Review Summary: They're Scottish, and they sing about pirates and drinking. Awesome? Yes.
Pirates are about as metal as Vikings, though they just don’t get the same amount of respect. Throughout metal’s history, Vikings have always been seen as sort of its unofficial mascot, with all their axes, beards, and warlike behavior. But seriously, pirates were just the same way, except instead of axes they had cutlasses. They sailed around, got extremely drunk just about every night, took whatever their hearts desired, and attacked anything they wanted to.
Few bands have ever really embraced pirate themes (or actually did it well, for that matter). Running Wild, legends amongst the metal community for their lyrical topics dipped in piracy, set the bar and few have even come close to it. Bands like Swashbuckle tried, but failed due to lack of structure in their songs. However, one band has recently been making some waves in the metal community. Hailing from Scotland, Alestorm combines traditional heavy metal with folk influences to make for one hell of a fun time on their EP, “Terror on the High Seas”.
Kicking off with what is assumed to be a tribute to everyone’s favorite kind of rum, “The Curse of Captain Morgan” sets the stage as an epic intro, told by keyboards and an orchestra (though most likely programmed…this is self-produced after all). As it quickly builds up tension with choir-like singing and implanted images (injected by the melodies) of a ship shooting over the ocean, “Set Sail and Conquer” comes bursting in with full force. “Set Sail…” is a mix of power and speed metal, which makes it somewhat reminiscent of something Running Wild would put forth. The main differences, however, lie in the strong use of keyboards and the gruff vocals, both done by Christopher Bowes. His voice certainly won’t win awards for the most range, but he really does sound like a grumbling, drunk pirate. His keyboard melodies, which are often followed by Gavin Harper’s crunchy guitar riffs, are dipped lightly in folk, almost with a Scottish tint to them (they are from Scotland after all). Near the middle of the track, Bowes and Gavin actually begin to dual solo, and they both proceed to rip the song apart graciously.
“Terror on the High Seas” is a bit of a different story than “Set Sail…”, as it’s got a bit more of a thrash influence, which is evident in the grinding riffs and complete shredding solo that kicks off the song. It’s not long, however, before Bowes breaks the chaos with soothing keyboard melodies and cries of “ A ship approaches off the starboard bow, The time has come to fight, the time to strike is now.
” “Terror on the…” is a perfect contrast to the more atmospheric “Set Sail…”, and is equally as impressive. Gavin’s presence is much more felt here, since the guitar is more of the driving force than the keyboards. However, both of these tracks don’t even come close to “Wenches and Mead”, which is bound to go down as one of the best metal drinking songs ever. Bowes and his keyboards are thrown to the front in this track, with bouncing melodies and gruff shouts. What’s so great about this track is it’s lyrics, which are simply these:
“When I come back from a mighty quest.
I have no need for sleep or rest,
I head to a tavern for a drink,
And get so drunk I cannot think.
A wench by my side and a jug of mead,
These are the things that I most need.
So I sit back and sing this song,
And drink and party all night long.
I want more wenches.
More wenches and mead.
I want more wenches.
Lots of wenches is what I need!
To say that this song is fun is a pure understatement; it’s brilliantly crafted to bring out the inner drunken pirate in all of us, and it’s perfect to chant along with (try and not scream along with Bowes during the chorus, because it’s damn near impossible not to).
“Terror on the High Seas (EP)” is just plain, good old fun. All three tracks (four including the intro) are so addicting and catchy that they’ll be stuck in the minds of listeners for weeks to come. The only downside to this EP is that the drums are programmed, but you can hardly tell so it doesn’t take away from the music at all. The band (Alestorm) recently signed with Napalm Records, and is expected to release a full-length come next February. If they keep this jolly attitude up, there’s no telling just how big these guys will become.
Overall – 4/5