Album Review: Alestorm – Curse of the Crystal Coconut (Reviewed By Me, Big G)

Un-shiver those timbers! De-Batten your hatches! And that mainsail better get hoisted. Such Sea-fairing sayings can only indicate one thing; a new Alestorm album has been announced!  What better time than to take a look at the Scottish Pirate Metal outfits 2020 release – “Curse of the Crystal Coconut”.  So, I ask you to sign your name and join my crew as I ask what do we like from CotCC and what do we want to see of it carried over to album seven.

Alestorm are well known in the modern metal scene, and why wouldn’t they be?  A Scottish formed metal band fronted by a kilt wearing, keytar playing, wee wideo.  On top of that they sing about Krakens, booze, and historical naval battles.  And it’s all wrapped up in this entirely unique sound of Folk heavy Power Metal.  Some will dismiss them as a gimmick band but my take on that is that a gimmick can only bring people in, it very rarely keeps them there.  There is more to this band than meets the eye patch however.  “Gimmick” bands need to have good music to keep their fan base.  Or to grow their fanbase in Alestorm’s case they just keep getting bigger and bigger.  So, to me, that’s the most important thing that the upcoming “Seventh Rum of a Seventh Rum ” needs to be.  It needs to be good.  I want it to be silly, I want it to have hurdy-gurdy solos, I want there to be songs that no one else would even consider releasing to the public.  But above all that I need it to be good.

OK I would like it to be good, what a revelation…well done me.  What else can the upcoming release take from CotCC then?  I’d love to see more tracks like “Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship”.  This one wasn’t released as a single initially (Although there is now a video for it) so it flew under the radar a bit.  This song has the big riffs, this song has the singalong chorus, this song has the screaming guitar solo.  That ticks a lot of boxes.  It also has the things that make it a uniquely Alestorm tune though.  The extra crew mates that come to record brass, vocals, and hurdy gurdy lines.  The Yo-Ho chants.  The ridiculous lyrics.  Parts which might seem small in isolation but remove them from the tune and it still might be a grand wee metal song, but it would lose its charming pirate heart.

A second favourite of mine is “Wooden Leg, Pt 2 (The Woodening)”.   What a title.  And this is indeed a follow up to “Wooden Leg” from 2014s “Sunset on The Golden Age” album.  Alestorm aren’t the only metal band to do these multi-part songs told over many albums.  Take for instance Metallica, who have the Unforgivens I, II, and III.  Or Iron Maiden’s “Charlotte” saga.  This track isn’t only appealing because it’s a musical link to a simpler time, however.  It’s truly an epic.  At over eight minutes long it features parts clearly drawn from Alestorms own style but also takes heavily from black metal.  There’s a wee breakdown of 8-bit chiptune music.  There are triumphant horns blowing. The lyrics are sung in three different languages.  If there’s ever an Alestorm tune that has everything, here it is. The arrangement of this tune also quotes from the original “Wooden Leg” subtly and reworks some of the motifs from it.  Before thundering into the original chorus to end the song on, with a shiny set of new lyrics that is.  I always find myself caught up in this track when I hear it and I want to hear more of it.  Simply put this is Chris Bowes songwriting at. It’s. Best.  Admittedly I write this with a smug internal smile as the track list for “Seventh Rum” does reveal a “Wooden Leg (Part III).

There is another side of the coin from mighty trans-album sagas found on this album.  And that side of this particular gold doubloon is “Shit Boat (No Fans)”. What a title.  This song is just over one minute long and for all it lacks in solos it makes up for in sheer aggression and the most beautifully poetic lyrics this cabin boy has ever heard.  Take for example the verse line;

 “Your poopdeck is a shithole and your rudder is crap, and your cannons are incapable of firing twenty feet.”  

Devastating.  I don’t know who this anti-ode is aimed at but if it were me, I’d just keelhaul myself.  How could anyone ever recover from that?

There are of course some tracks on Curse of the Crystal Coconut which I enjoy, but don’t think are essential to carry over to a new album.  “Call Of the Waves” for example.  This track does have a lot of what I love about “Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship” or tracks from past albums.  It just doesn’t seem to do any of it to the same level though.  The verses do rumble on with the drums and bass, the choruses indeed rise high, and the fiddles will be found fiddling away through the bridge sections.  To me it just seems like this track and “Zombies” try to occupy the same rank.  And on a ship with a well-respected Quartermaster such as the aforementioned track, “Call of The Waves” should perhaps just salute and start polishing its silverware.

Here’s the difficult part.  What would I axe from this album going forward to “Seventh Rum”?  I do like this band (clearly), and I do like this album (clearly).  But is it undefeatable in battle?  Not quite.  The drunkest sailor on this ship is likely to be the last track “Henry Martin”.  Now for the history buffs I don’t mean Henry Martin who founded the Socialist Party of Great Britain in 1904, no no.  I of course mean “Henry Martin” a good old Scots tune dating back to the seventeenth century (at least) telling tale of a fine gentleman turned to privateering and then piracy.  Ok maybe the history nerds can still enjoy it.  This isn’t a bad rendition of it, truthfully.  It’s very reminiscent of traditional renditions.  Much like the Joan Baez version but more…metally.  I find however that as the last track of CotCC it should have been bigger, more energetic, more typically Alestorm.  Perhaps “Wooden Leg, Pt 2 (The Woodening)” would be a better end point.  Looking forward to “Seventh Rum of a Seventh Rum” then I’m hoping that lower-energy tracks precede an explosive, climactic ending.  Something that leaves us as listeners beans-blown and an exhausted rum-soaked heap left on the deck waiting for album eight.  They’re perfectly capable of this.  Look back through time to “Back Through Time” for example where “Death Throes of the Terrorsquid” rounded off the album nicely.

One last thing I don’t need to carry over to album seven is something along the line of “Tortuga”.  The reggaeton inspired, down with the kids single released in the build up to “Coconut”.  This track isn’t half arsed, it is done well for what it is.  Which is all the better because Hip-Hop done as a parody can just be unbearably cringey. Let’s be real.  And that’s before we account for the cringe levels found in rap metal.  There’s a bigger reason I don’t need to see more of this in Alestorm’s next release, however.  That reason being that we just don’t need more of this, let’s not let it become a trend please.  Nanowar of Steel have “Norwegian Reggaeton” and now Ghost have released “Twenties’ ‘ along similar veins.  I think we’re good.  Don’t need any more yet.  Please.  Let this one remain as a quirk of 2020.  I will need to wipe that smug inner smile away from earlier as another look at the track list for the band’s next album reveals… “Return to Tortuga”.  Personally, I hope it’s of a very different style to the O.G. just as the Wooden Legs are very different musically.  Come on guys, break the cycle.

“Seventh Rum of a Seventh Rum” releases June 24th this year and we have a lot to be excited for.  This band is rarely disappointing and it’s even rarer for them to be predictable.  Whatever the next record turns out to be though “Curse of the Crystal Coconut” will still be worth going back to, invasive rap sections aside of course.

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