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Their best album sofar - 90%

morbert, March 12th, 2013

If you don’t like a tongue in cheek approach in metal, can’t appreciate the Toy Dolls despite claiming to like punk or think every form of happy happy joy joy catchiness does not belong in ‘true metal’, read no further. This is not for you. No use reading about stuff you don’t appreciate, right? Anyway, a third album is a special thing in metal. Remember, Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax, Iron Maiden, yes even Sepultura? And the list goes on! Same goes for Alestorm.

For what it is, this tongue in cheek pirate metal album is as perfect as it can be. Gimmick-metal often gets looked down upon. Mostly the arguments are ‘too much focus on image but musically coming short’ or ‘image can’t conceal a lack of compositional quality’. Remember even Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler calling Kiss a comic book act? Lots of people just can’t handle a gimmick act and even less when that gimmick act earns a living with it.
As if Alicia Silverstone’s image didn’t have a positive influence of Aerosmith sales in the early nineties… Image and looks mean a lot, no use denying unless you’ve been blind all your life but even in that case the produced sounds from any artist are obviously an ‘imagine’ on itself as well and Alestorm not only have the lyrics, videos and artwork to be pirate metal but the songs and sound as well.

Whereas the band originally started under the name Battleheart with the idea of playing power metal, rather quickly turning into pirate metal and signing to Napalm, it took them a while to write an album as consistent as ‘Back Through Time’. I like their debut, Captain Morgan's Revenge. It had a fair share of memorable songs on which their different influences came together fluently with the lyrical content and image of the band. But there were also (even more so on their second album ‘Black Sails at Midnight’) just a few songs that meandered or just went astray too far from the binding concept. No such thing here, not even ‘Death Throes of the Terrorsquid’ feels out of place.

After starting of with a section, closely inspired by early Children of Bodom, the opening song Back Through Time immediately sets the tone for the entire album. There’s some thrashin’, changes in pace, singing along and of course Bowes’ typical ‘drunken sailor‘ short keyboard melodies. The whole tongue in cheek is so clear when you just know Bowes can sing better than he actually does with Alestorm. Even his voice is an act, sounding like a boatswain with sleep deprivation induced aggressiveness towards the deck crew. Everything to fit the concept. And they do it so well.

Lots of the arguments and complaints you might have about Alestorm, are being sung about in ‘Scraping the Barrel’, a waltz reminiscent of Nancy the Tavern Witch but with clear lyrics regarding the history and future of Alestorm and the way Bowes looks upon it. The everlasting comparison to Running Wild indeed IS ludicrous and pretty tiresome. The whole musical and lyrical concept of Alestorm and their constant consistent continuity comes closer to what someone new to the pirate metal subgenre would expect than Running Wild have ever done. And yes, that’s coming from someone who likes a fair share of Running Wild songs now and then.
If there are some Running Wild songs which sound like an embryo of pirate metal, Alestorm have sent their swashbuckling child to buckaneer university and he now has a full time job. The Alestorm blend of Metal and Ahoy is fully matured, aged in used bourbon casks and of course some caramel was added to the final product.

Shipwrecked, The Sunk'n Norwegian, Midget Saw and of course ‘Rum’ are all typical Alestorm sing-a-longs written for the live environment and could easily be released as singles for that matter (had this been the eighties). My other favorites on Back Through Time however are the less seven-inch-worthy tracks 'Buckfast Powersmash' and the epic ‘Death Throes of the Terrorsquid’. The first being pretty much a crossover-thrash song with pirate metal verses (lyrics about a cheap alcoholic beverage, especially notorious in Scotland and Ireland) and the second one a mixture of Alestorm’s pirate metal with modern symphonic black metal. The strength being no part feeling out of place. A wondrous tale which closes the regular album perfectly in bombast.
As being an old Nuclear Assault, Napalm Death and SOD lover, I can only appreciate the 6 second song ‘Rumpelkombo’ which even has a typical Alestorm keyboard melody. So even with short funny tunes they manage to still make it sound like Alestorm. Just an example, again, of how cleverly contrived everything is about Alestorm on Back Through Time.

The question is, where can they go next? Some might have thought that already after their second album but ‘BackThroughTime’ proves the band keeps on growing as musicians as well as (especially even) composers. Oh, by the way, the Paloma Blanca cover (with altered lyrics, of course) on some versions of the album is hilarious. Alestorm propably wouldn’t get far on Eurovision but I sure as hell would love to see them compete