Friday 5 April 2024

The Dread Crew of Oddwood - Rust & Glory (2024)

Country: USA
Style: Pirate Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 15 Mar 2024
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Wow, it's been nine years since I saw the Dread Crew of Oddwood supporting Alestorm at the late lamented Joe's Grotto. They were great that night, playing their distinctive brand of pirate metal that's entirely acoustic, and it's good to hear them again on their fifth album. The line-up is most of the same people, with only the drummer changing since that time, the current occupant of the stool being named simply Pete, an uncharacteristically banal name for a member of this band. I'm not going to see them on the current tour, supporting Týr, but my son is and I'm eager to hear how they played.

Opener Lawful Evil is exactly the sort of song they ought to play at a folk metal gig. It's up tempo, vibrant, energetic, furious even, that makes it entirely sound like metal even though it's acoustic. There's a hard edge to the instrumental midsection and just enough harsh on the vocals to do the same there without stopping the lyrics being entirely understandable. And, of course, pirates are not remotely lawful evil, unless they're privateers. That's acknowledged at the end, when a Dread Crew member points out that they're clearly chaotic evil. That's the feel this album delivers.

The good news is that most of the rest of it plays into that chaotic evil acoustic metal mindset and the result is a lot of fun. The bad news is that not all songs are created equal and there are some here that simply don't carry the punch of others, so that, while I wouldn't skip any of these on my tenth time through, a few are going to slide into the background by that point while others won't. Leather Ship is one of those. It's not a bad song and it gets a little furious as it goes, but it's not a second Lawful Evil. And it's not remotely Lost Comrades.

The Dread Crew are a fascinating band because they're not out of place rocking out at a metal gig but they also fairly perform at renaissance festivals and Lost Comrades is a shanty that is overtly designed for the latter, not because it has an inherent sing-a-long melody but because it bulks up the backing vocals so much that they're often almost duet partners, even though it's really a call and response number. Let's run through the crew. How did he die? Better him than I! On the other hand, Squall of Death features some lovely frantic drums, that make it galloping stuff perfect to stir up some serious pit action.

Oh, and if its narrative section, introduced with a heartfelt "Holy shit!" isn't enough for you to see the humour inherent in almost everything the Dread Crew do, then next up is a song called Giant Fucking Demon Crab, which is about, well, a giant fucking demon crab. Because, why not? Hey, I'm a Guy N. Smith fan. I'm inherently on board with giant fucking demon crabs, even if Cliff Davenport isn't there in the lyrics to take them down at the end until the inevitable sequel. We could adopt it as a theme tune anyway.

And that's this album in a nutshell, even though I've only talked about the first five tracks. There are a bunch of up tempo rockers. The Glass of Firewine ups the energy again, even though it's an instrumental piece, while Give Me Your Beer doubles that, with delicate picking and an earworm bridge. The chorus isn't elegant but it's as catchy as you might expect given the song's title. There are a lot of fun songs here. Is it pirate party time in Tavern Brawl? That's an overt nod to the band I first saw them supporting. Give Me Your Beer easily counts as fun and the accordion of Wolfbeard O'Brady comes to the fore in Corpse Juice Medley.

The only catch is that there are more of those less obvious numbers, none of them bad but none worthy of being listed among the songs listed within the previous paragraph. Evil Tide is pleasant enough on its own but it's inevitably subdued, even tame, after Squall of Death and Giant Fucking Demon Crab. I can see people leaping into the pit for the former and following whatever madness O'Brady raises in the latter, then heading back to the bar for this one. And there are songs that I'd say are sadly most notable for their titles, like Revenge Prawn, which is a gem of a name for a ship and a song about it, and Locomotive Death for that matter. These songs are merely there. They're not bad, because there are no bad songs here, but they're unable to live up to their titles.

And so that's the fifth album from the Dread Crew of Oddwood, no fewer than eight years after a fourth, Lawful Evil, which, I should add, did not feature a song called Lawful Evil, which opens this one instead. That may seem weird, but if Led Zeppelin and AC/DC can do it, so can the Dread Crew. After all, they're pirates, right?

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