Originally written by Rae Amitay
One might think that after two albums chock full of seafaring themes, Alestorm would be running low on inspiration the third time around. Such is not the case on Back Through Time, which proves to be an enthusiastic and downright enjoyable adventure.
There are no throwaway tracks on the album (with the exception of the 0:06 long “Rumpelkombo”), and each song offers something distinctively pirate-themed with no shortage of straight-up metal sound. “Midget Saw” has a bone-crushing, almost Meshuggah-esque riff underneath frantic drums, shouting vocals, and the familiar sound of accordion. Thrashing like the waves of an untamed sea, “Buckfast Powersmash” is another standout track. There is a particular interlude that sounds straight out of Banjo Kazooie, and Nintendo 64 nerds everywhere will surely rejoice.
Fronted by the hilarious, theatrical, and damn awesome Christopher Bowes, Alestorm is a group with a wealth of talent but not a shred of pretension. They perform their style of “True Scottish Pirate Metal” with admirable spirit, but not to the point of historical reenactment severity. When all’s said and done, the men of Alestorm are doing all this to have fun, put on a great show, and hopefully get the audience drunk as hell in the process.
Behaving like pirates is secondary, and Christopher Bowes has often stated that he’ll be the first person to admit it’s just an act. If anything, this is a commendably sincere quality. A metal band first and foremost, the pirate theme is for the sake of fun, not a cheap gimmick. Alestorm’s music has always been heavy on the accordion and swashbuckling vocals, but they’ve also got their fair share of impressive musicianship and infectious songwriting on this latest record.
Alestorm has often cited Bal-Sagoth as an inspiration, and the use of orchestral brass in the beginning of “Death Throes Of The Terror Squid” serves as an excellent homage. There are also moments of black metal ferocity towards the end of the tune, which serve as interesting juxtaposition and also uncover a previously veiled versatility in the band’s abilities. The tongue-in-cheek “Scraping The Barrel” is a drinking song in its purest form, but is also a hilarious take on Alestorm’s subject matter, and a message to those who doubt the band’s longevity. Bowes shouts, “Many have told us that we can’t go on, that one day we’ll run out of lyrics for songs…But when the time comes to write album four, we’ll scrape at the barrel once more!”
This is not music for the overly contemplative, or for those seeking a groundbreaking record, but that’s not what Alestorm is about. This is music to sing along with and drink to, and if that’s your cup of tea (or rum, as it were), then Back Through Time will leave you fully satisfied — albeit a bit hung over the next morning.