Alestorm - Sunset on the Golden Age
Napalm Records
Folk/Power Metal
10 songs (48' 41")
Release year: 2014
Alestorm, Napalm Records
Reviewed by Andy

With Running Wild having already delivered a series of pirate-themed metal classics through the 80s and 90s, it would seem like Alestorm would have found its "pirate metal" gimmick stolen before it even started. (for those who haven't heard them, not only are all the songs about pirates, but they're sung and played as if pirates are playing the music as well). But Captain Morgan's Revenge was surprisingly catchy, and even 6 years later, now that the pirate theme is pretty well played out, the songs are listenable. Like a Turisas album, Sunset on the Golden Age is unlikely to become a classic anytime soon, but it provides the listener with some cheesy and forgettable fun.

Walk the Plank is a strong opener, melodic and with a guitar solo. With the riffs used, if it hadn't been for vocalist Christopher Bowes' usual pirate accent, I'd have supposed it to be a melodeath track at first. Drink, on the other hand, is pretty mindless; it's a party song that references their previous albums in a not-so-subtle way, and the "pirate drinking song" was done better on Wenches and Mead on the first album. Magnetic North, a plodding folk song with lots of keyboard flourishes, is another of these -- it sounds like a formula piece designed to get the crowd shouting the simple chorus to the exclusion of everything else -- but 1741 (The Battle of Cartagena) is a more ambitious piece, an attempt at an epic. Starting with an electronic-sounding keyboard riff, it rests heavily on the keyboards' effects, reverb-driven drumming, and melodeath-style growls from Bowes.

The band seems to have accepted that no matter what it does, it won't be taken seriously, though, and has the most fun with that fact on the second half of the album. The ridiculous nature of their subject matter is taken to an extreme in Surf Squid Warfare, starting with (what else?) the sound of surf music, and going into a song about undead squids used to attack towns from the sea, all with the same relentlessly upbeat tune used on the rest of the album. And I couldn't help laughing at Quest for Ships, which I expected to be some attempt at another "pirate adventure, we won't stop till we find the treasure" song of the type they've done before, but which instead greeted me with silly lyrics about needing to find a boat through the whole song. Wooden Leg! and Hangover are like this too, but with sly references to other cultural phenomena; Hangover is a thinly disguised reference to other party-music genres, for example, containing chorused vocals and a high-speed rap from Bowes part way through the bridge.

The final track, Sunset on the Golden Age, refers to the Golden Age of Pirates, that period of history that witnessed the careers of almost every pirate one has ever heard about in books. No more joke songs, tongue-twisters, or endless references to drinking; though still in pirate character, and still with the "jolly sea shanty" folk theme, the band does produce a bit more of a darker and slower sound. And the track is slow too; not only does the song go for a while, but after about 10 minutes, it goes into an ominous keyboard-driven atmospheric piece, like a movie soundtrack. It's difficult for the Heavy Metal Pirates to produce something that serious, but this is the closest thing to it on the album.

It's clear that the jokes are starting to get old on a lot of the songs, but overall this isn't a terrible album. Alestorm knows their music and their crowd, and doesn't try to get too far out of the mold or to do a whole lot of new things outside of their final epic. For most of us, though, that might start becoming a little too much of a good thing. The first album was excellent, especially since the pirate theme was fresh, but here's the difference between their pirate metal and Running Wild's: While their predecessors started as a speed metal band that just happened to start writing songs about pirates, Alestorm's whole reason for existence is pirate metal. Like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, there's very little to fall back on or to progress into once the booty of historical fact and legend has been plundered, and it may be that the title of this album turns out to be quite prophetic.

Killing Songs :
Walk the Plank, Quest for Ships, Sunset on the Golden Age
Andy quoted 72 / 100
Other albums by Alestorm that we have reviewed:
Alestorm - Back Through Time reviewed by Jaime and quoted 73 / 100
Alestorm - Black Sails At Midnight reviewed by Kyle and quoted 78 / 100
Alestorm - Captain Morgan's Revenge reviewed by Ross and quoted 80 / 100
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