Alestorm – Back Through Time (2011)

Posted: June 1, 2011 in Music

With the tons of various heavy metal subgenres out there, there are bound to be a few that are highly exclusive, a bit off the beaten path, and a wee bit strange. While the more mainstream death metal and melodic bands grab most of the attention, there are a couple of absolutely magnificent secrets hiding deep in the metal world. We previously reviewed viking metal gods Amon Amarth, and now dig deep into Davy Jones’ locker for the craziest subgenre of them all – pirate metal.

It’s exactly what you think it would be – pirate folk songs mashed together with insane guitar riffing and heavy metal headbanging through and through. It’s a bit bewildering and a bit tongue-in-cheek at times, but make no mistake about it – pirate metal is a legitimate art form. In fact, pirate metal dates back over 20 years now – and even before then, Adam Ant (albeit not metal) was sporting his fluffy shirt and waving his sword around the music scene.

There aren’t a ton of bands raising the collective skull and crossbones for the scene these days, so name-dropping will be short and sweet. You have Running Wild (who claim to have invented the sound), Swashbuckle, Verbal Deception, newcomers Scuurvy, and finally my favorite of them all – Scotland’s Alestorm.

Formerly known as Battleheart, the band has released two albums under the Alestorm moniker and are set to fire their third full-length “Back Through Time” from the cannon in early June. We had the chance to listen to this disc, and it’s time to hoist the sails, break out the ale, and pillage our way through the high seas known as pirate metal.

What you first have to understand about Alestorm is that while many might see them as a joke, singing about scantily clad maidens and walking the plank, it’s serious business to them. Pirate lore is just as much a part of history in parts of the world as Christianity or walking on the moon. Sure, it comes off a bit cheesy at first, but I remember laughing my ass off the first time I listened to folk metal legends Finntroll when they wrote songs about fairies and gnomes. In fact, after being around the scene for a while now, pirates are far more of a realistic topic to sing about than imaginary devils and demons that seem to be all the rage. Pirates may actually be the original rock and roll poster children – they drank, they fucked, and they loved to party. When they ran out of party supplies, they murdered and robbed to replenish their lifestyle. Sounds pretty metal to me.

“Back Through Time” has all the lyrics you would expect. Tales of raising their tankards o’ cider, drunken mateys, walking the plank, stealing doubloons, raping, brawling, etc. They are true to their genre, which speaks well of their dedication to their craft. But what really gets my jolly roger at full mast is how good these guys are musically. While every song had its tale to tell, the styles shifted from traditional folk, to thrash metal, to even a black metal opus in the form of “Death Throes of the Terror Squid” – during which I actually checked my iPod to make sure it hadn’t skipped ahead to a Dimmu Borgir album. These buccaneers are well rounded in all types of metal, and they showcase it here track after track. You have the lighthearted drinking songs in “Barrett’s Privateers,” and “Rum”, and the more serious stylings of tracks like the albums title track and “Buckfast Powersmash,” and they are all as sharp as Blackbeard’s scabbard.

Let’s face it, though, this band – and album – are really just about having a good time through folklore and music. It’s fun to listen to, and no matter what you think about vikings, or trolls, or – in this instance – pirates, you’ll appreciate the uniqueness of the sound, and maybe even yearn for an eyepatch and peg leg of your very own. With catchy chanteys from start to finish, you might not be able to help yourself, ye landlubber.


01. Back Through Time
02. Shipwrecked
03. The Sunk’n Norwegian
04. Midget Saw
05. Buckfast Powersmash
06. Scraping the Barrel
07. Rum
08. Swashbuckled
09. Rumpelkombo
10. Barrett’s Privateers
11. Death Throes of the Terrorsquid
12. I Am A Cider Drinker
13. You Are A Pirate

MySpace: Link | Wiki: Link


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