Fuck Me, I Had to Review Alestorm


Some time ago, I embarked on a perilous voyage, one that brought me through the dreaded Pirate Metal Archipelago. The journey was rough, I almost died, and that near cause of death was named Alestorm.

It all began as a lark. Someone in the TovH Facebook page had an idea that someone should listen to a subgenre they haven’t listened to before and write about the experience. Building on that, another person suggested that topic be pirate metal. I mean, wouldn’t that be just soooo funny?

Fool that I am, I did it. It was not, in fact, soooo funny. It sucked. I listened to nothing but pirate metal for a week, consisting of over 50 hours of music. The result was too many words spilled over a subgenre that should probably not exist. But the worst outcome of it all is that I became the Pirate Metal Guy of the Toilet. Whenever a pirate promo comes in, it inevitably sails its way into my inbox.

And that, my friends, is how we end up here. Several weeks ago, I received the latest Alestorm record, this one entitled Curse of the Crystal Coconut. Practically speaking, reviewing this album was a bit of a problem. With the advent of the Rona, my listening time has been severely limited, cut down from dozens of hours a week to now a maximum of five. So when it came down to deciding whether to listen to Alestorm or literally anything else, the choice was pretty easy. But duty eventually won out and I [swash ~Roldy]buckled. It must be done.

As you undoubtedly know by now, I am the wrong person to review this band and this record. I don’t particularly enjoy folk metal. Or power metal. Or sea shanties. Mixing these ingredients together is a recipe for a guaranteed bad time. I suppose that’s the point. I suffer for your entertainment. I am a sacrifice to the Content Gods.

Alestorm is a difficult band to critique, as they wear a kind of critical Kevlar: making “fun” party music. How can you critique fun? If you don’t like it, you must hate fun. If you don’t think it’s funny, you don’t have a sense of humor. If you think it’s idiotic, that’s the point because the idiocy is intentional. They’re very upfront about the aesthetic they’re going for, as evidenced by the chorus to the opening track, “Treasure Chest Party Quest,” a metal-tinged hard rock drinking song that sounds like the pirate version of KISS:

We’re only here to have fun, get drunk

And make loads of money

Cause nothing else matters to me

We’re only here to drink rum, shoot guns

And live for the party

Come with us and soon you will see

We’re only here to have fun, get drunk

And make loads of money

Cause nothing else matters to me

We’re only here to get lit, talk shit

And drink all your whiskey

Come with us and soon you will see

We’re only here to have fun

They say it far better than I could. It’s unassailable because it doesn’t try to be anything but stupid fun. It’s a frat boy’s dream, a fart joke embodied as music, with the charm of a dollar store Halloween pirate costume.

Which gets us to how stale this material is. While a hokey folk-power metal joke band may have been fun once or twice, this is Alestorm’s sixth album, spanning over 12 years, and 4 splits and EPs thrown in between. This type of thing has the shelf life of room temperature milk and the spoiled, curdled stench permeates every minute of this record.

Take “Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship,” for example. It combines the clichés of the usual pirate fare with the dated zombie craze of a decade ago. Or mercifully short track, “Shit Boat (No Fans),” whose entire premise is that a boat is bad and can “eat a bag of dicks,” a line that Louis CK made famous 15 years ago. And this isn’t even getting to the bottomless supply of songs about drinking and hackneyed pirate stories.

But the worst of the worst is album single, “Tortuga.” There are bad songs and then there are bad songs, songs so irritating and grating that you long for death. “Tortuga” is one of those. A throwback to the failed rap metal experiments of the butt rock era, it features Captain Yarrface of execrable label mates, Rumahoy, doing a rap with a flow that would have been embarrassing 25 years ago and parrots the Pirates of the Caribbean Disney ride song with “YO HO! Gotta be a pirate’s life for me.” The rest of the track rehashes the musical sins of almost all rap metal in pooling out-of-date hip hop affectations with substandard metal. It is a triumph of terrible.

What about how catchy the songs are? Surely there is value in that? No. Catchiness comes in two forms: welcome and unwelcome. Alestorm has the infernal catchiness of a 1-877-KARS4KIDS commercial, an earworm as vile as the Ceti eel that burrows into your brain and causes only pain. I found myself slapping my own face when I heard “We’re the pirate metal drinking crew” pop up uninvited in my mind. It hurt but it was effective.

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind with this. I know no one could change mine. You either find this bullshit charming or you don’t. Lord, deliver plagues on this earth if I ever have to listen to it again.

Curse of the Crystal Coconut releases May 29, 2020. I will never forgive you if you give money to this band.

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