It would be easy to dismiss Alestorm as a mere novelty, a group of chancers playing pirate-based songs over a folk/power metal background. It’s the sort of thing you’d listen to once, laugh and then forget about. This way of thinking though neglects to account for a couple of things; firstly No Grave But The Sea is the band’s fifth album and their popularity is growing with each release and secondly their songs are really bloody good.
Having garnered a strong cult following on the metal scene with their previous albums and a relentless schedule of unashamedly enjoyable live shows, No Grave but the Sea sees them edging toward the mainstream a little (if Scottish Pirate Metal could ever be described as mainstream). The epic, grandiose tunes make way for the big, bold anthems the crowds adore and it’s a move that suits the band. It’s no surprise that songs like Mexico, Alestorm and the wonderfully profane Fucked With an Anchor have slotted so seamlessly into their live show already, and there are plenty more on here that you sense would go down just as well, the title track and Pegleg Potion are as good as anything they’ve ever done.
And of course it’s ludicrous, but where would Metal be without a healthy dose of ludicrity? (I may have just made that word up). It would have disappeared up its own po-faced arse many years ago, that’s where. Imagine if Black Sabbath had said “songs about the devil? That’s a bit daft isn’t it?” Or Judas Priest had gone “all this leather is a bit much isn’t it?” Or Kiss hadn’t…well been Kiss. We wouldn’t even have had a scene to begin with. And I’m not saying Alestorm are comparable to those greats yet, I’m just saying don’t be surprised if you see them soaring up the festival bills soon because behind the silliness is a damn fine set of songwriters, being daft only goes so far, and it only works if the musicians know exactly what they’re doing. And Alestorm do. The album stands up to repeated listens brilliantly, the lyrics revealing hidden jokes beyond the catchy choruses, and the music never feels restricted by the niche they’ve carved themselves.
So, go on, make space for Alestorm in your life, for they truly are a joy. It’s time to stop using the whole pirate thing as a schtick to beat them with and realise that these treasures won’t be buried for much longer*.
*I’m not even sorry.