Alestorm - No Grave But The Sea - (8.5/10)
Published on May 19, 2017
Has it really been ten years since Captain Morgan’s Revenge first hit the shelves?! I remember hearing “Over The Seas” for the first time and being completely contented. Finally, someone had done it – the perfect combination of sea shanties, piratical adventures and solid folk/power metal. Some say Running Wild did it years ago, but we all know that’s a lie. Scottish maniacs Alestorm, lead by Captain Chris Bowes, perfected, and are now the ambassadors for, what we now regard as pirate metal. The naysayers said it was a novelty; a gimmick that wouldn’t last. But after a decade of sailing the world and producing four full-length albums, the ‘storm are stronger than ever. Their music has matured, while their sense of humour has done the opposite…significantly! Here in 2017, the buccaneers are back with No Grave But The Sea: their fifth studio album of nautical nonsense. Though it may not be their strongest effort, it’s still one hell of a fun voyage.
One thing Alestorm have always done well is the contrast between the powerfully moving, and the outright silly. Their previous (and best) album, Sunset On The Golden Age, had the extensively stirring title-track, which conflicted hilariously with the bonkers “Wooden Leg!!”. This new record is clearly no exception. The poignant story behind “Man The Pumps” will tug at the heartstrings a little, whilst the bouncy “Mexico” will have you yo-ho-ho-ing all the way to where the cactus grows. Similarly, any atmosphere created by the inspirational “To The End Of The World” is instantly destroyed by “Fucked With An Anchor” (more on that later!). But one thing this album absolutely nails is that seafaring atmosphere – this is 100% Alestorm. From Chris’s inimitable yar-har-hars to the authentic folk instrumentation, you will feel in completely safe hands. Thankfully, their characteristic brass blares have remained unchanged, and carry many catchy melodies such as the one that opens the title-track (speaking of that tune, it’s beautifully reprised in the closing moments of “Treasure Island”).
Rather disappointingly, the production has lost a gritty edge. The colossal crunch of the guitar tone has been smoothened somewhat, so this new record isn’t quite as heavy or riff-central as previous releases. Having said that, the harsh vocals from keyboardist Elliot have really come into their own – and are now a frequent and welcome occurrence. On the band’s long-awaited title-song, he takes the reins comfortably, while his backing growls on the chorus of “To The End Of The World” add a basting of power. Captain Bowes’ nautical snarls are very much the same as they always have been, and who could wish for anything else? After all, he adds bundles of character and is easily decipherable.
Alestorm wrote a song in 2011 called “Scraping The Barrel”, referring to many a cynic’s opinion that they’d easily run out of lyrics for songs. No Grave But The Sea clearly dispels this sentiment by using such diverse topics as peg legs, pumps and pentahooks. Not to mention getting fucked with an anchor… Track six, “Fucked With An Anchor” is already my favourite song of the year. The sheer stupid vulgarity of the lyrics, combined with the jaunty melodies, make for a hilarious romp which is bound to go down a storm live. If you can’t quite grasp the concept from this meagre description, check out the lyrics to the chorus:
“Fuck you, you’re a fucking wanker.
We’re gonna punch you right in the balls.
Fuck you with a fucking anchor.
You’re all cunts, so fuck you all.”
Poetic genius! Hopefully, Bowes can sort out his schedule so the eager masses receive an Alestorm album and a Gloryhammer album on alternating years. Because if this new LP is any indication of Bowes’ momentum, it’s no wonder Napalm Records have kept both projects on for so long. No Grave But The Sea has all the catchy choruses and aquatic mayhem you could wish for from an Alestorm album. From the pint-swaying shanty of “Bar ünd Imbiss” to the epic expanse of “Treasure Island”, you’re in for a rollicking good time. Just remember that you’re a fucking wanker and they’re going to punch you right in the balls.