|Folk Metal, Power Metal
June 3rd, 2011
Release length: 43:07
Please note: Shortly after this review went live, I was contacted by both Dani and Chris of Alestorm inquiring to the short clip at the end of “Death Throes of the Terrorsquid”. After speaking with them, and they speaking with Napalm Records, an explanation was found. The band informed me it’s actually from another song that wasn’t included in the promo, and the label heads stated that it’s not on the final product, and was more then likely an error with the site hosting the promotional copy for the press to review. This additional four seconds in the promo did not affect the overall score, and when issuing it, it was taken into consideration as a glitch or error in the promo itself, but mentioned to make readers aware in case it shows up in the final product.
Alestorm exploded onto the scene back in 2008 with their debut full-length record Captain Morgan’s Revenge, taking part in the sudden interest to pirate-themed Metal. That release, and the follow-up release have both captured the hearts and ire of the Metal community with their more traditional Scottish/era-based atmosphere to the songs with heavily relevant lyrical content, and became a dominant force to the Folk and Power Metal scenes in quite a short amount of time. Still with their home of Napalm Records, the heavy metal pirates return with their third full-length recording, Back Through Time, a more adventurous album lyrically, and finds that challenging the band’s staple musical atmosphere. It also causes the band answer the question of who would win in a battle: Vikings or Pirates?
Wile Back Through Time doesn’t always seem too adventurous past common songs about pirate worship, the opening title track “Back Through Time” does manage to open up the minds and creativity of listeners, placing a group of pirates finding a time-altering artifact, and sending them to the days of Vikings. Of course, the outcome of this battle becomes pretty obvious, though it raises the personal question of who you think would win. Despite those burning questions, the atmosphere to the song remains strong throughout, being set nicely with the introduction of the track ushering in this battle with waves crashing upon the sea, and the decleration of pirates in their vacinity. The music hammers away with pure fury that captures the intensity of a battle, aided nicely by the keytar that has aided the band to set the general feel of the music throughout the years, though the song quickly becomes a more general Alestorm track at a slower speed that captures the more epic musical performance that the band is known for. The only disheartening aspect is that the music doesn’t quite feel as adventurous at times as the lyrics do, though the more powerful performance from the group that feels consistant with what they offered on Black Sails at Midnight still wraps the listening in a Scottish setting, leaving one with the urge to plunder and pillage, especially with the more epic chorus, strong guitar solo, and does venture back to that pounding introduction once more, leaving one to hope for another track at some point that takes advantage of such fast and intense music for more then a bridge or passage. Overall, the song works well to set up what is to come, which appears to be more of the same, but in this case it’s not necessarly a bad thing.
And by more of the same, it becomes a little undeniable, though luckily not for long. Some elements of this album feel recycled at times from previous albums, such as the start of “Shipwrecked”, which feels like it’s lifted directly from their song “Death Before the Mast”, and the chorus rings familiar of material from the band’s past, but still unique enough to be called it’s own. And while the start is a little upsetting, the song itself is quite enjoyable, and the chorus will have anyone in earshot wanting to break out into a jig or chant along with their pints raised high. It’s after this song that the album starts to breathe some new life into this album. While the first few songs aren’t bad in any way, “Midget Saw” is where the album really starts to take shape as it’s own when it hammers in with a great amount of speed and energy, a genuinely fun song to headbang too right from the start that “Back Through Time” teased at with a strong keytar solo that sets a strong Scottish environment prior to a great guitar solo that matches the faster paced drums that seem to never stop throughout the song and really get the listener’s blood pounding as it ends with other pirates stomping and laughing, emphasizing the light-hearted nature of this blistering track.
But, with all that said, the only time the band really does anything new with the album is with the song “Buckfast Powersmash”, a short, faster paced track that utilizes what sounds like a xylaphone for a short period of time in the song, and it sounds interesting to the song, adding a little bit of a reprieve from the general Alestorm sound. There’s also a very short six second track on here called “Rumpelkombo”, which is perhaps one of the more oddest offerings from the band, coming off as a more Pirate-based Grindcore track that seems to feature a lyric that kick starts the cover of “Barrett’s Privateers”, originally performed by Stan Rogers, which would make sense to the Grindcore aspect given the more Punk sound of the song that’s as perfect to drink along to with friends as the upbeat “Rum” is with it’s alcohol worship-themed lyrics that will raise the spirits of anyone who happens upon the song. You also have “Scraping the Barrel”, the slower paced ballad of this album, and for as solid a track as it is, and how powerful the song can be, it doesn’t doesn’t really hold up to some of the other slower tracks the band has offered. While the music sets up the proper dismal atmosphere, and the solo captures it nicely in a very passionate manner, the vocals don’t really seem to capture that same kind of emotion to the song, and while performed well, outside the chorus you can’t really feel the pain or sorrow that clearly was meant to be in the track.
Of all the songs on this release, the closing track “Death Throes of the Terrorsquid” is the most unique, and shows a little more progress from the group, which is refreshing considering the album didn’t necessarily show much growth since their last album, and takes Alestorm into a new direction. The music is a little more complex, and often comes off intimidating and brooding, showing the emotion of the hunt for the “Terrorsquid” right from the start, really capturing the imagination of the more creative listener. This epic track finds the group branching out a little more past a traditional Power Metal foundation with Folk influences, as the song turns rather dark and sinister as the creatures blood-curdling shriek is let out and some Behemoth or Dimmu Borgir inspired music kicks in with sinister rhaspy vocals working well to cast a heinous shadow over the once fun and catchy music to create a suiting closing track that feels like a possible blueprint for future material, and easily the strongest track off the entire recording.
In the end, this is a fun and enjoyable album with a conclusion that seems to come out of nowhere and really feed into those who look to the band for the somewhat creative pirate-themed lyrics. The only real downfall to this was that Alestorm really failed to capitalize on the potential concept of time travelling pirates into the age of vikings, which clearly could have ended with the conceptual piece “Death Throes of the Terrorsquid”. Despite the lack of growth and some songs that feel as though they were left over from the band’s previous effort, the only genuinely questionable element to the recording is the very last few seconds on “Death Throes of the Terrorsquid” that include a little extra keytar that cut off, which actually kind of ruins the dark atmosphere of the track all together. Hopefully it’s just the promotional copy I received and won’t be on the final product, but nonetheless it’s something to take note of. But, even with that taken into consideration, it’s a solid album that fans of Alestorm will undoubtedly embrace this album warmly, as well as will find plenty of repeat spins, even with some of it’s general faults.
01. Back Through Time – 5:03
02. Shipwrecked – 3:30
03. The Sunk’n Norwegian – 4:07
04. Midget Saw – 3:18
05. Buckfast Powersmash – 2:33
06. Scraping the Barrel – 4:40
07. Rum – 3:29
08. Swashbuckled – 3:53
09. Rumbelkombo – 0:06
10. Barrett’s Privateers (Stan Rogers cover) – 4:41
11. Death Throes of the Terrorsquid – 7:46
|Overall Score: 8.5/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Napalm Records.