May 25, 2020 Alestorm – Curse of the Crystal Coconut (Album Review)
What the world needs now is Pirate Metal, sweet Pirate Metal. Realizing that they are the only thing that there’s just too little of, Alestorm are back from Mexico and they are ready to present you filthy landlubbers with Curse of the Crystal Coconut. So, break out your dinghies and your treasure chests, the party begins on Friday, May 29th, 2020 thanks to those courageous captains at Napalm Records.
Formed in Perth, Scotland in 2004, after a name change and the adoption of their much loved pirate theme, Alestorm would go on to release their full-length studio debut, Captain Morgan’s Revenge, in 2008. Sadly, a rum sponsorship did not follow. Instead, there were some lineup changes as the quintet delivered four additional discs over the next nine years—including 2011’s Back Through Time and 2017’s No Grave But the Sea. When not getting “Fucked With an Anchor,” the band has found time to tour, including spending a highly-successful summer on the 2017 Vans Warped Tour.
So, now that they’ve finished off their margaritas and tacos, what’s next for these Heavy Metal pirates? Why that would be album numero seis, Curse of the Crystal Coconut. For the 11-song storytelling romp, Alestorm—Vocalist/Keytarist Christopher Bowes, Guitarist Mate Bodor, Bassist Gareth Murdock, Drummer Peter Alcorn, and Keyboardist Elliot Vernon—doff their floaties and dive head first into the briny deep to bring fans a brand new collection of pirate-theme, wildly satirical musical mayhem. What else would one expect, right?
Curse of the Crystal Coconut opens to the origin story of “Treasure Chest Party Quest,” the hot tub time machine of Pirate Metal. (Say that five times fast!) Drinking horn in hand, Bowes and his maties guzzle ale, shoot guns, count their cash, and have a raucous good time in this spirited anthem. All this as, sonically, the band’s fantastical riffage is accentuated by the flawless violin work of Subway to Sally’s Ally Storch, who performs (beautifully!) throughout the entire album.
Who was the greatest man to ever sail the ocean blue? Rum-lover “Fannybaws,” the scourge of the sea, who receives a proper tribute in a rocker that is guaranteed to have you raising your flask to toast the red-bearded Scotsman. Next up, you can keep your boots stomping for “Chomp Chomp,” as the guitars chug and the crocs and gators do dastardly deeds in the heat of the night. Captain Hook would quiver in fear at the blitzkrieg of Metal here, one that features some stellar guest vocals from Finntroll’s Mathias “Vreth” Lillmåns, as well as the lovely hurdy-gurdy work of Patty Gurdy (of Patty Gurdy’s Circle).
If you’ve survived with your limbs intact, prepare ye scallywag ears for Tobias Hain and Jan Philipp Jacobs’ trumpet and trombone to herald our arrival in “Tortuga.” A stomper with funky electronics and some Hip-Hop vibes—along with guest vocals from Captain Yarrface of Rumahoy—life in the Caribbean never sounded quite so catchy. (#JackSparrowApproved!) Then things get a little weird as, oh no! “Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship”! Crawling through the sea, the “dendrophagic horde” have arrived and they crave brains—and treasure. Setting all humor aside, the fact that Alestorm is able to take zombies and pirates, toss them into battle, and turn the whole thing into an anthemic Metal sing-along—complete with a melodic guitar solo worthy of an arena—is a testament to their quirky abilities.
Next up, the frenetic pace and blast beats of “Call of the Waves” are contrasted by Storch’s ethereal strings as the quintet urges you to cast off your chains and head out onto the high seas. Though it fits the theme perfectly, the track certainly has inspirational notes that serve as a reminder to chase your own adventure—be it on land or off foreign shores. (Seize the sea, if you will.) Then, the sonics are moodier for “Pirate’s Scorn,” a Metal jig full of scurvy (Captain Skurvy, that is) and vengeance.
Just to make certain that you are wide awake and paying attention to their pirate pandemonium, Alestorm opens up “Shit Boat (No Fans)” with the proclamation, “Your pirate ship can eat a bag of dicks!” Bowes goes wild with his narrative as he mounts a size competition between, ahem, sailing vessels. There’s still more, and live crowds are guaranteed to go wild for the band’s newest semi-autobiographical anthem, “Pirate Metal Drinking Crew,” which begs for listeners to clap along and dance.
As we near the end of our voyage, a peg-legged instrumental builds into the explosion of “Wooden Leg Pt. 2 (The Woodening).” With ‘80s synths embedded into its layers, the band journey through a fiery inferno of chopped body parts, sushi (blech!), an ancient Spanish curse, MIDI, as well as Spanish and Japanese, to attain a track that is part video game soundtrack and part pseudo-hymnal to a lost limb. Topped off with impeccable narration from Afterpain’s Fernando Rey, as well as Japanese Folk Metal’s Kaelhakase & Tatsuguchi, this just might be the stand-out track on an album full of glorious moments. Ultimately, however, the folktale of “Henry Martin” wraps it all up with a return to Scotland, crafting a slightly less insane farewell.
While they might be on a self-professed quest to kick your ass, it’s hard not to smile and have a good time when Alestorm are on stage, and they manage to deliver that same sensation straight to your home with the Curse of the Crystal Coconut. Through their heavily layered sound profile, and unique sense of humor, these Scots make music that spits in the face of the doldrums of life (and zombies). While to love Alestorm is to accept the unceasing wit (and wisdom) of their hilarious presentation, there are certainly moments that offer insight into the seriousness of the band’s approach to their craft. For example, the narrative storytelling of “Wooden Leg Pt. 2 (The Woodening),” which flawlessly displays the hefty heart of Alestorm.
A pack of technically proficient musicians who tell intentionally ridiculous tales, they are exactly the dose of humor that is needed in the all-too serious Metal scene and this world. Oh, and have we mentioned that Bowes rocks a keytar? So strap on an eye patch and a pirate hat, because Cryptic Rock gives Curse of the Crystal Coconut 5 of 5 stars.