Originally written by Ross Main.
I have always thought my destiny in life was to fight evil and serve justice in the most cool and unofficial way possible, but I think I’ve missed a damn good chance to do so with the past influx of hijackings from modern day Somali pirates. Had I been aboard the container vessel Maersk Alabama when it was boarded this past April, by no good hoodlums wielding AKM assault rifles, I think I would have reached straight for my mp3 player to fend them off with a few choice tracks from my “pirate metal” collection. The humor and nonsense derived from ancient ideals of their way of life may have been so embarrassing that jumping into the choppy sea would be the only quick fix to plugging their ears and salvaging their own identity. Much like how I felt when I first listened to “Tunes of War” by Grave Digger. Yet again, they might have found it so insulting they had to just execute everyone aboard.
Should there, heaven forbid, be a spectrum with in pirate metal, Swashbuckle are at the opposite end of it to the better known, but shorter-lived Alestorm. Aside from similar artwork, song titles and general point of existence, these Caribbean caperers (from New Jersey) have no fear playing the pirate moniker and dress-up cards but most importantly Commodore Redrum, Admiral Nobeard and Captain Crashride have a lot harder and faster sound, rooted deep in flurrying thrash metal and some pretty aggressive death metal.
“Scurvy Back” and “Back to the Noose” are heroic efforts in straight up speed and thrash metal, spazzing out a non-stop tremolo tazering on the six string, and a drum track that would produce a sweat, again, only remedied by a dunk in the ocean. However, tracks like “We Sunk Our Battleships”, “No Prey No Pay” and most certainly “Attack” lay ground for some rather impressive grindier material, that seems to squeeze out even more spluttering energy, but in shorter bursts. Nobeard’s vocals are raw and have a low end rasp comparable to Marko Eskola of Farmakon, but his vocal clarity is often sacrificed under the overbearing volume of the instrumentation.
Despite delivering some rather rowdy metal moments, the heavy duty numbers on Back to the Noose are not so memorable; in fact it’s only the occasional chants of “The Royal Navy’s on the loose!” (what will that rhyme with?) or “Party boat!…party boat! party boat!” that play on their opportunity to keep it catchy, and even suggest this bloody thing has anything to do with pirates! So why do they bother?
The fact is Swashbuckle would make a fucking ripping deathy, thrashy, grind band if they weren’t hell bent on sticking to their theme, and the absolute proof lies in the filler. The randomly injected acoustic sections sound pretty nice, but they belong on someone else’s album. The very first track, for instance is pretty much that horrendous 3 Doors Down song (you know, the one about superman). I’m also thinking menu music to a kids computer game about pirates and these interludes serve only to divert the momentum created towards murky waters that they just insist on covering. What’s worse is the awful… awful narrator that cliches up a storm, spouting some novelty bollocks in a camp Irish accent. Fucking… why?
All good pirates should have a vessel that is structurally solid with the ability to flow in the right direction, but this is where Back to the Noose gets its peg leg caught in the rigging and left to swing around aimlessly, when they should be down on deck doing what they do best.