Review: ALESTORM “Curse of the Crystal Coconut” [Napalm Records]

Review: ALESTORM “Curse of the Crystal Coconut” [Napalm Records]

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Score 89%
89 %
User Rating : 3.7 (1 votes)

To say that I was anticipating this album would be an understatement. Almost three years to the date since their last album, coinciding with my discovery and enjoyment of the band, comes the quintet’s 6th album ‘Curse of the Crystal Coconut’. Alestorm is quite unlike most bands in my opinion. It’s a musical adventure that conveys an almost theme-park level of thrill and enjoyment with a pirate tinged cast of characters to boot. This album, like most preceding it, is no slouch and hits everything I want in a folk-soaked, pirate-power metal epic: a call to sail the seas with several awe-inspiring tracks, most of which detail cartoonish and/or legendary tales of a pirate’s life. However, as many would assume, this album is more of the same Alestorm that we all know and love (or hate). It’s quite apparent that this album, like ‘No Grave but the Sea’, are riding off the majestic waves of ‘Sunset on the Golden Age’ to some capacity. You have the party anthem, the grand epic, the “serious”, almost somber track, etc.. On the other side of things however, Alestorm has made a point to not cater to fans entirely and pulls a few surprises out of their hat to… take some interesting creative liberties. Regardless, I’m sure the band is familiar with the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and that could not be any truer than on their newest prate metal plundering.

What immediately sticks out to me about this album is the material presented. Out of the 11 tracks present, we have oddballs, sequels, reworkings, covers, spiritual successors, and all of them have a unique charm worth discussing on their own. You get the party stomper ‘Treasure Chest Party Quest’ which wields an incredible chorus, the galloping ‘Fannybaws’, the thrasher ‘Chomp Chomp’ and so on and so forth. Each song has a unique personality at its core, which to me makes them easily identifiable at a short glance and grants the album a sense of diversity without straying too far from the alcoholic formula of the band. Of course, with that in mind we must talk about the infamous track that acted as the second single: ‘Tortuga’. ‘Tortuga’ is an experiment in rap/nu-metal/pop that I’m sure every fervent fan or foe of the band has an opinion on. To me it was a great shock to hear nu-metal riffs and djent drumming paired with music akin to mid-2010s pop, but with time it’s grown on me. I’m a sucker for that kind of pop, so this song is a bizarre, yet excellent island dish served by this pirate crew. Antithetical to this, we get a sequel to the track ‘Wooden Leg’ in the form of ‘Wooden Leg Pt.2 (The Woodening)’. Described by Bowes himself as “Turisas playing Alestorm,” I couldn’t agree more. The track is sprawling, epic, and a quest unto itself, given weight by authentic horns, Japanese and Spanish guest vocals, 8-bit bridges, metallic reprisals and just immaculate performances on all fronts. If you wanted a symphonic sequel to an already great track, then this one is right up your wooden alley. Another standout track is ‘Zombies Ate my Pirate Ship’. Originally envisioned as ‘Magnetic South’, this track hits all the right notes, alternating between an awesome folk chugger to a doomy, somber sea shanty. The song is composited with a sea-soaked atmosphere in which Hurdy Gurdy player, Patty Gurdy contributes to with beauty. Her additional vocal contribution of the chorus is the cherry on top of the rum cake.

Speaking of Gurdy, her work on the old Hurdy is quite sturdy. It’s an addition that lends itself to the album in a way that pushes it into more folky territory. To see this in full effect, look no further than the previously mentioned thrash-laden track of ‘Chomp Chomp’, complete with guest Mathias Lillmåns as a deceased pirate. This album is probably the most you’ll ever see Alestorm go full folk, as evident by the album’s final track entitled ‘Henry Martin’. A melodic and brooding take on a 17th-century Scottish folk song, it’s an odd and moody way to top off an otherwise goofy album. Still, the band makes it work as any folk metal band could, complementing the traditional track with an abundance of acoustic guitars. Everyone on deck in this album plays exceedingly well in their department as metal playing pirates. Bowes of course, steals the show with his performance of his gruff, yet fun filled pirate persona, shouting emboldened rallying cries, chants and choruses, alongside his pleasant keyboards. Bowes can channel his voice remarkably well, changing from melancholic on ‘Henry Martin’, to outright cartoon character on ‘Pirate’s Scorn,’ fittingly so given the source material. Yes, it is here we discover the origins of the ridiculous album name, as the track is a cover taken from the Donkey Kong Country show. Only Alestorm would have the balls to take a track from a horrendous looking cartoon and jury-rig their own metallic rendition of it without losing any of the original’s luster. Bowes has knack for selling tracks, and he does so in strides on this album with a rousing and rowdy rendition that continues to captivate me. Of course, where would a captain be without his riffs? ‘Curse’ is rich with riffs, hooks and rhythms that are sure to have you nodding, singing or partying along. The guitars are as strong as the ocean’s powerful waves, and like them, they crash, rock and shake you in whichever direction they please. The melodies played here by either a guitar or keyboard were brewed to chant behind and excel in doing so. The drums permeate a large haul of the album’s spunky and rebellious attitude, bouncing alongside the other instruments with an overload of energetic passion. Every performer collaborates to build upon the songs’ plots and channel them in their own dramatic and silly ways, whether it be a light-hearted yet technical solo or a marching drum line signaling an epic battle. All the instruments sound their best and score the sound of a pirate’s adventure in spades. A round of hook-handed applause is in order here, for band members and guests alike.

When you create a formula like Alestorm has, a lot of potency rests in the hands of the individual tracks. Since the album’s sound, tone, atmosphere, instruments, etc. take heavy precedent from previous works, you need the tracks to not only be substantially different from previous outings, but captivating, interesting and creative as well. This album, while it sounds great and has great tracks, feels a tad like a looming threat. How far can the band take this concept and run with it? It happened to Cattle Decapitation on their latest three albums, where they initially created an album that not only innovated, but rocked the socks off everyone, then capitalized off it and rode its conceptual, musical and technical success on the next two. The track ‘Tortuga’ is an interesting experiment sure, but will they make an entire album like it? Honestly, it’d be neat to me, but realistically probably not. All I can say is that this album, satiates the Alestorm shaped hole in my heart, and delivers hearty shanties that drive me to plunder for treasure and traverse coastal, tropical islands, full of undead pirates and ferocious crocodiles. It’s time to walk the plank and give this album another spin!

Release date: May 29th, 2020

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About the author

I’ve been listening to Metal for a couple years now and it’s one of my favorite passions, as well as collecting CDs, Vinyl, and tapes. I also enjoy animated shows and partake in drawing as a hobby.

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