Originally written by Ross Main.
We Scots have given the world some pretty awesome stuff actually; fine whiskeys, mythological beast sightings, the television set, rain and some pretty entertaining stereotypes. However, our crowning glory and gift to you all is a CD packed with tales of lunacy, speed, loose women, dodging the authorities, quests and missions, stealing and hi-jackings. That’s right – we gave you Grand Theft Auto.
Oh, and Alestorm.
Alestorm’s sound has pretty much become the definition of “pirate metal”; a phrase that nobody really does or wants to understand. Essentially, they are some kind of symphonic styled power/folk metal band, brought to life with the novelty of continuously talking about pirates. It’s funny how nobody ever called Mastodon “whale metal,” Megadeth “pop politic metal” or described Tool’s last record as “Maynard’s mother metal.” But that’s just how it goes.
Just a year after their debut adventure Captain Morgan’s Revenge captured the playful imaginations and fancy dress instincts of the more impressionable metal audience, Christopher Bowes and his merry crew of miscreants have returned to our shores with a new collection of toe-tappers, having finally scraped the barrel clean of pirate related tales.
Black Sails at Midnight is in the exact same vein as its predecessor. A more appropriate title for this collection of tunes might have been Disk 2, but this is what this band does well, and we’re going to let them off with it; fully with in the understanding that next time we won’t.
Entertaining from start to end, as to be expected, choruses are catchier than a highland cold and as easy to remember as your own name. “Keelhauled” is a case in point; a bouncy ruck of a number that will have you linking arms and booting trays of drinks in the blink of one eye; short and sweet. On the other end of the scale are the epic stories like “Leviathan” and “Chronicles of Vengeance” which truly show off the bands more spectacular and composed symphonic side. Tracks like “Pirate Song” do play a little too strongly to the formula, but are not without those hooks that skip them being skippable. Get it? Hooks.
Black Sails at Midnight demonstrates a strong inclination towards letting the brass and bowed instruments take a lot of the lead melodies. Dani Evans’ backbone guitar chug is predominately simple, but is crisp and thrashy, and really contributes the metal meat that brings the energy and movement. Often accompanied by boisterous backing vocals, Bowes’ black-toothed croon remains the center point of the Alestorm sound; they may feel gloriously out of place in the down tempo ballad “To The End of Our Days” but for the better (and faster) part of the album you wouldn’t want it any other way.
Ugly, vivacious, hairy and tuneful, this album is suited more to people who like to be a bit silly and is best served with a bottle of rum and a yo-ho-ho.