Metal Review – Alestorm: Sunset on the Golden Age

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Metal Review – Alestorm: Sunset on the Golden Age
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Alestorm: Sunset on the Golden Age
Folk Metal, Power Metal
Napalm Records
August 1st, 2014
Release length: 48:39
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After their third full-length album Back Through Time and follow-up Live at the End of the World concert DVD, Alestorm return to steel your rum once more. Sunset on the Golden Age marks the band’s latest studio outing, and the first with Elliot “Windrider” Vernon (Ravenage, Windrider) as the band’s keyboardist. Each album has shown the group continuing to grow, explore, and at times take a few steps back since their formation in 2007 and explosion into success with their debut offering in 2008. But does this new recording show signs that the band is starting to slow down, or is this just as unpredictable a release as their last?

Sunset on the Golden Age wastes no time in establishing the “True Scottish Pirate Metal” sound that has made the band so well known and infamous across the globe. “Walk the Plank” introduces the sensation of high seas adventure with the signature trumpet notes that appear in the chorus as well, not to mention traditional organ effect keyboards throughout when not coming off as though stolen from a surfer band about two-and-a-half minutes. The music itself has a decent amount of intensity behind the faster paces that become quite grand when need be, not to mention a more Progressive touch around the three minute mark that focuses more on sunny Caribbean environments. This standard Alestorm cut is matched by the eccentric “Surf Squid Warfare,” proving this atmosphere doesn’t always need to be serious to exist. This one straddles the concept of the band’s previous album while throwing in squids from outer space, Back to the Future references, and the Scottish pirates having to go back in time with Marty to save his kids and use the power of beer to put a stop to the killer terrestrial calamari. There’s also seems to be a “Wakka Wakka” thrown into the background, possibly adding Fozzy from The Muppets into the mix, but it might be an unrelated bit of background filler. Either way it has a strong enough Science Fiction eighties vibe, but it’s one of the many tracks that simply don’t sound like Alestorm, instead better fitting with a modern Thrash band like Gama Bomb..

You also have “Quest for Ships,” a generally fun track that seems to boast a fetish around boats, owning them, and sailing with the use of said oceanic vehicles. The performance itself ends up kind of thin, again throwing some surf oriented So-Cal riffs into the mix during the guitar solos, though the latter shows some additional Neo-Classical influence and technicality. “Wooden Leg!” is a pit-worthy performance that puts the complexity more in timing. The main verses tell brief tales of how the pirate in question lost said limb, a bridge calling that specific race responsible bastards, followed by a pride filled chanting of the song’s title. Most of these aren’t anything that will really stand out in the Power or Folk Metal worlds, but it’s simply impossible to not get wrapped up in the energy and pure fun they have tucked away.

Sadly, for the number of out of character songs Alestorm put together for this release, there are two that sound completely unoriginal. First is the lead single “Drink.” This doesn’t exactly scream Alestorm when you first experience it. In fact if it weren’t for the piracy themes scattered about and distinguishable vocals you would swear you’re listening to a song by Korpiklaani down to the chorus filled with enthusiastic gang chants and the keyboards that sound more like a fiddle. This is one that will need to grow on you. Thankfully the more you listen to it, the harder it becomes to resist the urge to shut up and party along, unlike the glaringly different “Hangover.” Even if you didn’t know this was a cover of the Pop hit by Taio Cruz, the jam-band feel to the music and out of nowhere rapping will immediately put you off. Compared to the source material, this rendition is miles ahead as far as talent and lack of auto-tuning goes, but given how it’s placed between the fun aggression of “Wooden Leg!” and downtrodden glory of “Sunset on the Golden Age,” it just kills the flow entirely. Personally, the more I hear it, the more I dislike it and scramble to skip ahead to avoid it. Sure it’s in the same spot as their cover of the Stan Rogers song “Barretts Privateers” on the last album, but this one simply doesn’t work out and would have been a little more acceptable as a bonus track at the very end.

As for the rest of Sunset on the Golden Age, Alestorm embrace what made them a success, all the while outdoing themselves. “Magnetic North” is a mid-pace track that flawlessly pushes the grand quest aspect of the lyrics atmospherically. The galloping bass kicks and less upbeat trumpets notes carry a believable determination and greed for the crew, all the while demonstrating the hope wearing thin on them as they carry on. There’s also a slam towards the end with some shouting that doesn’t really need to exist, nor does it seem to do anything major to the tale being told. “Sunset on the Golden Age” is a slow moving piece that ushers in a grand sense of closure that truly fits much of the context to much of this album that is as memorable as “1741 (The Battle of Cartagena),” another mid-paced track that casts a bleak shadow over the entire performance. That darkness grows larger in some of the bridges that push darker moments in the battle such as around three minutes in when the music is met with rasps and strong gutturals to assert what seems to be the opposing force. The guitar solo around four minutes and ten seconds in is well worth noting for how moody it ends up given how laid back it actually comes off before heading back into the enthusiastic chorus once more.

Sunset on the Golden Age greatly dwarfs the band’s previous outing at times, though how it hits you depends on your knowledge of the group. While this effort has its fair share of generally fun performances, it quite often leaves the grand high seas exploits at the wayside to make room for alcohol themed romps that greatly vary in quality and long lasting appeal. If you’re just jumping on board with Alestorm from their last studio outing, you’re going to enjoy the randomness and pop culture references that creep up from time to time. Long time fans, however, will find themselves craving a little more depth than just the few traditional cuts like “Walk the Plank” and small handful of epic performances such as the title track and “1741 (The Battle of Catagena).” In the end, whatever side of the debate you happen to fall into, there’s no denying that Sunset on the Golden Age is still a fun album that listeners old and new will still appreciate as you would a fine wine that has been aged, but opened just a bit too prematurely.

01. Walk the Plank – 4:06
02. Drink – 3:23
03. Magnetic North – 3:47
04. 1741 (The Battle of Cartagena) – 7:18
05. Mead from Hell – 3:41
06. Surf Squid Warfare – 3:59
07. Quest for Ships – 4:34
08. Wooden Leg! – 2:45
09. Hangover (Taio Cruz cover) – 3:41
10. Sunset on the Golden Age – 11:26
Initial Pressing Score: 8/10

Alestorm
Alestorm

Digital review copy of this release provided by Napalm Records via Freeman Promotions.