Hide the booze and lock up your valuables, Alestorm are back. The Scottish “Pirate Metal” five piece have mastered a formula that brings fantasy stories about plundering buckaneers questing the high seas, fighting everything they see and getting absolutely wasted on all manner of alcoholic beverages with a wide variety of musical styles stemming out of the metal genre. They've been doing this since 2004, and their latest musical venture, fifth album No Grave But The Sea, takes all the qualities that makes Alestorm so uniquely brilliant and runs with them.
Right off the bat, opening song and album title track 'No Grave But The Sea' delivers a plethora of grand brass instruments accompanied by steady metal guitar, and a chorus that will make you want to hop in the first boat you see and set off into the horizon on an epic quest. Perhaps you'd sail to 'Mexico', which is the setting (and title) of track number two. This is a full on piratic party anthem, that features a brief chiptune sequence that structures the main tune of the song when the rest of the instruments kick in.
Released as the second single from the album, 'Mexico' see's a very different side of Alestorm quite reminiscent of their cover of Taio Cruz's 'Hangover'. However, longtime fans need not be concerned that the band are changing it up too much or leaving their old style behind, as there are plenty of tracks on this album that bring back the fantasy inspired lyrics and feeling of adventure found on previous albums. 'To The End Of The World' is one such track, taking us back to familiar territory and utilising techniques from all of their previous albums. It's a lengthy song that features lyrics about battles and sailing, melodic gang vocals, alongside that classic accordion and flute combo and some steady power metal guitar work and drumming.
With the self titled song 'Alestorm', which was also the first single released from the album, the band have managed to dip their toes into a metalcore style sound, with yet another colossal chorus to sing along to and instrumentals sounding like a heavy metal barn dance, this song is a true crowd pleaser. The growling vocals supplied by keyboardist Elliot Vernon really shine here, making them sound more dangerous and heavier than ever before. “Rum, beer, quests and mead, these are the things that a pirate needs” bellows frontman Chris Bowes, the song standing testament to the fact that Alestorm are capable of writing some of the catchiest hooks you've ever heard, despite the pirate theme. 'Bar und Imbiss' is another tale of swashbuckling debauchery, looting and killing, but the next song on this album is one that, in a room full of shiny treasures, would be the glistening crown jewel at the very top of the pile.
'Fucked with an Anchor' is an undeniable anthem, and arguably the greatest song the band have ever recorded. Opening up with a happy guitar jingle, we are treated to the delightful lyrics “Fuck you, you're a fuckin' wanker, we're gonna punch you right in the balls, fuck you, with a fuckin anchor, you're all cunts so fuck you all”. Essentially a drunken football chant set to the backdrop of the happiest tune you've ever heard, this jolly folk metal singalong encourages dancing and smiles all around. Almost certainly about to become the new fan favourite, this is the perfect song for crowd participation at live performances, just one listen to this stellar track is going to get it stuck in your head for days on end. This singular song could quite possibly be Alestorm's magnum opus, with which they have completely outdone themselves, and created something truly magical.
The quality doesn't stop here however, and though 'Fucked with an Anchor' reigns supreme, the rest of the albums offerings are not to be ignored. 'Man The Pumps' is seemingly a hilarious innuendo for masturbation in musical format, and the remaining songs are all brilliant power metal romps as good as any other songs the band has released in the past.
No Grave But The Sea laughs at the idea of filler material, every song able to stand out on it's own, and the experimental side of Alestorm not only is worn with pride, but proves that they are capable of incredible musical progression. Any naysayer who thinks they've survived off of a pirate gimmick alone should be sent to walk the plank, because five albums in, Alestorm certainly haven't lost their touch.
Review by Elliot Grimmie