Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: August 1, 2014
Genre: Pirate Metal
Christopher Bowes – Vocals, Keyboards
Dani Evans – Guitar
Gareth Murdock – Bass
Elliot Vernon – Keyboards
Peter Alcorn – Drums
1. Walk the Plank
3. Magnetic North
4. 1741 (The Battle of Cartagena)
5. Mead from Hell
6. Surf Squid Warfare
7. Quest for Ships
8. Wooden Leg!
9. Hangover (Taio Cruz cover)
10. Sunset on the Golden Age
As far as gimmick bands go, Alestorm have proven themselves to be one of the most consistently entertaining, with their unique brand of Running Wild inspired pirate metal immediately impressing me on their debut Captain Morgan’s Revenge. While the follow up Black Sails at Midnight felt a little watered down and less impressive, their third album Back Through Time was more than a simple return to form: It was their breakthrough album, with some more epic material to go with their typically fun and silly pirate anthems, which seemed to be more energetic than ever before. It both proved that they were good enough performers and songwriters to make their gimmick work, and that they have just a bit more in them than some people may have initially suspected. With their upcoming fourth album, Sunset on the Golden Age, they have taken all aspects of their sound even further and have produced what is by far their best album to date.
Alestorm are mostly known for their comedic and instantly catchy pirate anthems, which fluidly blend together elements of power metal, folk metal, symphonic metal and thrash, and there’s certainly an abundance of those on this album. At the same time, it feels like they’ve taken their music to the next level on this one, with several surprises and a couple songs that are far more grand and epic than anything they’ve done in the past. Right away on “Walk The Plank” the symphonic elements are more prominent than normal, and while it’s a speedy, instantly engaging album opener like you’d expect from Alestorm, it has a less cheesy but more epic feel to it than one might expect, and this carries on through roughly half of the album. In fact, this album could best be described in two halves, with roughly half of the album featuring some of their most dynamic, most inventive and most epic material to date, and the other half emphasizing the silly pirate anthems fans have come to expect from them. Fans of their more fun side need not worry, as the shorter, more straight-forward songs certainly have not lost their edge. In fact, songs like “Drink”, “Mead From Hell” and “Wooden Leg” rank among their most addictive songs ever. But it’s the more epic material that helps make this their first truly outstanding album.
One thing that sets Alestorm apart from any other pirate themed band is Christopher Bowes. While I’ve heard a few metal bands with songs about pirates, I’ve never heard any other with a vocalist who can deliver a convincing performance while maintaining an authentic pirate voice, which is exactly what Christopher manages to do. Because of his unique style, there are times when his delivery sounds a bit strained, but I actually think he’s improved a lot over the years, and on the more epic material on this album he sounds quite impressive. On the track Death Throes of the Terrorsquid, from their previous album, they added in some harsh vocals, and on this album they are much more prominent. In fact, this album has by far their widest range of vocals yet, and it all sounds awesome, with even the harsh vocals maintaining that authentic pirate feel.
After “Walk The Plank” gets this ship sailing at full speed, “Drink” comes along and pushes past any storm that could come along. Among their sillier songs, I think this one may be their best yet, as it has a perfect blend of folk elements and metal riffs, to go along with possibly their most addictive chorus yet, and a hilarious second verse which references various songs from all of their previous releases. Continuing with the lighter material, “Mead From Hell”, Surf Squid Warfare” and “Quest for Ships” are neatly grouped together, as they are all speedier, thrash influenced songs which would have fit in perfectly on Back Through Time. “Wooden Leg!” takes the silliness to a whole new level, with Christopher comically lashing out at the Japanese and the Spanish for giving him two wooden legs, and the result is a hilarious screamed chorus that’s both insanely stupid and ridiculously catchy at the same time. The fun tracks end with the cover version of Taio Cruz’s “Hangover”, a surprising choice considering the original was a dance pop song. This version keeps the same basic tune, while replacing the electronic elements with Alestorm’s brand of keyboard enhanced folk metal. The result is surprisingly awesome, and Christopher even gives us a fun pirate rap section at one point.
Moving onto the more epic material, I already mentioned the excellent opening track, but shortly after that we have “Magnetic North”, which is probably my least favorite on the album, though it’s still a great song. It starts off as a mid-tempo track, with some particularly epic vocal melodies, until the band suddenly decides to unleash some harsh vocals on the listener. These harsh vocals appear quite a bit throughout the album, but my favorite use of them happens very suddenly on the 7 minute mini epic “1971 (The Battle of Cartagena”), which is one of the biggest highlights. It’s a very epic track with several tempo changes throughout, and some nice twists and turns, which places it somewhat along the lines of “Death Throes of the Terrorsquid”, though I think it may be even better. Lastly, we have the closing title track, which happens to be an 11 minute epic. It’s a bit slow paced and straight-forward compared to “1741”, but it’s every bit as epic, and the chorus is quite spectacular. I tend to prefer their more fun side, but I think both epics on this album are excellent, and more importantly, they help prove that Alestorm band can be much more that just a fun gimmick band.
Sunset on the Golden Age is an excellent album which is equal parts familiar and surprising. It delivers the typically fun pirate tunes fans have come to love and expect from the band, while also showing them add more of a dynamic and epic sound to their music. I’m hoping the name proves to be wrong, though: Hopefully this will be looked back on in the future as the dawn of a golden age for Alestorm.
Written by Travis