Wednesday 3 June 2020

Alestorm - Curse of the Crystal Coconut (2020)

Country: UK
Style: Folk/Power Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 30 Apr 2020
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Following hot on the heels of the teaser that was The Treasure Chest EP, the new Alestorm album is as fun as it ought to be and frankly has to be for the band to remain fresh and not the novelty act they so often threaten to be. I have to admit that Treasure Chest Party Quest has soaked into my skin and a bunch of songs here may well end up do the same thing. The album is riddled through with silliness but Christopher Bowes and his crew continue to play a straight game with a wink and it's still working for the most part.

Fannybaws is a silly song about a legendary pirate who's done everything and everybody, including your mum. Chomp Chomp is a silly shanty, fast and heavy and about a giant alligator, because of course it is. Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship is a silly song about, well, you know precisely what it's about because the title gives it away, just as Pirate Metal Drinking Crew does. All these tracks are decent but they're also mostly what anyone who's ever heard even part of an Alestorm album will have expected from this one.

To be fair, Alestorm occasionally mix things up even within the confines of their own tried and tested formula. Sure, they still play power metal with a heavy side of folk, not least through the violin of Ally Storch of Subway to Sally, who guests throughout. Sure, it's all still driven by shanty melodies and a glorious sense for hooks, if that's remotely appropriate terminology for a pirate metal band. Sure, Bowes still delivers his sneering piratical vocals and his own particular brand of dark humour.

Tortuga is the most obviously different song here and I'm surprised to find that it's grown on me like a fungus since I first heard it last month on The Treasure Chest EP. It has an overt pop sensibility to it, sometimes sounding like a boy band gone folk metal with a guest rap section, and that's not the Alestorm I thought I'd be drawn to, but it's done very well and it's a welcome diversion from the norm.

The other songs that do something different are Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship and Wooden Leg Part 2 (The Woodening). The former veers into symphonic metal waters, down to a guest female vocal that works really well. The latter has a chiptune section that's just as pop in its way as Tortuga. It's also epic in nature, running over eight minutes, even if the story it tells isn't deep enough to warrant that.

If Wooden Leg Part 2 is problematic in a few ways, not least a cheap stretch of a chorus, it's not the worst song here because it is at least fun and, by the end, endearingly ridiculous. That accolade surely has to go to Shit Boat (No Fans), which is a wasted minute and change of pointless profanity. Now, Alestorm can be both profane and funny, as in Fucked by an Anchor, possibly their catchiest track ever, but this loses the funny so just sounds awkward.

If you're already an Alestorm fan, this is going to be another fun release for you but, if you aren't, this is less likely to convert you than earlier albums. Check out Black Sails at Midnight first or Captain Morgan's Revenge.

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