Back Through Time
Alestorm is a silly band. And according to some people, silly bands are immune to criticism. Sorry, they’re not. I’m as big a fan of their piratey antics as the next swashbuckler, but a lack of seriousness doesn’t excuse an album of all its faults. If this is all supposed to be good fun, then there are no defenses left when it isn’t. Even if the band doesn’t give a yahaharrr.
Now, ever since “Black Sails At Midnight”, I’ve had the sense that Alestorm blew their cannon load with the excellent debut “Captain Morgan’s Revenge”. While the follow-up had its standouts, it felt like a rushed and cheap cash-in on their sudden popularity. “Back Through Time” took a while longer to get here, but once again the result is half-assed. For starters, why would you introduce the concept of “Vikings versus pirates”, only to discard it immediately after the promising opening track? With lyrics like “You put your faith in Odin and Thor, we put ours in cannons and whores.”, there was some potential here. Instead we get the same-old pirate themes of brutal violence and endless alcoholism. Yo ho ho, and a bottle of dumb.
At least the first couple of songs are fun enough to make you forget this. Sure, we’ve heard “Shipwrecked” before when it was called “Keelhauled” and “The Sunken Norwegian” shares its drunken DNA with “Nancy The Tavern Wench” and “That Famous Ol’ Spiced”, but they’re instantly infectious songs with irritatingly catchy folk melodies. “Midget Saw” is another very cheerful tune, especially for a song about chopping off legs, but Captain Bowes really strains the limited capacities of his voice in the chorus to a point that even Chris Boltendahl would frown. And that guy sounds like he has a nest of geriatric crows permanently stuck in his throat.
The album takes a plunge to Davy Jones’ locker with the moshpit-inducing “Buckfast Powersmash”, because from there on the album makes the worst and most unforgivable mistake any form of brainless entertainment could make: it’s boring. For a healthy comparison, just go and see the latest “Pirates Of The Caribbean”-film. Or even better: don’t. At least “Buckfast” has some quality riffing, but “Swashbuckled” is way too dull for a song about mad swordsmanship and “Rum” is the sort of alcoholic stupidity only Korpiklaani would be proud of. If I didn’t know any better, I’d suspect it was a cover. “Rumpelkombo” is too idiotic to even describe, as it’s only six seconds long and the most meaningless song since Nanowar Of Steel’s “Power Of The Power Of The Power (Of The Great Sword)”. But that one was funny. The actual cover “Barret’s Privateers” is tedious and overlong, just like any of the short and pointless bonus tracks. Better is the mini-epic “Death Throes Of The Terror Squid”, which successfully melts folk, power and black metal, but doesn’t reach the heights of previous tentacle-adventure “Leviathan”.
One track goes unmentioned, because it perfectly sums up this record. “Scraping The Barrel” is an oddly self-reflexive song in which the Scottish pirates acknowledge their debt to Running Wild and that they never had a shot to make more than one interesting album anyway. Yet, despite their status of one-trick-ponies, they forge on against their better judgment. These guys are obviously taking the piss with everything they stand for, and just use the band’s momentary fame to see the world, play gigs and get wasted. Anyone who has seen them live, can confirm that their music is destined to be directly in front of an audience. So if you feel the need for piracy, spend your hard-earned pieces of eight on some concert tickets and a tankard of ale, and not on “Back Through Time”.
Arno Callens' rating: 2.5 out of 5