Wednesday, April 20, 2022

CD Odyssey Disc 1553: Alestorm

It was cold out today, but I still managed to get out for a run over my lunch break. I always listen to the album I’ll be reviewing when I go running (it counts under rule #4, since running is basically “walking around” only faster). My device doesn’t play set playlists very well (I refused to download the proprietary software that would have assisted), so when I get to the end of the album, I just press “back” until I’m back to the first song. Sometimes I go one too far back, and get whatever song is on the previous album.

Today that happened but instead of skipping back to the start of this next album, I played that one extra song in its entirety. Granted, the song was Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” which is nigh irresistible, but it was a sign this next record was failing to hold my attention.

Disc 1553 is…. Black Sails at Midnight

Artist: Alestorm

Year of Release: 2009

What’s up with the Cover? Alestorm loves pirates, and for their cover art they like those pirates to be zombie pirates. It is hard to say if these particular zombie pirates are here to fight or to party. I mean, sure they’re brandishing torches and an assortment of weaponry, but there’s a certain festive quality to their demeanor. Even the pirate rat in the lower left appears equally enthused by his cutlass and his tankard of ale.

How I Came To Know It: I discovered the band while falling into a folk metal exploration on Youtube, but this specific album came relatively late, as I dug through the band’s back catalogue.

How It Stacks Up: I have four Alestorm albums. Of those four, “Black Sails at Midnight” is easily the weakest, coming in at #4.

Ratings: 2 stars but almost 3

I don’t believe in the myth of the ‘sophomore curse” but Alestorm’s second record, “Black Sails at Midnight” did flirt dangerously close to proving the theory.

This record has all the hallmarks that should make an Alestorm album great. It is rousing folk metal, with plenty of sea chanties dressed up with power chords and festooned with songs about the pirate life.

There are some solid entries holding things up. The title track has a guitar riff so furious it would be at home on a more serious record, and while this song is unquestionably about pirates, it is the most serious Alestorm gets on the subject, with a galloping swell, and even a healthy doss of double bass to show just how enthusiastic they are about flying the black (although flying it at night I was left wondering – could anyone see it…?”). The song has a fury that would be enjoyable regardless of the subject matter. It is not all that inventive, but there is something to be said for power metal played well.

There are also solid examples of what Alestorm does best: tunes designed for singing along and a choreographed audience of fans spilling beer all over the dance floor as they pump their drinkin’ arms in unison. “That Famous Ole Spiced” is a solid example of the experience, albeit designed more for rum than beer.

Also on the fun side, is “Wolves of the Sea” which is a cover of a song from 2008’s Eurovision, courtesy of Latvian disco-pop band, “Pirates of the Sea.” If nothing else, I’ll always appreciate Alestorm for driving me to see the hot mess of the original which is everything terrible and wonderful about European competition TV, all wrapped up in one three-minute cheese-fest.

Unfortunately, a few good songs and a metal cover of Eurovision’s 12th best song are not enough for this record, which failed to consistently impress, and often had me wishing I was listening to any one of the three better Alestorm records in my collection.

Sometimes it is the arrangement, such as the opening violin/accordion hoke-fest that wrecks the otherwise passable “Keelhauled”. Other times it is the slow sway of “To The End Of Our Days” which wants to be a serious dirge, but comes off more as a drunken plod. Or maybe they were going for a drunken plod. With Alestorm, that is always a possibility.

No Quarter” is an instrumental that doesn’t ever develop melodically, giving it the feel of music you might enjoy in the background of a pirate-themed video game, but of limited interest beyond that.

I love Alestorm, and they are one of the best live shows I’ve seen. If you get a chance to go see them, I suggest you go. They are great, and their fans are equal parts rabid and delightful. I also love most of their studio albums, which mix humour, bombast and a natural talent for anthemic songwriting. However, while “Black Sails at Midnight” has some bright spots, you’ll be much better pleased with other, better records in their discography.

Best tracks: That Famous Ole Spiced, Black Sails at Midnight, Pirate Song

1 comment:

Sheila said...

That Eurovision video was gold - how did they not win?? ;-P Looking forward to enjoying this album in the rotation soon!