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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Album Review: Alestorm - Back Through Time

Being in a pirate-themed band means there is a finite number of songs about sailing and drinking that you can hope to conjure. Listen to 'Scraping The Barrel' from this, Alestorm's third album, and you'll see what I mean as the band ridicule their own situation with a hearty chorus of "There are no more tales to be told / no more stories from battles of old / Now it seems our journey has come to an end / We are scraping the barrel, my friend". However, Alestorm have always been on the goofy side of even the goofiest metal, so don't expect this to be them sounding their ship's "eight bells" obituary just yet.

No, it seems they have identified a new foe. "Cap'n, there be Vikings off the starboard bow" is the incredible opening cry of the title-track as the Scots, through a rather handy "mystic portal", commence battle with the kind of blazing thrash that is so redolent of Swashbuckle's debut effort. Is this the sound of them actually declaring war on Viking metal itself? Now that is a tasty prospect. Although a brief glance at the stature of the opposition initially suggests it might be a bit of a rout, I suspect these wiry old sea-dogs have more underhand methods in mind. It's all very interesting when you consider that the choral gang-chant of "One more drink" from 'The Sunk'n Norwegian' is the absolute spit of Turisas' 'One More'. Methinks, they've been eyeing up the opposition a little too closely.

Talking of drink there are plenty of drinking-themed tracks on offer. Could it be that the fist-punching 'Rum' is their answer to Korpiklaani's monstrous "Vodka"? They've certainly upped the ante when it comes to loading the backline with different instruments. There's their standard penny-whistle and accordion in there, but they've also layered the whole shebang with symphonic strings and horns. Consequently, 'Shipwrecked' swings from side to side with a catchy chorus and an impressive display of gusto whilst the long passionate lament of the aforementioned 'Scraping The Barrel' shows humour and courage (and that tacked-on noodly solo is enough to illicit a small tear).

After the acrimonious departure of Ian Wilson, who left citing he'd "had enough of the bullshit", replacement drummer, Peter Alcorn, comes through with flying colours. His lightspeeding drum-rolls, double-kick rallies and cannoning crashes forcefully lift the tracks up a notch from previous efforts. Perhaps it's his swaggering presence that has led them to try and give pop-punk an eye-patch and a peg-leg for 'Barret's Privateers' and load their closing highlight 'Death Throes Of The Terrorsquid' with death-edged black metal.

At the end of the day, 'Back Through Time' is still a bit one-dimensional, which is not a new experience when it comes to experiencing Alestorm, both recorded and live, (there's only so much "yarr", "yo-ho" and "matey" a person can take) but the determined tone of the album and the fact that they've begun to expand their sound to take on other genres makes this easily the finest work that Alestorm have yet produced. Exciting times for a band that have discovered new methods for interpreting time-worn songs. Or, in their own words, "So when the time comes to write album four / We'll scrape out the barrel once more!"

Also online @ MTUK = http://www.metalteamuk.net/june11reviews/cdreviews-alestorm.htm

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