Monday 11 May 2020

Alestorm - The Treasure Chest EP (2020)

Country: UK
Style: Folk/Power Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 30 Apr 2020
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Every time Alestorm put out a new record, I wonder if it's going to mark the moment when their particular shtick becomes old. I wondered that when their second album, Black Sails at Midnight, came out in 2009, because, in its way, their debut, Captain Morgan's Revenge, was a novelty record and such things are not known for lasting past their respective sell by dates. Somehow, I'm still wondering it over a decade on, but I'm still enjoying their new songs even if my eyes roll at the same time. They're not scraping the barrel yet.

This EP is a teaser for the new album, Curse of the Crystal Coconut, due out on 29th May and that title does give me pause, as do the two original songs here, both of which had previously been issued as singles. The running time nudges over twenty minutes through the inclusion of three further songs that we know, but show up in live versions from 2019, presumably from the Tilburg show that was released in full on YouTube.

The original material is interesting because it's recognisably Alestorm but isn't afraid to be a little different. Treasure Chest Party Quest is mostly what we expect: a deliberately over the top song that manages to be catchier than most pop songs. "We're only here to have fun," sings the irrepressible Christopher Bowes, "get drunk and make loads of money." However, mention of pop music is appropriate because there are clear pop sensibilities creeping into the chorus of this song and they're even more obvious on Tortuga.

That's not necessarily a bad thing and, while we've got used to metal bands covering pop songs for the sheer hell of it, it would be hilarious if a pop band in the vein of, say, the Spice Girls, recorded a pop cover of Treasure Chest Party Quest. In fact, that could be a gimmick for a bonus disc on the album, in a similar way to how No Grave But the Sea was released in a double disc edition that replaced Bowes with samples of dogs barking.

Tortuga is the more ambitious pop song and, if a parallel universe Alestorm went with that bonus disc of pop covers, this would probably be a highlight, with a boy band singing most of it and a guest rapper showing up when needed for extra texture. It feels like a rap song even during the first verse when Bowes snarls in his usual Scottish brogue, but it becomes more overt when a guest, Captain Yarrface of fellow Scottish pirate metal band Rumahoy, joins in. Yes, this is apparently a movement nowadays.

The live songs are varied. Drink and Fucked with an Anchor are as lively as they ought to be with just as much audience participation. The former is an insanely catchy singalong song that I remember being particularly infectious in a live environment. The latter, which hadn't come out last time I saw the band live, is the same to the nth. It's surely the most ridiculous accordion driven pirate metal singalong ever recorded and I would love to see Alestorm outdo that one. In between is a early classic, Nancy the Tavern Wench, but it feels a little tired here.

At the end of the day, Alestorm remain as much over the top fun as ever and I'm a little more eager to see if the new album follows suit. I will drop a point off the 7/10 I was going to go with, though, because this was released so close to the album, which will feature both new songs, which fans already have from the single releases, and the live material is previously available too. It's a bit of a cheap move but then these are pirates, right?

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