Alestorm – No Grave But The Sea Review

So things got pretty dark the last time we met. Belated thanks to everyone for their support. I’ve taken a few more hits since then, but I think I’ve finally found the answer; a lucrative new career in a field full of adventure, excitement, and opportunity. I’m going to become a professional pirate. I’ll get to travel the world, meet interesting people, and best of all, I won’t have to wear a suit.

This decision did present one problem, though: how does one go about becoming a pirate? Surely there are some required skills, or at least a certain mindset that one must have to succeed in this field. I checked a few career training websites, browsed the classifieds, and went through my professional contacts list, all to no avail. Piracy is one of the oldest professions there is, and yet no one has this information?

Then, as it so often does, fate intervened, in the form of a new album from professional pirates and amateur metallers Alestorm. I just assumed they had sailed away following Sunset on the Golden Age, but here they were back in port (so to speak). If anyone had the answers I was seeking, it would be them. No Grave But the Sea will be my training manual, the rest of their catalog my reference guides. I grabbed a pen, notebook, and highlighters and dove in.

They make a strong pitch right out of the dock with “No Grave But the Sea”, a triumphant rallying cry for any battle – “Sail away, today we fight and there will be / no mercy for those with no grave/ no grave the sea”. But, am I really okay with killing people? I’m really just looking to earn a living; I’m not sure that denying the same of others is compatible with my personal ethos. Then again, no one else is calling, so if that’s what it takes I’m in. Having accepted that, it then dawns on me that I could well end up on the wrong side of such a situation. I’ll just have to be careful – and hey, if things go wrong, at least my family can collect the insurance and my share of any plunder. Pirates are honorable people, I’m sure they’ll do the right thing.

Survival, though, means unparalleled debauchery in places like “Mexico”. These guys are well-versed in such things, having covered it in detail in all of their previous volumes. From wenches, tequila, and donkey shows to tacos and margaritas, no one parties like a pirate. They never mention who is footing the bill for it all, though, and as a former business student this concerns me. Is it part of the budget? Are there friendly ports of call where pirates drink (and do other things) free? Maybe we all pay our own way. I can’t imagine we’d all just drink, fuck, fight, and skip out…would we?

I’m not sure what to make of this next chapter. At first, I figured “To the End of the World” would address how far pirates are willing to go to fulfill their quests, find treasures, etc. But it turned out to be a lesson about the role pirates played in disproving ancient heliocentric theories. I never knew they made such contributions to the science community! I admit I kind of had this pegged as a career focused on pillaging and plundering, so the idea of being able to do things to benefit humanity not only added a new wrinkle, it made me think that perhaps a pirate’s life really was for me. I couldn’t wait to see what other new twists I would find in the next chapter.

Wait – more drinking. Well, that’s okay, too. “Rum, beer, quests, and mead / these are the things that a pirate needs” – that sums up “Alestorm” perfectly. “Raise the flag and let’s set sail / under the sign of a storm of ale” – so it’s not just a post-quest activity, it’s a 24/7 lifestyle. Shoot, I think I’m going to need to steel up my liver if I ever expect to survive this gig, much less get hired into it. Good thing I’ve spent several years amassing a liquor supply that I rarely dip into.
Before the next proper chapter, they inserted a story I assume was meant to provide a look at a typical night ashore. On this evening, a pirate went into a tavern looking for an ale, and ended up imbibing on schnitzels and sausages as well (hence the title “Bar ünd Imbiss”). Oh, what a time was had. Singing songs, drinking, tales of piracy…until the barkeep demanded payment (“Hey,” I thought. “this will answer one of my earlier questions.”) So our protagonist shot him in the knees. What the hell?! Then he and his new friends drank the place dry, ate all the meats, and kidnapped his wife? That seems a little excessive. This was followed by another story of a man cursed with tourettes (before it was called that) and his attempt to find the witchdoctor who cursed it upon him and see that he gets “Fucked With an Anchor” as revenge. I’m starting to second-guess my chosen new profession. These people aren’t all quite right in the head, a far cry from Captain Peter Blood.

The next pages are just a bunch of scribblings under the heading “Pegleg Potion”. There’s a recipe in there that includes monkey brains and knee scrapings, and something about toilet quotas, diplomatic dogs, and a systematic frog. This was supposed to be a brand new guide, damnit, why is there…wait, that’s printed ink. Who the hell compiled this thing? Yet, even though it was total nonsense, it did make me chuckle. Pirates have a sense of humor, this I should have known.

Next up were some emergency procedures. “Man the Pumps”, the captain (or first mate) may shout. That’s our signal to run below deck and start pumping out the water we’ve been taking on. Shoot, I had considered the possibility of sinking in battle, but not because of a shoddy ship. It occurred to me then that there had been no chapter on ship maintenance. I checked the older materials as well and still found nothing. These folks are reckless. I’m going to have to find another book on this. If I can impress them with that knowledge, it will give me the upper hand during the interview process.

Naturally they’d save the hairiest material for the end. They think that if they’ve grabbed you by now, you may not pay much heed to warnings like “Rage of the Pentahook”, one of many terrifying creatures of pirate lore. Can a man really survive with five hooks on his right hand? That seems like it would make many daily tasks rather difficult, though it probably works quite well to “punch your house / and set fire to your cat”. Huh. That makes me think of the tale of Rock Ridge wherein the women were stampeded and the cattle raped. I wonder there were any perpetrators in common. But there is a good lesson in here that all pirates should heed: we’re all going to die anyway, so we might as well meet our attackers standing tall.

Always end on a high note, they say, so why not talk about the most fabled of pirate legends in “Treasure Island”. Ah yes, in spite of pentahooks and witchdoctors and everpresent danger of death, plundering treasure is the ultimate goal, the reason why anyone would get into this business. At least they’re honest here that there is even danger in that. Though maybe YOU (read: me) can be the one to survive and sail on an endless quest, fates eternally on your (read: my) side. So if you think you’re ready to be a pirate, let’s set sail. APPLY TODAY! Sorry, started thinking out loud there.

(Editor’s note: in all seriousness, I can’t believe these fucking guys included a song called “Treasure Island” that wasn’t a Running Wild cover. That would be like…well, any band recording a song called “Enter Sandman” that wasn’t a Metallica cover.)

This one came with a supplemental guide entitled No Grave But the Sea for Dogs, but it was just the words “woof” and “bark” repeated in various combinations throughout. I don’t know of any dogs that can read (old sea dogs don’t count) so it was pretty worthless. But, hey…equality, right?

So after finishing all that, I felt confident enough that this would be a good idea and filled out the online application. Surprisingly, I got a response within minutes.

I have an interview next week.

 

Posted by Dave Pirtle

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