Sunday, September 24, 2023

CD Odyssey Disc 1677: Alestorm

Despite a weekend dominated by weekend travel, I was able to sneak in a few private moments and get this review written. There is no sacrifice I am unwilling to make to ensure your music exploration needs are met, gentle reader.

Disc 1677 is…Seventh Rum of a Seventh Rum

Artist: Alestorm

Year of Release: 2022

What’s up with the Cover?  Here we have the famous undead pirate that graces many an Alestorm album, pouring a drink from his seventh bottle of rum. The other six bottles (representing Alestorm’s first six albums) lay drained and strewn about.

He has a look of anticipatory glee on his face, likely not realizing he doesn’t have sufficient internal organ integrity to get drunk. Maybe he just likes the taste.

How I Came To Know It: I started out on my Alestorm journey back in 2017 when they released “No Grave But the Sea” and I’ve been exploring their discography in both directions ever since. For a while there I tried to be discerning and only buy the very best of their discography, but in the last few years I’ve surrendered to the inevitable truth; I love these guys, even when they’re not at their best.

How It Stacks Up: I have seven Alestorm albums, which is all of them. “Seventh Rum of a Seventh Rum” (unsurprisingly, their seventh) is a not their best, but as noted above, I still had a good time. That said, I must perforce rate said good time against the relative good times I’ve had with their other records. In this case, we come up on the bottom half of the list at #5.

Rating: 3 stars but just barely

After a bit of a folksy (for them) record on 2020’s “Cure of the Crystal Coconut” Alestorm bring a bit more of the crunch back to their efforts on “Seventh Rum).

While the record has more furious bass drums and dense arrangements than I’ve seen from Alestorm in a few records, make no mistake – these guys steadfastly refuse to take themselves seriously. They are here to have a good time doing exactly what they do on every record – mix folk and metal together and sing – exclusively – about pirates. Or as it is simply summarized by we who choose to soak in their particular lunacy: pirate metal.

There are some variations within this theme, but they are narrow. Alestorm pirates like to go on quests, steal ships, seek booty, and drink lots of rum. They also throw in pirate-adjacent themes such as partying (which they do a lot) and insulting whoever is listening (also done with frequency). Both of those latter things fit within the piracy…idiom, but I’d say Alestorm makes it a greater focus of pirate life than maybe Edward Teach did.

On the party front, we have the appropriately named “P.A.R.T.Y.” which also has some questing but the main focus of this song is to create an opportunity for the audience to sing along as they spell out “party” in unison. There is also some of their signature keytar, as well as lead singer Christopher Bowe’s signature Scottish brogue, exhorting you to join in the fun.

On the insult front, they’ve got lots of examples. Here’s one of many on the record, this one from the song “Cannonball”:

“Yo ho! Stick a cannonball up your c___
Yo ho! Put your dick in a blender”

The blender reference is off-brand, but you can’t deny it paints a picture. If you don’t like your rock icons telling you where to stick it, Alestorm is not for you. Having seen them live, I can attest that their fans take a great deal of pride in all the expletive-laced invective. The fans shout such lines back up at the stage as vigorously as those on it sing it downward. It’s a lot of fun.

Under Blackened Banners” is my favourite song on the record sums up this whole feeling of belonging to the “tribe” of piracy mythology Alestorm has developed. The chorus has a nod to pretty much everything that makes this band fun to some, and exasperating to most:

“Raise your hook, raise your sword
Fight the world and face the hordes
We’re the brotherhood of violence,
We’re the sisters of the sea
Sailing under blackened banners
Stealing ships and getting hammered
The destiny of pirates belongs to you and me.”

This song opens with the historically-challenged line “5,000 years ago in the age of dinosaurs” Are Alestorm this stupid? Reader they are not. In fact, they’ve made quite a career out of pretending to be idiots.

Musically this stuff has a lot of folk conventions to composition, landing somewhere between Russian traditional dance tunes and Irish (or I suppose Scottish in this case) drinking songs, with a liberal helping of power chords to fuel the experience.

“Seventh Rum” is named after the Iron Maiden record, “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” (reviewed back at Disc 1317) and while like a lot of European power metal bands they are clearly influenced musically by Maiden. However, don’t expect the complicated musical compositions of Steve Harris here. Alestorm have discovered a sound they know how to do well, and they stay very much in their lane. What that lacks in creativity the band makes up for with sheer enthusiasm.

For their last three records, Alestorm has following an ongoing saga titled, “Wooden Leg” and “Seventh Rum…” features the third installment of the tale. The original “Wooden Leg” is solid enough, although I’m not sure it warrants two more chapters. But like a lot of what Alestorm does on “Seventh Rum…” they leave no room for such discerning critical consideration. Jump in and enjoy yourself. Or stick your dick in a blender. Whatever you prefer.

Best tracks: The Battle of Cape Fear River, Cannonball, Under Blackened Banners, Seventh Rum of a Seventh Rum, Return to Tortuga

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