Reviewing Alestorm albums is fast becoming pointless. This is their seventh album and, if you have heard even one of them, well, this is another one. On it, they do everything that they do as well as they did on whichever one you heard last. It's not better. It's not worse. It's not different. It makes their catalogue of songs eleven richer and that's about it. The only useful comment I could add to fans is that they don't try to vary their formula here, as they did a little last time out, on Curse of the Crystal Coconut. So, if you're a fan, you can quit reading now and return to your rum. If you've never heard of Alestorm, then read on, my friend.
Alestorm are a pirate metal band from Scotland, which means that they play a form of folk/power metal that's rooted in sea shanties and is full of hook-laden singalong songs. And they're all about pirates, because that's all that matters in the world of Alestorm. Everyone's a pirate or they don't count. And every pirate has a hook hand, a wooden leg and a fondness for rum, or they don't count either. Oh, and their lyrics, as generic as they often become, are alternately blisteringly clever and pointlessly puerile, which is something that probaby divides fans more than anything else.
For instance, this album opens up with Magellan's Expedition, where they deserve plenty of kudos for getting "proud Lusitanian shores", "the Castilian throne" and "Tierra del Fuego" into its lyrics, not to forget even managing to rhyme "Fernão Magalhães". That's ambitious and clever and it's a solid indication that these pirates aren't idiots. Another is the fact that, while they sing primarily in English, Magellan's Expedition also features a section sung in Latin; Wooden Leg (Part III) is in a combination of Spanish, Japanese and English; and Magyarország features sections in Hungarian, including a moment where they rhyme "Velence" with "Csöröge". I raise my glass in admiration!
And then there's the chorus of The Battle of Cape Fear River, in which we learn how foul mouthed Blackbeard was and, just to escalate even further, the chorus of Cannonball, which prompts a good deal of self-examination as to why we keep listening to Alestorm. Sure, they do this well, but it's an awkward business model to market your band to eight year old prepubescent boys who giggle at a mention of the C word in a song. I remember when Viz started Rude Kid and it was funny for being so irreverent and unexpected, but it did its job after one panel. Forty years on, it's just stupid.
And that means that my reaction to this album is roughly 70% enjoying Alestorm sounding exactly like Alestorm; 5% grinning at really clever bits or really cool moments that I wasn't expecting; and 25% rolling my eyes at either how juvenile a song is or how generic. As I mentioned earlier, this is a seventh album for Alestorm. How many songs are we going to get about how fantastic it is to be a pirate because you can steal stuff and get drunk in good company? If that didn't get old on side A of their debut album fourteen years ago, it got old by Side B. Another half dozen albums later and we could write some of these lyrics while they're playing the song.
If that all sounds overly critical for a band who don't take themselves remotely seriously, I should add that Alestorm still do this really well. Every song is an opportunity for a singalong and, if you happen to be drunk and in good company, all the better. If you threatened me with keelhauling if I didn't pick a highlight, I'd go with Under Blackened Banners. It's one of the most generic songs on the album lyrically, but it's particularly bouncy with particularly good hooks and it features a duel between keytar, guitar and keyboards that's a lot of fun. There's also a breakdown with a fiddle, a narrative section and some great exscalations. We can forgive generic lyrics.
If you don't like that one, well, you're out of luck then. The other ten songs aren't far off being the same thing, just not done quite as memorably. There are little touches that you might enjoy in one song or another, like the 8 bit nods in Cannonball and Come to Brazil. Maybe you'll dig P.A.R.T.Y., a song so commercially aware that it could have been a cover of a Spice Girls single with a different stylistic filter on it. And yeah, that may or may not make you want to listen to it. But, at the end of the day, this is Alestorm being Alestorm and you're either into it or not.