Alestorm – Black Sails At Midnight (2009, Napalm Records)
- The Quest
- That Famous Ol’ Spiced
- To The End Of Our Days
- Black Sails At Midnight
- No Quarter
- Pirate Song
- Chronicles Of Vengeance
- Wolves Of The Sea
(The limited edition includes a bonus DVD – Live At Wacken Open Air 2008)
Christopher Bowes – Vocals, Keyboards, Tin Whistle
Dani Evans – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Ian Wilson – Drums, Percussion, Vibraslap, Backing Vocals
Gareth Murdock – Bass
Migo Wagner – Session Drums
Lasse Lambert – Session Guitars, Backing Vocals
Producer: Lasse Lammert
Country: United Kingdom (Scotland)
Total Time = 46:17
Alestorm have set sail on their new voyage across the Metal seas to bring us their new album, BLACK SAILS AT MIDNIGHT, the follow-up to last year’s adventurous debut CAPTAIN MORGAN’S REVENGE. Alestorm is a band of Scotsman who really enjoy their fantasy realm of pirates, pillage and plunder and they use their Power/Folk Metal sound to create what they call “Pirate Metal”. Their music has elements of Thrash, Folk, and Power Metal mixed with orchestration and symphonics to give it a high seas sound. I have to admit I like the pirate gimmick because it’s something different, usually it’s all dungeons & dragons, but the fact that Alestorm are really good musicians makes the gimmick work.
‘The Quest’ opens the album with furious riffage and double bass drumming mixed with folk, it’s a seriously fast and heavy song that starts this pirate tale, a solid straight forward opener. The band immeadiately shows off it’s epic side with the equally heavy ‘Leviathan’ with it’s rolling riffs and symphonic orchestration to narrate the story of hunting one of the high seas’ legendary beasts. Christopher Bowes sings pretty much clean throughout the entire record but there are some aggressive growls on the bridge and chorus, especially the backing vocals, and adds to the diverse sound.
A pirate likes his rum and Alestorm likes it too, ‘That Famous Ol’ Spiced’ is their power tribute to the drink. It’s another speed riff song with the hook filled chorus and orchestration to bolster the sound. I like the tin whistle that mirrors the lyrics on the chorus, if you listen to the album closely you can hear that whistle on almost every song. So what do you do after you drink all that rum? You make a traitor walk the plank! ‘Keelhauled’ is a more traditional pirate sounding song with all the bells, whistles, bagpipes and violins thrown into the Power Metal mix as the band sends their tied traitor overboard to be drowned along their ships’ keel. Sounds like a brutal way to die but the pirates in Alestorm make it sound more of a celebration with a lot of “yo-ho-hos” in for good measure!
The voyage slows down for a ballad…..yes, a ballad! ‘To The End Of Our Days’ is slow and epic and uses the orchestration and some sounds of the sea to create the musical landscape. The song sounds like something Manowar would do but with subpar vocals. Bowes is no Eric Adams and his aggressive snarl doesn’t really fit a ballad but I guess pirates get sentimental at times too! The title track bursts in to keep the album going strong with another power riff feast mixed with complimentary keyboards and heavy drums while ‘No Quarter’ is the same type of song but with more prominent keyboards and no vocals except for a couple of “heys”. I’m not always a big fan of instrumentals because I always feel like it’s an unfinished song…..the band couldn’t come up with any words? The key is to keep the listener interested and ‘No Quarter’ has enough musical layers to keep my attention and it’s pretty good. Now you know there is no way that Alestorm was going to go a whole record without having a song with “pirate” in the title did you? ‘Pirate Song’ is a little to pirate for me and it suffers from the weakest guitar performance of the album until the duelling guitar/keyboard solo. I think the pace has more to do with it because it’s more mid-paced and the pirate theme really works well when the band moves at breakneck speed.
Alestorm moves into epic territory again with ‘Chronicles Of Vengeance’, a tale of battle on the high seas full of powerful guitar and symphonic composition. I have to pair this up with ‘Leviathan’ as two of the top tracks on the record, not just because they are both epics but because both songs are examples of how Alestorm uses a variety of sound to give their songs such an adventurous feel. The closing song, ‘Wolves Of The Sea’, is actually a cover song of the Latvian musical project Pirates Of The Sea, who performed at the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. There are a lot of “hi hi ho’s” and “hi hi hey’s” in this song that set the pirate feel right away but the song is another Power Metal feast…..the gang vocals are really catchy and it’s pretty much straightforward Metal until a quick middle solo that has a Caribbean flavor. If there was ever an anthem for Alestorm, this would be it! I can just see this being a concert favorite complete with audience participation on the chorus. I know it’s a cover song, and I can’t stand that, but it’s a really catchy tune…..the hook in the chorus is what gets you.
I’m a sucker for a good gimmick and Alestorm have sucked me in with their lyrical imagery of all things pirates! The concept is still pretty fresh when you consider how much swords & sorcery there is in Metal today, there really are only a few bands out their flying their jolly roger high for Pirate Metal. Alestorm has stormed back with a sophomore album that really doesn’t stray too far from the debut’s direction but I guess that’s the whole point. When you’re do something well then you keep doing it until it’s not successful. There’s enough different styles of Metal to please a wide range of fans but the core focus is probably on the Power, Epic and Viking Metal fans. There are some diverse songs with different sounds and tempos but there are also couple that sound like they’ve been done before. I really like the album and I haven’t stopped playing it since I bought it…..I guess you could say I’m “hooked”! Definitely a really good solid fun record, one of my favorites of the year so far.
‘The Quest’, ‘Leviathan’, ‘That Famous Ol’ Spiced’, ‘Keelhauled’, ‘No Quarter’, ‘Chronicles Of Vengeance’, ’Wolves Of The Sea’