Swashbuckle - Crewed By The Damned
Bald Freak Music
Pirate Metal
18 songs (42:22)
Release year: 2006
Swashbuckle, Bald Freak Music
Reviewed by Kayla

Not since Running Wild has a band been so devoted to pirates as Swashbuckle. The cover of their debut album, Crewed By The Damned, tells you exactly what you’re in for – a rotting, undead pirate grins at you, its single, baleful eye shrewdly calculating your worth in gold. Swashbuckle play in a style quite rough around the edges, mostly blackened thrash with some touches of death metal thrown in for good measure. It’s straightforward and unselfconscious, with lyrics dealing exclusively with the realm of ships, plunder, grog and wenches.

Although there’s 18 tracks, the majority of them are under three minutes, and the album itself clocks in at just over 42. This brevity works well; Swashbuckle isn’t trying to set The Rime of The Ancient Mariner to music, and the rowdy, party atmosphere of Crewed By The Damned would get tiresome if the album were drawn-out. The raw energy is tempered by short acoustic tracks sprinkled throughout. The opening is played in a style more traditional to Spain, with castanets and Spanish-style horns and guitar. The next acoustic track, Set Sail, is more recognizably English; this trade-off continues throughout the album, and unless I miss my guess, stands as an homage to the two most powerful seafaring nations during the age of piracy, although you won’t find any homages to Sir Francis Drake or the Spanish Armada on the rest of the album.

Humor and high spirits abound on Crewed By The Damned. While the last proper track is a simple acoustic, there are two untitled bonus tracks as well; the first, another acoustic, is overlayed with the sounds of a pirate party, with clinking ale glasses and rough laughter. The last is a thrash metal cover of the Spongebob Squarepants theme song. I don’t think anyone will ever accuse these guys of taking themselves too seriously. Other choice instances include a parrot whistling and proclaiming the expected “Polly wanna cracker!” before someone (presumably its owner) snaps back, “Shut up, ya fuckin’ bird!” at the beginning of Upon The Spanish Main. Other songs use sampled sounds in a slightly more atmospheric way, with the sounds of a condemned man walking the plank and the glugging of the ocean closing over the head of a man overboard.

The music itself is fairly simple and very melody-driven. The songs are meant to be enjoyable and fun rather than showcases of technical skill or progressive songwriting prowess. Mostly mid- to fast-paced, the focus is more on the guitar and vocals than anything else, although the overall balance is fairly even. The vocals, done mostly in a mild midrange growl that sounds at home in thrash or death metal, are understandable enough, at least to catch “hornswagglin’” and “scallywags.” They dip into a more true death style growling very briefly on “X” Marks The Spot, which throws some welcome variety into the mix. The melodies can rightly be described as “rollicking,” with a lot of the sounds typically associated with pirate sea shanties. Even the melodies that would be just as fitting on any other thrash album are bouncing and celebratory, though sharp-edged as a cutlass.

The only complaint to be made is one of lyrical content; while I love pirates as much as the next metalhead (pirates, like Vikings or zombies, are always metal), Swashbuckle’s lyrics are almost random pirate-themed phrases, heavy on the jargon and not really saying all that much. I hope Swashbuckle plan to take a slightly deeper approach in their next album; while Crewed By The Damned is quite enjoyable, piracy has much more interesting stories to tell.

Killing Songs :
Welcome Aboard, Drink Up, Dead Men Tell No Lies
Kayla quoted 72 / 100
Other albums by Swashbuckle that we have reviewed:
Swashbuckle - Back To The Noose reviewed by Elias and quoted 30 / 100
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