June 17, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe
Alestorm have ditched their pirate ways and moved onto progressive technical death metal. Only joking. A pirate never changes his eyepatch.
Over the course of three albums Alestorm have peddled ‘True Scottish Pirate Metal’ to the masses without a care or any trace of pretension. They’ve stuck to their guns and flipped a cutlas to anyone who any who mutiny against them. Through all this raping and pillaging they’ve become one of the most entertaining live acts going.
Being a novelty does however lead to the more serious members of the music community accusing your band of lacking depth and generally being a bit shit. Hoards of nutters dressed as pirates attending your every show may not help things, but I’m no expert.
From looking at the cover you can instantly tell seriousness is not on the cards for these Perth-based buccaneers (last of the pirate puns, honest). Featuring a zombie pirate bloodstained and sporting a saxon helmet on his sword, while a rat riding a surf board drinking from a horn rides away from a pirate ship passing through a time portal, it’s only thought provoking if your arguments consist of “pirates were much better than vikings.”
Opening the album is the album title track, it ties in with the cover and is based around the concept of a pirate ship time travelling back to the times of vikings, and attempting to steal their gold. Waves and pirate shouts lead into some frantic guitar and keyboard work before the accordions and story telling unfold, with an incredibly easy to chant chorus breaking things up.
And that’s the story for most of the album. There’s the usual mix of swashbuckling themes, accordions, fiddles and chanting in a funny accent. Songs like Rum (describing the wonders of, er, Rum) and Swashbuckled are exactly what fans will be expecting and enjoy. What sets this record apart is how surprisingly heavy it is. Alestorm have always shown flourishes of impressive musicianship but they’ve stepped it up for Back Through Time.
Buckfast Powersmash is Municipal Waste style thrash and Rumpelkompo is pirate grindcore. The seven minute Death Throes of the Terrorsquid is the most impressive song they’ve done so far; starting off as bombastically symphonic as Turisas have ever gotten, heading through some speedy power metal before heading into black metal territory. So epic it actually deserves its own Pirates Of The Caribbean film.
The sense of humour is still there too. Midget Saw has lyrics involving monkeys having shoes thrown at them, and the bonus cover songs I am a Cider Drinker and I am a Pirate (the wurzels and Lazy Town respectively) are silly but good for a chuckle. The self referential Scraping the Barrel Alestorm themselves aren’t blind to the naysayers, but promise ‘when the time comes to write album four, we’ll scrape the barrel once more.” And if they ever do run out of lyrics, there’s still enough songs about pirates and drinking that could make a fair few covers albums.
Latecomers to the pirate scene will find plenty to get their teeth into, funny lyrics, sing-along choruses and music you dance, drink and set sail to. Pirates devotees will be happy with another strong bunch of songs to sing down the local tavern. Detractors will say they still sound like Turisas (they do), and the two band seem to be playing this up with cheeky references to each other (Turisas have a song called Hunting Pirates on their latest) and a joint tour later this year shows it’s all a bit of fun.
So done your best eye patch, raise your flagon of ale and/or rum, and celebrate your successful quest with the best pirate metal on the seven seas.