Review Summary: The pirates are back, and unless you enjoy this album, you'll be made to walk the plank.
Right from the moment they formed, Alestorm never really intended us to take the band seriously. Sure, the sea shanties about copious amounts of booze, quests over raging oceans and more than just a handful of ship battles along the way proved more than musically ambitious, but at the end of the day, Alestorm's brand of pirate metal was only ever going to be, to coin a phrase, a barrel of fun.
So, the band return in 2014 with new album Sunset on the golden Age
, which surprisingly enough sees Alestorm attempt a more serious take on songwriting than ever before. The same themes are there in spades: Booze (“Drink”, “Mead from Hell”, “Hangover”), battles over sea (“1741”, “Surf Squid Warfare”) and the occasional reflection on how living like a pirate can sometimes be actually pretty tough (“Wooden Leg”), the latter of which calling the Japanese and Spanish “bastards”, with hilarious results. The musicianship is as simplistic as ever in these songs too. Thrashy riffs accompany quirky keyboard/keytar compositions to make for an exciteable albeit sometimes tiresome listen in opener “Walk the Plank” and “Magnetic North”, and few would argue that the likes of “Drink” are the perfect accompaniment to a stag night. The more morose likes of “1741” and the intro to the closing epic title track make for a more serious listen, and it proves that Alestorm are just a bit more versatile than you would at first think.
However, the main problem with Sunset on the golden Age
is when the band attempt a more ambitious, serious tone, the prime examples being “1741 (The Battle of Cartagena)” and the closing title track. For starters, the vocal delivery on these two songs are utterly hopeless, as it goes to show that Christopher Bowes' voice is only ever suited to one particular style of the band's sound, and that is with the shorter, more simplistic odes to booze and warfare-basically, when the band sound like they're having too much fun. Yet with these two aforementioned epics, it just seems like Alestorm are trying too hard to take themselves seriously, and worse still, convince the casual listener who will most likely laugh even harder, especially when the band are at their most bombastic and pompous. The vocals aside, the length of these two songs is also very irritating. It's not a problem which affects “1741” as much, but definitely the gargantuan 11 minute runtime of the title track. Repetition pours in to the title track and by halfway through you'll probably be wanting to have another quick run-through of “Drink”, where barrels of fun can be had once more. But you can't do that with songs like “1741” and the title track, simply because it feels like the band are trying too hard to be serious.
For what it is, Sunset on the golden Age
is a great album. If you can cast aside the lengthier, more serious songs and the sometimes ridiculous pomp of “Walk the Plank” and “Wooden Leg”, then you will appreciate what's on offer here. Of course, this brand of folk metal was only ever going to suit people with particular tastes in music, and that's essentially what Alestorm's latest album has proven more than anything.