There is no getting away from the fact that folk metal is not for everyone and bands like Alestorm from Perth, Scotland, divide opinions more than most. Their form of the genre, tagged pirate metal because of the Jolly Roger thematic nature of the band and music, comes with a thick coating of humour and fun which many, for whatever reason, have a problem with. They are blatant and in the face with the fact it is all a big show but there is no denying even by their harshest critics that the quartet deliver songs that thrive on rampaging riffs and incisive and infectious melodies that are wonderfully hard to ignore. They are the metal equivalent of Tenpole Tudor, creating a total package of swashbuckling fun that is meant to be enjoyed not analysed.
The Scottish quartet release their third album “Back Through Time”, on Napalm Records, and once more it is bulging with tales of pirates and drinking, as well as some more creative aspects, such as time travel as in the opening track ‘Back Through Time’. It is an instantly accessible burst of speed metal with heavy riffs that drill deep inside as the melodies and brass sounds dance on the ear. It is also impossible not to find oneself joining in with the chorus, the group chants irresistible as is the urge for a shot of rum.
As the tracks come and go there is nothing ground breaking or far removed from anything they have already released but really it does not matter whilst listening, as every track is built and created to have maximum effect on the listener’s sense of fun. On reflection thoughts or wishes for something more unique might show their face, but in the middle of the wave of metal that Alestorm deliver it really does not matter when it is this much fun.
The new video featured track ‘Shipwrecked’ follows and alongside later gem ‘Buckfast Powersmash’, is the best song on the album. The driving thrash sound combines perfectly with the accompanying accordion delights and the pure Municipal Waste or Suicidal Tendencies ending is agreeably tasty. The bass of Gareth Murdock is an impressive feature throughout the whole album and here gloriously growls behind the harsh grating vocals of Christopher Bowes. He is not the most natural voice the band could have and like their music splits opinions, but he delivers the humorous and rousing lyrics with a pirate gruffness and passionate conviction, he lives the song in his performance and that can only add to the music.
Though there is a similarity as mentioned to previous releases and between the songs contained within “Back Through Time” there are plenty of differences too, to keep it all engaging. The Horslips sounding melodies within ‘The Sunk ‘n Norwegian’, ‘Rum’ a pirate version of a Korpiklaani type drinking song, and the creative diversity of ‘Scraping The Barrel’, all offer something extra to keep the listener intrigued, the latter of the three songs especially. It may not be the best song on “Back Through Time” but it is the most interesting with a sound that seems to switch from Municipal Waste territory to moments that are Flogging Molly and Giraffes Casino, whilst the guitars and forceful drums of Dani Evans and Pete Alcorn respectively, beam with enthusiasm.
Whether Alestorm can keep on producing this same style of song release after release to welcoming satisfaction only time will tell, though with the closing track ‘Death Throes Of The Terrorsquid’ there is a darker feel coming in that maybe for the band is worth investigation.
For all fans of Korpiklaani, Turisas, and Tyr, if you have not yet been press ganged by Alestorm now is your chance. “Back Through Time” may not be the first port of call on your musical voyage but it certainly will be the most fun. It delivers what it says on the tin, adventure on the high seas, pirate thrills and spills, and pure unadulterated fun.