Alestorm - Black Sails At Midnight
Napalm Records
Pirate-Themed Power Metal
10 songs (46:19)
Release year: 2009
Alestorm, Napalm Records
Reviewed by Kyle

Alas! A new Alestorm album has arrived! After releasing one of the most refreshing and original debut metal albums since I can remember with Captain Morgan’s Revenge , the masters of True Scottish Pirate Metal are back to raid your homes and empty your kegs once again with their sophomore album, Black Sails At Midnight. But the question is: can this album live up to their debut and mend its faults? As fun of an album as CMR was, it held a few filler tracks buried in the midst of the real treasure, and I was hoping for more of an epic, Pirates Of The Caribbean-style sound on their follow-up album. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Black Sails At Midnight, but if you love their debut for what it is and were hoping for more of the same, then you can safely go out and buy this album without reading the rest of this review. For the rest, stick around, because this album shows a little bit of progression from CMR.

Where should I begin? It’s Alestorm, so they have a very recognizable sound: Galloping guitar riffs, epic, symphonic keys that sound like traditional sea shanties times a thousand, and a vocalist with a very raspy voice that sounds – Surprise! – Just like a pirate! Alestorm is a band that knows exactly what their sound is, and it’s a damn good one, so they dare not change it. But that’s the biggest problem with Black Sails At Midnight; there’s not much to differentiate this album from their debut, and despite a few amazing tracks, it falls short of its full potential; just like Captain Morgan’s Revenge.

I’ll start with the real standout tracks on this album. The Quest sounds exactly like you expect it would, considering the title: EPIC! It opens with a tremolo riff played against trumpeting keys and a thundering double-bass, and you instantly know that this is the same Alestorm you know and love. The raspy vocals are still here from CMR, and as far as I can tell, they havn’t changed a bit, which is perfectly fine with me. The lyrics on this track aren’t very deep, and talk about sailing and battling: two things that pirates know best! The lyrics are simple yet effective, and they deliver exactly what you’d want in an Alestorm song. The next song, Leviathan, originally appeared on their EP of the same name, and one of the only things that’s changed from the original is that the intro, featuring the sound of crashing waves and a clanging bell in the distance, is now gone, and the track dives straight into the music. For those of you who havn’t heard the Leviathan EP, this is one of Alestorm’s most epic songs to date! The keys in this song are very dark sounding, giving the feel of some colossal battle with an impossibly huge beast, and coincidentally, this song is about searching for and battling a beast that’s “Three hundred miles from its head to its tail”. Whoa.

Keelhauled is my favorite track on Black Sails At Midnight, and possibly my favorite Alestorm song to date. With a bouncy, accordion intro on keys and a folky, thrashy vibe throughout the rest of the track, it almost sounds like Alestorm covered a Korpiklaani song. After listening to this song, the line “Make that bastard walk the plank with a bottle of rum and a yo ho ho!” Was stuck in my head for days after I heard it. This is a very fun song, and I wish that the band would lighten up a bit and make more songs like this; slow Alestorm songs are no fun! Other highlights on this album include the title track, which is essentially Alestorm gone thrash, and Wolves of the Sea, which also appeared on the Leviathan EP. It’s a cover of a pop/techno song that appeared in a 2008 Eurovision song contest by a group called Pirates Of The Sea. After hearing the original version on Youtube, I can safely say that this is the BEST cover ever. In fact, the song sounds like it was tailor-made for Alestorm; I didn’t even realize that this was a cover at first! It’s another very fun song that almost ties with Keelhauled as my favorite song on Black Sails At Midnight.

The amazing thing about this album is that, in my opinion, there are no filler tracks! (Except for maybe No Quarter and To The End Of Our Days; they aren’t particularly bad songs, I just don’t like them too much.)Unlike CMR, there are only “Good” or “Great” songs on Black Sails At Midnight, which makes it a much more enjoyable listening experience as a whole. That Famous Ol’ Spiced is a song about a new brew that’s sweeping the land, and has the trademark pirate melody on keys to give it an epic feel. Pirate Song feels much more like a pirate drinking song than the rest of the tracks on the album, and while the music isn’t particularly interesting, the lyrics are top-notch, told from the first-person view of a pirate telling of his sins. This song is what being a pirate is all about! Chronicles of Vengeance is much like Leviathan, and it’s another dark-sounding, epic track. In fact, it’s maybe TOO much like Leviathan, but the epic, sweeping chorus is what saves this one from being a throw-away track.

As I’ve said before, No Quarter and To The End Of Our Days are the only two tracks that I don’t particularly like on Black Sails At Midnight. No Quarter is an instrumental that has absolutely nothing to do with the Led Zeppelin song of the same name, and is a silly, mid-paced track that’s just not that interesting, although it features part of the theme from Pirates Of The Caribbean about two-thirds of the way through, which is kinda neat. To The End Of Our Days is a slow-paced song about a pirate that’s the last remaining man on a ship, but the lyrics fail to mention just HOW he got himself in that predicament, which in my opinion is a case of poor story telling. There’s nothing interesting about the music, and it’s a very boring song overall. But I know people that enjoyed both of these tracks, so I can’t speak for everyone when I say that I count these as “Filler”. It’s a matter of personal opinion and taste.

My only other complaint sound-wise on this album is the keys; though they fit in well with tracks like Chronicles of Vengeance, the trumpeting sound seems very tinny and wimpy to me, and sounds like a failed experiment. The keyboard sound is quite a step back from what I heard on CMR. But at least it’s tolerable, and Alestorm has succeeded in making an album that feels much more solid than their debut. However, it’s too much like CMR in my opinion, and while the quality of the tracks is much higher, Black Sails At Midnight feels rushed overall. But where DOES the band go from here? How do they keep their Pirate Metal shtick fresh on future albums? I say: Concept album! Alestorm has the songwriting ability to be able to tell an entertaining story in the vein of Pirates Of The Caribbean, and I think it would lend them a much more epic feel that people could take more seriously. But for now we have Black Sails At Midnight to hold us over until that glorious day, although I feel that in the future, this album will be forgotten in Alestorm’s catalog as it continues to grow. It’s pretty much what I expected, honestly; but in the back of my mind, I was hoping for more.

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