's 2009 LP release "Black Sails at Midnight" is not only a very fun, light-hearted, and most enjoyable album to experience, but is also a major achievement in its execution of upper division songwriting theories and practices. The balance of the album is perfect.
Any perceived fluff is backed by a powerful and heavy rhythm section. Keyboards are primarily used for color, but these simple but immense hooks define all of the themes, and thus each song is able to stand out on its own. The best song on the album, "Chronicles Of Vengeance
", provides an archetypal example of Alestorm
's patented balance. The chorus is led by a beautiful horn section (the use of real horns over synthesiser is perhaps the biggest improvement the band has made over their previous work) but its magic is the hellacious undercurrent of rhythm guitar chugging in between those perfectly pitched high notes from the trumpet line. "The Quest" and "Leviathan
" are two other highlights of this high-low technique. A secondary function of the keyboards is also for dueling with the lead guitarist, but that only appears on a few tracks, most notably "The Quest", "That
Famous Ol' Spiced", and "Pirate Song".
Another aspect of Alestorm
that seems to have been addressed on "Black Sails at Midnight" is the quality and legitimacy of its gimmick, that being the pirate metal band. It seems as though the balance card is played here as well where all that my be considered cheesy is perhaps better defined as fun and entertaining. Drinking anthems like "That
Famous Ol' Spiced" and "Wolves Of The Sea" include the ever cliche "yo-ho-ho" singing parts, but still comes off as bona fide and legitimate works of metal due to the much appreciated, powerful, and honest heaviness of the rhythm guitars and thundering drums. By not including pirate lyrics, the instumental "No Quarter" is an excellent showcase of the bands integrity from a musical standpoint.
As stated before, Alestorm
uses more real instruments this time around, a choice that always comes off sounding better. "That
Famous Ol' Spiced" features a tin whistle, and "Leviathan
" and "Chronicles Of Vengeance
" feature a horn section. Still, the use of color for the other synthesized parts is vast and impressive, including accordion and violin on "Keelhauled".
As for this album being perfect, two things stand it its way. One is "To The End
Of Our Days". It's a pirate ballad. Second, the narrow scope of all that can be pirate metal makes it difficult to look past the cartoonish vocal style and lyrical content of lead singer and head songwriter Christopher Bowes. "Black Sails at Midnight" is really an accomplishment when you consider the result compared to the concept. The single statement that most accurately describes Alestorm
when listening to them is if you don't take what they've created seriously, then it is a very well executed, creative, and enjoyable metal album.