Ye Banished Privateers - First Night Back In Port - (9/10)
Published on July 2, 2017
It’s not metal. There. Can we get over that now, please? Ye Banished Privateers are a folk band from Sweden who have recently garnered attention from the metal community after signing to much-loved label Napalm Records. Why? Pirates. That’s why. Pirates are metal as fuck, and we all love them. This Swedish scurvy crew already have two albums out, but never seemed to receive the acknowledgement they deserved. Thank Napalm for spreading them to the masses – because the world desperately needs more sea shanties about rum, ships and storms. The thing that sets Ye Banished Privateers apart from other popular pirate acts, like Alestorm and Lagerstein, is the sense of authenticity that surrounds their music and image. The Swedes go all-out with the pirate imagery, and make it clear that they’re creating a time capsule. First Night Back In Port is a journey back to the 18th century that explores the cruelty of life at sea and provides a soundtrack to a life on the other side of the law. The sincerity of their performance makes this album both an addictive singalong, and a strikingly emotional experience. It just requires some imagination on your part…
The Privateers are a crew of 25-ish folk musicians utilizing such a wide array of instrumentation. Naturally, the whistles, fiddles and accordions are integral – but among their arsenal one can find such instruments as ‘brass trash’ and ‘muddy lawn’. With such a vast line-up, the whole affair feels like a party. They even made the effort to cover the gaps between songs with the ambience of a rowdy seaside tavern, giving the album a world in which to belong. But as the clinking of tumblars and barking of drunkards turns to thunder and raging seas in “Mermaid’s Kiss”, the atmosphere is masterfully handled, and we, the listeners, leave that fun-loving world to the almost certain death of the ocean (as a pirate often would). Their cheeky, and often dark, sense of humour is absolutely vital to the feel of the LP. The quirky “Bosun’s Verses” is just the kind of shanty the navy would sing now; and the scathing religious attack of “Ringaroo At Cooper’s Inn” is irresistible with its chorus of “cocks and cunts and fuck you too!”.
There’s something about the constant repetition of ancient folk songs that is incredibly captivating. Despite the lack of sophistication, there is a sense of nobility in their simple refrains. This is perfectly exhibited by the opening track, a beautifully melancholy rendition of the sea shanty “South Australia” (re-written as “Annabel”). That this is followed by the lumbering swing of “A Night At The Schwarzer Karter” only shows the Swedes’ penchant for variety. Each track brings with it a contrasting vibe to whatever came previous. The spirit of the animated “Cooper’s Rum” is quickly subdued by the haunting “Skippy Aye Yo”; similarly, the lively “I Dream Of You” is proceeded by the far more grand and martial “A Declaration Of Independence” (which must be a contender for ‘best chorus of the year’). This schmorgasbord of moods is performed by a revolving door of vocalists and instrumentalists. Some are more intelligible than others, but all feel like part of the same community – this familiarity enhances the immersion of the album. By the end of the journey, you feel like you know this crew personally, and want to listen to all they have to say.
For those foolish enough not to want to submerge themselves in the beauty of this album, there are definitely certain highlights I can recommend. “I Dream Of You” contains an amazing interplay of strings, backing vocals, whistle and accordion as it builds layer upon layer towards its climax. “A Declaration Of Independence” is immensely powerful, both in message and melody, with a chorus to raise your ale to. And of course, the galloping title-track and rollicking “We Are Ye Banished Privateers” are anthemic beyond belief! I wasn’t expecting to be caught off guard by such a unique act this year, but First Night Back In Port is imaginative, deeply engaging and a masterclass in good musicianship and storytelling. Other pirate bands such as The Dread Crew Of Oddwood and Iron Seawolf lose effectiveness by trying too hard to make the ‘metal’ part of their sound work – whilst Ye Banished Privateers capture the hearts of metalheads everywhere by going directly to the heart of the matter. Stick this album on right now, and fornicate in the harbour light!