Alestorm – Captain Morgan's Revenge
Originally I had seen and heard of this band "AleStorm" through iTunes and CDNow's (I refuse to refer to it as Amazon as the original companies URL still navigates the page, obviously for customer continuity reasons. Don't get me wrong I love Amazon) respective "related artists" and "customers also bought"features. And every time I saw it I said to myself "Well it's related to bands that are most certainly good and indefinitely worth purchasing and listening to, do I really need more motivation?" Regardless, due to being pre-occupied with something or other or just lazy, or a combination of both in addition to other things, I never got around to buying or downloading their first album until the last two weeks. Captain Morgan's Revenge, their major label debut with Napalm Records came out in January 20008, it's now April 2009. As odd and shallow as it may seem, at the point when I discovered this album, I was literally basing music purchases and downloads upon the quality and appeal of the album's cover art, which isn't necessarily a fallible strategy when it comes to metal artists because most metal artists have beautiful artwork on their albums, and those same artists typically end up being the most worthwhile to listen to.
I won't go into the band's history as this is a review of this album, not of the band itself, but as a debut album review I must discuss as much of their style and a brief history of the artist as is required to establish a familiarity. Alestorm hails from Perth, in northern Scotland above Edinburgh and Glasgow, and were formerly known under the name of Battleheart, the original title of the band when it was formed in 2004. As aforementioned, iTunes and Amazon (I use these two because they're the only mainstream music services worth trusting. Don't get me wrong, there are many free music services that are quite astounding.) associates Alestorm with bands such as Firewind, Mastodon, Tyr, Turisas, which all play a genre of music that reviewers are calling "battle metal", and considering it's the name of one of Turisas' albums as well as several metal compilation albums featuring these bands, in combination with their actual musical style, it seems to work for me. Also, I'm not sure if the major music services make this assosication, but I would most definitely associate Alestorm's musical style with that of Korpiklaani and similar bands like Eluveitie.
Unfortunately to anyone who doesn't necessarily listen to those specific bands or metal in general (though I don't know why you would be reading the review instead of just listening to it first if that were the case, I'm glad you are trying) that doesn't necessarily tell you anything. Hopefully the following comparisons will give you a clue but if all else fails I may just resort to some actual descriptive abilities. Alestorm, to me, sounds like Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, Metallica, Blind Guardian and Korpkilaani had a cross-over dream with each other and it turned into a band. If you ever wanted to hear the inherently cheery and entertaining sound of Flogging Molly or the Murphys set to a faster, metal, exclusively fictional (Pirates aren't fictional obviously, though at this point the popular European kind are) rhythm, I'd have to say Alestorm is exactly what you're looking for.
Musically, Alestorm is exactly as complex as you would come to expect from underrated and less mainstream metal artists these days. Like Blind Guardian, In Flames, Iced Earth, Korpiklaani, Hammerfall, any metal band you can think of that doesn't play the "death" metal style, every song by Alestorm is rich with sound. Their actual instrument line-up isn't any more erudite or versatile than the standard metal band, featuring the typical three instruments and a keyboard, but it doesn't stop them from making each song sound distinct and different enough to be memorable. Their songs range from Dragonforce-style epics (minus the absurd amount of intertwining guitarists) replacing tales of Dragons with accounts of plunder, sailing the high seas and booty, to less serious modern day pirate sea shantys that wouldn't feel too out of place on a Flogging Molly album.
In an age where pirates are romanticized in Hollywood films, video games, novels, and inaccurately used to refer to distributors and illegal acquirers of copyrighted material, debuting to the world with the concept of Scottsh pirate metal is actually a rather intelligent commercial endeavor. Most people in our age group (18 -25), including those younger and older, are quite fond of pirates. Whether because of Disneyworld's ride, its' awful movie trilogy, or because of their strong ideological convictions about file "piracy", people identify to some extent with piracy or are at the very least entertained by it. In addition, with their second album coming out, the recent international Somalian pirate incident and the ensuing South Park parody have done their share to keep pirates fresh on the public's mind.
Other reviewers have mentioned the two potential problems with Alestorm's success and future as a musical artist. I think most legitimate of these two concerns is the Dragonforce scenario, or what some people believe to be the case with Dragonforce. They came out and they were awesome and then almost immediately people said "Okay that's enough, shut up, just shut up with your three guitars and your dragons" and as soon as Dragonforce was "popular" they were immediately "crucified" by public opinion. Maybe that is the case, I don't pay attention to trends in the music audience, I just listen to music I like, because that's what music is for. Second, others have stated that they feel Alestorms style is built too much upon their colleagues in the power/folk metal genre, which honestly is quite irrelevant because that happens with every new band. In time they were chisel out their own unique style, their second major label album hasn't even come out yet.
All in all I absolutely love their first album and as I wrote this I listened to their second album, and loved that just as much. The song that stands out the most to me from Captain Morgan's Revenge is "Wenches and Mead", for its jovial tone and in my opinion absolutely hilarious subject matter. Not because I objectify women and I think it's funny to refer to them as wenches (though you have to admit it's funny to hear the word wenches in lieu of the more offensive bitches, come on) but it's just a funny song when you consider that even though it's supposed to be a pirate thing to head to a tavern for mead and wenches, it stands the test of time both a thousand years before the height of piracy and today, centuries after the supposed extermination of piracy. Could we as males ask for much more? It's quite simple.
A wench by my side and a jug of mead,
these are the things that I most need,
so I sit back and sing this song
and drink and party all night long.
Hey hey, I want more wenches,
hey hey more wenches and mead,
hey hey I want more wenches,
lots of wenches is what I need".
Yarr, ye be buyin this cd, ya hear me landlubbers!