Aw, Njord have merci on my blackened cold metal soul. I just listened a few times to the Curse of the Crystal Coconut, Alestorm‘s latest bag of goodies. And now my head is spinning.
Well, our famous Scottish pirates are at it again, ever questing about the wide-open seas as swiftly as the fair winds allow. Albeit that a few signs of aging become all but too apparent throughout the record.
Now, Sunset on The Golden Age and No Grave but the Sea were true steam machines. They gorged with golden ideas and truly funny and irresistible lines that docked onto your frontal lobe like fucking superglue. Sing-along, ready-made tunes that sounded perfect in the car or at a live concert. Also, on Sunset you got a deluxe version with some decent unplugged songs for seconds.
Yet, on No Grave, first storm clouds appeared. The disk masters – in their unending wisdom – gave us dog barks to fill the extra CD. So, you will get the same set of songs with doggy lyrics for a few extra greenbacks on the deluxe edition1). Now on Coconut, they fuck around with a godawful 16th-century version, aka an 8-bit filter on top of preexisting tracks. Come on, Alestorm, some silliness is great, but pulling such a dismal stunt twice in a row won’t earn you any extra beer.
And then, Curse of the Crystal Coconut gets us a reality check after more than a decade of empty beer bottles and drained kegs of rum. Being a declared Pirate Metal outfit with a pigheaded fixation on too much drink limits your options. After all, it’s difficult to rehash the same old lore all over again. You’ll run out of drinking songs after a while.
So, in a nutshell, Alestorm‘s past delights have become Coconut‘s own very best reference to mine new songs from. And that is not necessarily to its advantage. True, bands like AC/DC also only did their very own style to the bitter end, and they sold out stadiums regardless. But will it be the same with Alestorm?
Well, we are very far away from tracks like Drink2), for example. A heavy hitter that nets some 34 million views to date on YouTube. Instead, Alestorm lands you with a fair share of artificially inflated humbuggery that should in some way sound funny. Or how else would one explain duds like Shit Boat (No Fans) and its party line “…your pirate ship can eat a bag of dicks…”.
On the other hand, Curse of the Crystal Coconut sports a number of fairly good pieces, too. Like Treasure Chest Party Quest with its video full of balkanesque clichés. Or Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship with its insanely catchy chorus that managed to follow me around all day. Pirate Metal Drinking Crew kinda limps behind that one as a close second on a wooden leg.
Speaking of which: Alestorm gave the old dismal track of the wooden leg an upgrade. Wooden Leg Part 2 (The Woodening)3) – Coconut‘s attempt at an epic piece – gets you a few pretty surprising turnouts. Including monologues in Japanese and Spanish in that sea of varying pieces of metal. Pretty snazzy, that one.
Now, the second set of positives definitely is the musicianship of this crew. The base of solid Power and Folk metal never changed much. But the band injected interludes into Nu Metal, those weird Metalcore screams, thrashy moments and a true Black Metal opening, once the new wooden leg starts scraping across the deck.
You’ll also find a score of folk instruments in there, the most prominent of which probably is the Hurdy-Gurdy with its somewhat weird solo. Let me also point out Máté Bodor and his juicy guitar work that probably saved the bacon of a few of those songs on the record.
Curse of the Crystal Coconut definitely turned out to be a grower, as opposed to a visceral smasher. You’ll need to listen a few times to all that bubble-gum piracy and rum-laced fun to get to the juicier parts. Lest the record become that ubiquitous background music for your beach volley tournament.
Alestorm freely took from the rich heritage of their decade-old career and molded some tracks from those successful years to keep the ship moving crisply. Yet, all that jazz often sounds a bit moldy, with a certain déjà-vu that should not be there necessarily.
That said, I was pretty impressed by the meticulous planning the band – quite apparently – put into that record. You got genuine smashers like Chomp Chomp, sing-along tunes like Funnybaws or – again – the hymn-esque pieces like Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship. All of that is tuned towards live events and plays to the band’s undeniable knack for stellar on-stage performances.
Now, should you shell out a few bucks for that crystal coconut? Sure, it is not a bad record per se. And it will sound nice if a pool or a beach bar is nearby during a hot summer night. But that specific Coconut would have tasted so much better with a few new, crisp ideas to spin their yarn further and kick things up a few notches.
But that – for some reason – didn’t happen.
Get dat tune: