Thursday, July 7, 2022

Review: Alestorm, "Seventh Rum of a Seventh Rum"

The pirate ship has been righted and is back on course.

I’ve been a fanboy and evangelist for Alestorm since their debut album Captain Morgan’s Revenge in 2008. Christopher Bowes and his goofy band of pirates have put plenty of smiles on my face, and I’ve shouted the band’s praises from the rooftops so loudly that a lot of people I talk music with regularly have probably wished they could make me walk the plank.

Their last lackluster outing, Curse of the Crystal Coconut, left me scratching my head by putting far more emphasis on the goofy than the pirate – and just honestly not featuring many memorable moments. But, hey, 2020 was a rough year for everyone. And so was 2021, particularly for Bowes who became embroiled in some controversy around one of his other bands, Gloryhammer. But in 2022, the world, and the seas, have opened back up. Bowes takes to them with gusto.

Alestorm announced quickly that there would be at least a partial return to their piratical ways with the first single, “Magellan’s Expedition,” the historical epic for this album, which tells the story (in Alestorm fashion, of course) of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s quest to voyage around the world. It was exactly what I needed to get excited about this record – majestic keyboard riffs from Bowes and Elliot Vernon, a driving rhythm, some gleeful sweeping guitar licks from Maté Bodor, and most importantly, a huge memorable chorus hook. It also has more than a little of the flavor of Gloryhammer, even down to the nonsensical Latin lyrics that close the song.

Then, as Bowes will, they kind of thumbed their noses a little bit at fans hailing a return to their original sound with the second release, “P.A.R.T.Y.” – a dance-metal number that goes all out on the goofy side of the band. It’s absolute silliness and about as far away from “Magellan’s Expedition” as you can get while staying in the same general realm. But despite the disco keyboards and the dance rhythm, it maintains the heavy guitars and enough Alestorm flavor to make it work.

Since the beginning, this band has had its serious side and its goofy side. Well, OK, its goofy side and its ridiculously goofy side. But where I like them best is where they mix those two together, and much of Seventh Rum of a Seventh Rum lives in that territory, including the third single “The Battle of Cape Fear River.” The song tells, sort of, the story of Blackbeard’s last stand. Of course, in Alestorm’s version, he becomes a zombie pirate king, and the “I’m a fucking pirate” chorus kind of removes any serious historical context from the story, but it’s fantastic fun. I also appreciate the nod to Bowes’ electronic/disco outfit asdfgfa (yes, that’s the name of the project) when Blackbeard realizes that his time will come “by cannonball or flintlock or shotgun in the bum.”

You can tell that Bowes was writing for Gloryhammer at the same time he was writing this record. You hear it in several places, most notably on “Magellan’s Expedition,” and again on “Under Blackened Banners,” which with lyrics about unicorns and dragons rather than sea battles and piracy would easily fit in on any album from the other band with only slight modification. Bowes even delivers a nod to that fact with a cheeky line about getting “hammered” in the chorus. That said, it’s one of the heaviest tunes here – and oh, that chorus.

The title track is one of the most satisfying for me, though, as it offers a huge homage to where the band began. If you picked up “Seventh Rum of a Seventh Rum” and put it on Captain Morgan’s Revenge or Black Sails at Midnight, it would fit right in. Vernon’s shouted backing vocals might be the only thing that would mark it as a little different. I find myself banging my head and singing along to this one maybe just a little louder than the others. Given the obvious reference to Iron Maiden, I would have liked to see them play with that a little more, though if you watch the video for the song with the closed captions on (which you should always do with Alestorm videos), we do get the nod there.

Bowes also acknowledges, in his way, the mixed reception of Curse of the Crystal Coconut a couple of a times on this album. The first is on “Bite the Hook Hand That Feeds,” which tells the story of a man who turns his back on the piratical life, and the title kind of says it all. Musically, it has a heavy Black Sails at Midnight vibe. Then, there’s the most reviled song on that last album, “Tortuga.” We get a different take on it with “Return to Tortuga,” which transforms the goofy rap into something more in line with what fans might have expected. Is it an apology? From Christopher Bowes, not likely – but I’m accepting it anyway.

As he’s been wont to do in the past, Bowes visits some of his favorite places in the world, singing the praises of Hungary on “Magyarorszag,” with melodies influenced by traditional Hungarian folk. Then, he goes to Brazil where he has a drunken naked pirate party on the beach.

He also once again tries to top “Fucked With an Anchor” with the video game-inspired melodies of “Cannonball,” where he goes for the most over-the-top offensive chorus possible. While the song is much better than the attempt on the last album, there will never be another “Anchor.”

That leaves only the ballad. I’ve come to almost expect a great drinking ballad like “Nancy the Tavern Wench” or “Bar Und Imbiss,” and I was wondering where it would come. To my surprise it was the album closer, “Wooden Leg (Part III).” Honestly, when I saw the song title, I thought it was a bit silly (not in the awesome Chris Bowes way). I wondered what they could possibly do with it. The answer is to turn it into a big sing-along, tankard-waving ballad that plays on the previous chapters with lyrics delivered in Spanish and Japanese (for the foes who took his legs).

It’s fitting in 2022, with the world getting back to normal, that my favorite pirate metal band would, as well. I’ve listened to Seventh Rum of a Seventh Rum for a couple of weeks now with a smile on my face from start to finish, something that was absent for most of Curse of the Crystal Coconut, which I haven’t revisited much since its release. This one is destined to be blasting through my speakers for quite some time to come. Now, excuse me while I spit on my hands and hoist the Jolly Roger again.

No comments:

Post a Comment