for relegating the rock instruments to the background; the closing track is the band's patriotic dedication to their Scottish homeland, the keyboards scoring extra points for producing a regal flair and not resorting to clichéd bagpipes, as the band chants the Corries' 'Flower of Scotland' with pride, before presumably launching into a rugby game on deck after the album closes. This finale is the least impressive song, but works as a fine coda, while the other two work brilliantly to break up the album without the need for (God forbid) ballads. After all, what would be the interest in a sensitive pirate?
The remaining bulk of the album showcases the band at its fiercest and finest, mostly coming from the excellent second E.P. 'Terror on the High Seas' and likely presenting the band's direction for the future, away from the slower narratives that characterised the album's first half. Now that the band has frequented the taverns and indulged in their trezer hunting deals, it's time for some serious conquest and pillaging as the seabound equivalent of Manowar's metal warriors, often spouting comparably ridiculous lyrics. 'Death Before the Mast,' the only other "new" song, is the band's most thrash-based offering, featuring significantly faster verses that Bowes tackles in a manner similar to Megadeth, but the style is perfected in the band's crowning glory, 'Terror of the High Seas' (undergoing a slight alteration from its earlier form, not least in its title). This is currently the band's classic, with their finest guitar riffs and their most dynamic performance recorded to date, perfectly suited to its violent lyrics.
'Set Sail and Conquer' is a little less brilliant, slowing down as the lyrics take on a less riveting self-confidence in the pirates' inevitable victory and thus lack the adventurous spirit of the previous song, metaphorically docking at Port Manowar as Bowes regurgitates that band's clichés of divine providence, the fight until death and the laughter over dying foes. Although it's still a highly enjoyable song, spoiled a little by the pompous lyrics, there comes a surprising turnaround with the instrumental/solo section in the second half that ends up being the most substantial and varied of the album, building on the efforts of the previous two songs and inserting a soft jig section for atmosphere similar to the earlier title track. This is some of the strongest evidence that this band really is a force to be reckoned with, particularly as its relatively fresh musicians are free to hone their talents on future releases.
If the album was capable of serving up even more excitement over this new band, it delivers it wonderfully with the penultimate 'Wenches & Mead'; forebodings of a cop-out comedy song certainly, but the band launches into character as metal pirates to such a degree that there's never any doubt of their sincerity, however ludicrous the lyrics ("Hey, hey, I want more wenches / Lots of wenches is what I need"). As well as going all-out on the debauchery front, this arguably represents the perfection of the synthesis between metal and sea shanty in equal measure, as the lead accordion is as prominent as the guitars and drums.
Alestorm is certainly one of the most exciting metal bands of the moment, and one that shouldn't be unfairly judged as a mere gimmick - there's some work to be done on the technical front, and more trezer and wenches to pillage before they can bottle another recording and send it back to shore with tales of their further exploits, but 'Captain Morgan's Revenge' is an incredibly fun and high quality album of modern heavy metal. Released in the UK on 28th January 2008.
Hailing from Bonnie Scotland, Alestorm are one of a new breed of bands bundled into a genre known as “Pirate Metal.” After some promising demo releases last year under the moniker “Battleheart”, the band generated quite a lot of interest on the internet. Partially due to this interest, they were snapped up by Napalm Records and promptly changed their name to Alestorm.
While there is no doubt that their appearance and (terrible) lyrics seem to justify this genre attachment, after one listen to their latest album, CAPTAIN MORGAN’S REVENGE, it becomes apparent that “Pirate Metal” is in fact a whimsical nonsense. For what we have here is, plain and simply, an overblown power metal album.
However, that’s not to say that this is a bad album. It is actually a partially interesting listen. It starts out with what is arguably the best song on the album, “Over The Seas,” with it’s inevitable sing-a-long chorus, cheesy lyrics, chirpy keyboards and soaring guitars. And I love it.
Next up is the title song, and it provides more of the same. Track three, while not quite as good as the opening two songs continues this trend. These first three songs are sure to leave the listener salivating for more, but unfortunately the aforementioned formula starts to get very boring, very quickly. The next three tracks, while good in their own way, simply fail to deliver and the album starts to lose momentum. Track five, “Death Before The Mast,” is one of the weakest songs on the album and by this point, I was begging for something more engaging and epic.
I did not get what I wished for. The next song, “Terror On The High Seas,” is dreadfully tame. It’s pretty much the same riff played for the duration of the song, with the vocalist babbling about some rubbish. Did I mention how bad the lyrics are? I don’t know how many variations of “fight and die, for we are pirates, yarrrrr” they managed to come up with, but I guarantee it’s a lot.
Anyway, the seventh track, “Set Sail And Conquer,” recaptures the atmosphere of the first few tracks and gives me hope for the rest of the album. “Of Treasure” is a folk song, with parts of the tune taken from the traditional Irish song “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye,” and the lyrics of course changed to a pirate theme. It’s a nice change from the standard power metal, but maybe being Irish makes me biased.
“Wenches & Mead” is an incredibly fun and fast paced song, utilising keyboards more that guitars - an enjoyable chantey that leads into the final song.
Last up is the band’s interpretation of the Scottish national anthem, “Flower Of Scotland,” which is a song I greatly enjoy and is usually very emotional when sung before a sporting event. However, Alestorm fail to capture that same feeling and it doesn’t really come off right.
Despite what may seem like an overly critical review given that this is their debut album, there was still several parts of the album that I really enjoyed. A dull middle section was the major downfall, and being tagged as “Pirate Metal” instead of just power metal probably raises expectations for something new and unique, when in reality it is neither. Still, a decent effort overall.
Picture the Pirates of the Caribbean, and then add guitars, a keyboard, and then put a loud pirate at the vocals of this Pirate band and you have Alestorm.
Remarkably, I had never heard of this band, until the scandal of this band being accepted made it onto these forums. I thought nothing of it, after all I had many other bands I could buy albums of first. Then came my birthday, which is January 25th, and I thought why not at least hear this album that all the talk is about. My life has never been the same.
First off, this band manages to make the pirate shanty full of vigor. The lyrics are delightfully cheesy and fun, singing of pirates, wenches, alcohol, battles. Everything a good pirate song should have. The guitars have the occasional solo, but nothing out of the ordinary. The keyboards are great, adding excellent variety to each shanty. They have some very nice and fun solos. In fact, they are a large part, along with the lyrics, what makes this such an enjoyable listen. The vocals would not normally be regarded by me as good, but they prove to match the newly coined genre perfectly. The drums, while throwing in the occasional march or difference, do their job. They are neither bad or excellent. They simply provide a heartbeat.
The album is extremely fun through the whole 42 minutes. Some of the best songs are Captain Morgan's Revenge, what could be more fun than mutiny and then being cursed by your officer. Another is the party song(and I am a sucker for party songs),Wenches and Mead. Those are the two that stick out in my mind, but they are all good.
The band doesn't have anything exceptionally talented on it, but it is fun and will give you the vigor to ask for that next bottle of rum and go across the seas looking for treasure.
True Scottish Pirate Metal is the tag Alestorm go by, and I guess it could be true, but these guys are really no Running Wild in terms of scurvy, sea-shantying pirate madness. Having a vocalist that is akin to a bored Chris Boltendahl and writing blatant pirate odes does not a band of pirates make. Oh, they sound pretty pirate-y I guess, but without most of the vigor and spirit that Running Wild used to have, and there is way, WAAAAY too much reliance on keyboards for the whole pirate atmosphere, and less reliance on the riffs and leads as there should be. In the 80s, Running Wild utilized heavily articulated melodies and jackhammering staccato Heavy Metal riffs to create a "pirate" atmosphere, with no need for a symphonic backup that sounds like the one from Pirates of the Caribbean, and now we have these guys touting their music as "true Pirate Metal," when in reality, this band is to Running Wild as Korpiklaani is to Skyforger - that is, fun yet unspectacular; a junk food version of a top notch band.
The lyrics suck, too, being nothing more than forced "YARR PIRATES ARE COOL" drivel and naught more than a smidgen of spirit or passion put into writing them. It's the sort of blatantly embarrassing tribute you'd expect from a modern band doing this sort of thing, all very contrived and fake, and the band makes it a point to shove the pirate gimmick down your throat, never even letting you come up to breath. It's like they're worried we'll forget mid-song that they like pirates, so they make it a point to never let us forget that they do indeed like pirates a whole fucking lot. If Alestorm could just tone down the gimmicks and touch up their lyrics a bit, then we'd have a damn fine "pirate" band on our hands, but this is just too fake sounding a lot of the time. Seriously, anyone who thinks this album is the closest you can get to "pirate metal" needs to get their head out of their ass and go listen to Running Wild's Black Hand Inn, and that is all that needs to be said about that.
Now, all bitching about the gimmick aside, Alestorm do know how to play some pretty cool metal tunes when they get down to business. The first two tracks are pretty lame, with uninspired vocal lines and riffs that won't really stick with you, but it's with the third song, "The Huntmaster," that they crank up the metal and start to rule. With a Grave Digger-esque chorus and a set of stomping riffs, this song is a winner. "Nancy the Tavern Wench," despite being a juvenile example of the blatant gimmickery I mentioned above, is also a good song, and pretty much every song after this is acceptable and listenable, with cool riffs and catchy choruses out the ass. I do wish they could speed things up a bit more, but this is a debut and it's excusable, and Captain Morgan's Revenge is a good album overall. Not a great one, but it works, and makes for a fun listen at best. Alestorm are rookies, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and see where they go from here.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
Metal’s ocean has been charted the same way one too many times. Destinations previously stated unknown have proven time and time again that they are in fact replicas of past jaunts. With the general metal population vigorously gobbling down any similar sound thrown onto their plate, record labels constantly search for the repeated tones that echo congruent to one another in an effort to churn a profit. Throughout these seas of monotony, Alestorm have found their course.
Taking influences from bands such as Korpiklaani and Turisas, Alestorm bestow a Scottish folk influence upon their work with strong tints of power metal. This alone might not sound like anything new, but their theme is, quite plainly, pirates. Running Wild might have pioneered the pirate theme with “Under Jolly Roger”, but in reality, they only scraped at the surface of pirate folklore. Alestorm, on the other hand (or hook), heartily embrace the tales of pirating and spin them into a wild, sinful romp of alcohol, plundering, and metal.
Upon hearing the first sea-faring riffs of “Over the Sea”, a yarn depicting the voyage to claim buried treasure, the impact is immediate: they really do love pirates. Unlike most “gimmick bands” (which Alestorm distances themselves from), if the pirate theme was to be taken away, you’d still be left with passionate music. Christopher Bowes, the vocalist/keyboardist, sounds like a mangy old drunkard of a buccaneer who hasn’t seen the shore in ages, while Gavin (guitar) seems to have a brig filled to the brim of enticing leads and rhythms. The grog-chugging “Wenches and Mead” is a profound avowal to the musicianship of Alestorm, which has the crew call forth their listeners to partake in the damnable desires of liquor and the lewdness of wenches by throwing Bowe’s mesmerizing keyboards center-stage and allowing Gavin’s thickly-chopped riffs to drive the melodies home.
After a period of using a drum machine, Alestorm picked up drummer Ian Wilson, who brings a much more human feel to the music (i.e. “Set Sail and Conquer”, which now features a thundering short drum solo). While tracks on Alestorm’s past work sounded a bit monotonous due to the programming of the machine, Ian is constantly working innovatively behind his kit with well-executed fills and styles. That’s not the only difference found on “Captain Morgan’s Revenge”, since now the band has forsaken their past "D" tuning in favor of "C", which makes the songs feel a bit more powerful and upbeat. Take for instance “Terror on the High Seas”, which on the past EP of the same name felt a bit detached from itself at points; well, not anymore! The newly tuned track is alive and full of spunk, with Gavin displaying his influences on heavier metal with thrash-tinted riffs. As great as it is to hear all of the old tracks updated with better production, tuning, and an actual drummer, it’s a bit frustrating that there’s only four new tracks (excluding the cover “Flower of Scotland”).
That is not to say that the new songs do not equate to the splendor of the old ones, because they do. The ferocious, bass-chugging “Death Before the Mast” could be the heaviest song Alestorm have recorded yet, while the acoustic, folky “Of Treasure” is a wonderful break from the rest of the album as it tells a tale of woe and treasure. The other two new tracks, “Captain Morgan’s Revenge” and “The Huntmaster” are simply extraordinary. The title track is a storming account of mutinous pirates and the curse that takes them to the gallows to perform the “Hempen Jig” at the end of their rope. Gavin’s short solo is impeccable; with a lead played overtop fleeting notes that seem to shoot straight from the ocean itself. Immediately following, “The Huntmaster” takes a more straightforward approach, and its appeal will easily reach to modern head bangers. Not to mention it possesses some hilariously outrageous lyrics, such as “Up from the bowls of hell he sailed / wielding a tankard of freshly brewed ale” and constant shouts of “With the power of ale / he could not fail!” Needless to say, Bowes drunken persona once again reigns unparalleled.
“Captain Morgan’s Revenge” delivers the goods; in fact, it delivers a keg-full of them. Instead of using the pirate gimmick to garner some attention and supplement as an annoying crutch, Alestorm uses it to bolster what would have already been a memorable experience. On “Nancy the Tavern Wench”, the boys invite you to come take a drink with them. Do it, because more than not it will end up as one of the best decisions you’ll make this year.
Alestorm, under their former (and superior) name Battleheart, became something of an internet sensation in the short time since their formation as a 2-piece home studio project a few years ago with their pirate themed brand of folk-influenced power metal, eventually culminating in a deal with Napalm Records towards the end of 2007. Thankfully, as evidenced on their 2 highly impressive demos, they have the talent and the songs to back up their humorous image and are more than a mere gimmick.
Their style of keyboard-laced power/folk metal is mostly reminiscent of Korpiklaani (a band they would have been label mates with if the Finns hadn't vacated for the greener grass of Nuclear Blast), with similar punchy riffs and frantic melodies. The main difference is that Alestorm make use of traditional instruments on only one song on 'Captain Morgan's revenge', with keyboard playing vocalist Christopher Bowes providing the arrangements the rest of the time.
Whether providing fiddle and accordion imitations that suit the piratical theme perfectly, or more ostentatious orchestral arrangements that are more reminiscent of Turisas and conjure sweeping, cinematic images or rolling seas and rippling sails, his role in the band is probably the most vital to their success.
Bowes also proves a handy lead player, and most of the songs feature a solo trade-off between himself and guitarist Gavin Harper. Harper is another accomplished musician who provides a rock-solid base for the keyboards to jig across, while also getting to frequently show his prowess as a lead guitarist, taking turns with Bowes to carry the songs forward.
The handful of previously unrecorded songs show some of the CDs strongest points, but regrettably also some of the mild weaknesses that stop it from reaching the status of a truly great debut. On one hand, the title track is a monster of a song; opening as a pounding double-bass power metal song, it soon diverges to an enormous - and unanticipated - bittersweet chorus. A striking middle section to the song witnesses a grand orchestral arrangement (actually reprised from the intro to the 2nd demo) followed by a narrative passage before the song kicks back in with a Freedom Call-esque keyboard bridge. Why a song that seems tailor-made to be the closing track sits 2nd in the tracklist is a little baffling, especially as it is only separated by one song from the CD's sole ballad.
On the whole, the CD does seem to have been rushed out at least to some extent – the acoustic song "Of treasure" promises much but feels unfinished, and the Alestorm rendition of "Flower of Scotland" (a cover version I've been lusting after for a while now) is disappointingly straightforward and undistinguished.
The songs from the Battleheart demos that have survived the transition to the full-length CD are all properly tidied up, keeping most of their original charms but also having their occasional mildly amateurish failings ironed out. The drums, previously programmed through necessity as much as anything else, are now expertly handled by session drummer Micha Wagner. Bizarrely, regular stickman Ian Wilson couldn't make the trip to Germany for the drum recordings and had to be temporarily replaced, and his stand-in offers an energetic performance in his place. Bowes vocals are also the best they have ever been - the comical-but-effective pirate brogue he adopted for the 2nd demo (after making the mistake of actually attempting to sing on the first one) has been properly refined and for the first time sounds properly commanding. "Over the seas" and "Terror on the high seas" are still speedy thrill rides, and "Wenches and mead" is a bouncy party-folk effort from the same mould as Korpiklaani's "Happy little boozer" and "Beer beer".
The hype from the breed of internet-dwelling kids that are currently finding folk metal the funniest thing of all time is likely to become irritating (Pirates! Omglolz!), but Alestorm's music has to be taken on its own terms, and it is more than good enough to avoid being dismissed along with the trend riders that are likely to be attending their gigs wearing pirate hats. Napalm will with a bit of luck be a bit more patient when it comes to the 2nd CD from their new charges. If Alestorm are given the correct time to piece their songs together instead of rushing them out to get the product on the shelf then their vast potential may eventually be properly tapped.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/
I believe this to be the first true "pirate metal" album. Don't get into "Running Wild is the only pirate metal"; or "what about Swashbuckle or Verbal Deception!?" Don't get me wrong, those bands are great as well, but Alestorm is the first band to truly get the sound of pirate metal correct; if it were to be a genre. This doesn't just mix pirate lyrics with metal music as Running Wild, or Swashbuckle; it truly blends Piracy and Metal in a delicious mixture equaling only to the beverage of rum.
When people think of pirate music, many think of accordians in taverns, and screaming men; or they may think of sea shanties telling great stories. Alestorm has captured the very essence of pirate music, and fused it with the art of metal. The album opens up with the track "Over the Seas" and it doesn't just open, it out-right broadsides you; you feel as if you were in the middle of an epic pirate adventure. The entire track has the non-stop feel of life amongst a pirate warship in particular due to the amazing performance of keyboardist/vocalist Christopher Bowes. While some bands like Running Wild get into a pirate song with a piratey feel, there are at times with those tracks that it begins to feel like...just another metal song; Alestorm does not follow in their footsteps.
Throughout the album, the pirate atmosphere is consistant, and non-ending. Even in the parts with little or no keys, the overall feel of piracy lurks. From beginning to middle, it's non-stop action-packed pirate metal. From crunching fast guitars, to melodic sounds of the accordion and bandoneon, this album does not disappoint. It isn't until the last three tracks where the pace begins to slow down, but it seems appropriate, since pirates would party all night; it would only make sense that just before the sun comes up things would slow down and begin to hit closer to heart. This album is able to do that.
Just as you walk into the bar at 9pm everything is fast and everyone goes absolutely ape-shit fun and drunk; but then when 3:30am walks around it gets nice and relaxing, beginning with track 8 "Of Treasure" to represent that. Then just before the night is over, they try to pick it up once more with "Wenches and Mead"; but alas, now the time is over, and it's time to show off some Scottish Pride with "Flower of Scotland" just before the end(/bedtime).
If you truly adorn pirates, and metal, you'll definitally want to pick up "Captain Morgan's Revenge", lest ye be among the ilk of poxy cur.
"We are Heavy Metal Pirates, we sail across the sky, in our battleships of cosmic steel, we're the terror up on high! We are Heavy Metal Pirates, our cutlasses are true, so give us all yer treasure, or soon we'll come fer you!" - (Lyrics taken from Battleheart - Heavy Metal Pirates).