“We’re only here to have fun, get drunk, and make loads of money!”
So says the chorus of “Treasure Chest Party Quest”, the first single off Alestorm’s new album Curse of the Crystal Coconut. If ever there was a summary of a group in a single line, it’s that one, because Alestorm have lived by this ethos for nearly 15 years. Money is questionable, but they’ve most certainly lived up to the other parts.
As the world’s foremost keytar pirate metal band, there are few things more predictable or more amusing then an Alestorm record. “Curse of the Crystal Coconut” is no exception. At this point Alestorm are so stuck to their identity that there is literally no reason to change it. The fans love it, the press loves it and, most importantly, Alestorm seem to love it. Christopher Bowes has led his pirate crew through thick and thin and come out laughing. Join the party and stop moping.
There’s “Fannybaws”, a classic pirate metal story whose titular character “pillaged ‘cross the ocean in search of rum galore”. So far, so normal. There are even callbacks to Back Through Time, Alestorm’s 2011 underrated gem, with mentions of the Terrorsquid and the Viking/Pirate rivalry the world didn’t know it needed.
The first hint at something new is “Chomp Chomp”, whose keytars fly like Blind Guardian and features an unusually thrashy riff. It’s a great detour from the cheese. Alestorm are virtually unique, but try to picture if Havok or Death Angel suddenly became pirates. There’s even some decent death growling towards the end. If nothing else, it shows that Alestorm shouldn’t be written off as a joke band.
“Tortuga” features a nu metal section with rapped vocals. Wait, what? This might be the biggest surprise on this record, but it fits so perfectly. One second Alestorm are playing a polka folk beat, then Captain Yarrface drops in. This wouldn’t work but for the fact that Alestorm are so silly that just about anything goes. We need more pirate-rap metal and we need it now.
The thrashy riffs return on “Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship”. New(ish) guitarist Máté Bodor is a hell of a player and he knows how to let the keyboards handle the epic while he provides the metal. When the call of “Fuck you, zombie scum!” goes up, it’s sung like a pub ballad to be sung with drinking cups raised high. “Call of the Waves” is where things start to crack. Alestorm have plumbed the depths of their gimmick for years now, but it’s when they try to get too serious that it starts to show. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just that it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. Many times, in fact. “Pirates Scorn” redeems things by being both serious and an album highlight. Maybe that’s because it sounds like an Alestorm/Great Big Sea collaboration.
The funniest moment has to be “Shit Boat (No Fun)”. The more surprising it is the better, but rest assured, you’ll be singing “your pirate ship can eat a giant bag of dicks” for weeks after. It’s followed by another album highlight, “Pirate Metal Drinking Crew”. This is one to show to people who have never heard the band, a perfect encapsulation of everything that makes Alestorm great: great riffs, irresistible sing-alongs and a hilarious fourth-wall-breaking chorus. What more could anyone want?
But Alestorm have one more trick up their sleeve. Few thought they could top “Sunset of the Golden Age”, but the eight-minute symphonic assault that is “Wooden Leg Part 2 (The Woodening)” leaves all other efforts in the dust. Taking cues from Dimmu Borgir, Kamelot and Ensiferium, it’s the heaviest, biggest and most ambitious thing Alestorm have ever put their hands (er….hooks) to. Not only that, it includes an 8-bit section. Are you not entertained?
Love them or loathe them, Alestorm are here to stay. “Curse of the Crystal Cocunut” is another killer addition to a packed roster and is dying to be played lived. Make it so as soon as possible!