Review Summary: More of the same yes, but a fairly enjoyable more of the same.
Alestorms first album, Captain Morgans Revenge
was great. Yes, it was stupid, corny and ridiculous but if you are able to resist the rollicking fun that Captain Morgans Revenge
provided then you are a stronger man than me as the title track occasionally pops up on my ITunes and I am still unable to resist its mix of exaggerated grandiosity and straight up fun. As gimmicky as their concept is the band did a surprisingly good job of creating music that sounded like it could have been crafted by sea-dogs, it was full of danceable melodies and silly celebration songs but still retained a war-filled metal approach. So, what to do for a new album? They had managed to perfectly execute the pirate-metal sound on their first and in the end that was their real downfall, as awesome as pirates are, they are quite a straightforward concept and there simply isn't that much different to sing about in relation to pirates, something the band themselves have taken the mickey out of. So Black Sails At Midnight
is more or less more of the same with a few new concepts thrown in to varying levels of success.
The album sets sail with The Quest which has a good tremolo picked riff followed up by a strong enough melodies and good chorus which proclaims: 'We sail the endless oceans/ we sail the raging seas/ the quest is never ending/ it leads us to destiny'. As you can tell the bands second album isn't a revolution in terms of lyrical content but the two elements I just mentioned, melodies (usually in the form of Christopher's keyboard playing) and rousing choruses are very much still the bands strength and many good ones prevail on the album. The next song, Leviathan is pretty much this records version of the previous ones title track being a fairly long song by Alestorm standards surpassing six minutes and dealing with epic themes. It is one of the strongest songs on the album and features a pretty effective male-choir-esque moment and good solos from both Christopher and guitarist Dani Evans who have always played off very well with each other.
One of the things that does differ from their previous effort in Black Sails At Midnight
is that overall it has a slightly darker focus in places. Songs like To The End Of Our Days and Chronicles Of Vengeance and the brilliantly titled Pirate Song are more consistently downbeat efforts than some of the bands other material and the three songs are also at completely different levels on the quality scale. While To The End Of Our Days is a decently executed ballad and at least slightly atmospheric is it completely undermined by the fact that Christopher Bowes sings like a pirate, a voice that fits battle anthems and dance tunes to jig too perfectly but that is never going to sound anything other than completely ridiculous when put over sad contemplative music and that's a shame because it does severely cut down on the variety that the band so badly needs. Chronicles Of Vengeance fares slightly better thanks to slightly more interesting lyrics from the perspective of a betrayed pirate captain hunting down the traitor that sold him out and Dani Evans's best solo to date. Pirate Song is brilliant. Seriously. If you listen to one song from the album then without a doubt go listen to that one. This is once again told from the perspective of a ex-pirate captain but this time one that is sitting in a pub (or tavern, sorry) and reflecting on how he is merely a shadow of the great captain that he used to be but whether or not you care about the lyrics in the slightest you cannot deny a chorus this uplifting and powerful.
The rest of the album is pretty straightforward but still good. Keelhauled opens with a great violin part and will be stuck in your head for days and the instrumental No Quarter is pretty good showcasing Chris's talent for good keyboard parts while not bogging the song down in his anti-government ships growling and it also plays the Pirates Of The Caribbean theme at one point which unsurprisingly fits right in. The title track for the album almost completely ditches synths and focuses on riffs and while that may sound like a completely terrible idea it fares pretty while and isn't worse than Death Before The Mast which is pretty much the Captain Morgan
equivalent. The album ends with a cover of Wolves Of The Sea by the Eurovision genius's Pirates Of The Sea, which is catchy and full of life even if the band could not have chosen a more predictable song to cover.
Overall if you enjoyed the first album then there is no chance that you won't enjoy this but the problem is that you already have the first album which is very similar to this but better is most respects. There are some tracks that are definitely worth checking out though such as Pirate Song which remains one of their best tracks and Leviathan. In regards to some peoples criticism that the band is too silly those people are completely missing the point as the band gains a great deal of its best moments and its personality from the way in which they take nothing seriously. And come on, this is at least ten times less silly than anything Blind Guardian or the majority of power metal bands. Nightfall In Middle Earth
? Grow Up.