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Black Sails at Midnight

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Average Rating
★★★★½
(6 Reviews)

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  • This is the production and package that Alestorm was waiting for. Having become something of a cult band, they’re now faced with proving whether or not they can make a run of this thing rather than a novelty. And, in my opinion, they’ve done it; this cd solidifies all things pirate metal. They’ve ratcheted things up a bit on the metal side of things. “The Quest,” “Leviathan,” “That Famous Ol’ Spiced,” “Black Sails at Midnight,” and “Chronicles of Vengeance” are all solid metal tunes. There is a much sharper hard rock edge to all of this than on the two previous collections. The songwriting is better, and the band has found newer ways to complement Bowes’s keyboard work; in “The Quest,” for instance, the song starts with awesome guitar riff work and then the keyboards highlight the scale progression to great effect; and then they switch, with the guitar work returning the keyboard’s call. “Keelhauled,” “No Quarter,” and “Pirate Song” bring back a lot of the theatricality that got them noticed in the first place. But there’s no better opening to a song as of this writing than the nostalgic opening of “Keelhauled”; so the theatricality is balanced with both great musicianship and metal elements. And where before you had to buy into the humor of this band to allow yourself to enjoy them, this cd is keeping the fun but adding some seriousness and maturity to the whole show. “To The End of Our Days” is a philosophical song about the pirate life and death. And if there’s one guy who’s making a name for himself through this whole project, it’s Christopher Bowes. His musicianship with a guitar-strapped keyboard is amazing. And the production on this cd is finally excellent. That helps the band quite a bit. I was surprised that the band re-recorded two songs, “Leviathan” and “Wolves of the Sea.” I’m assuming it was because of the better production and the fact that there are a lot of fans newly discovering Alestorm what with large metal festival appearances (Wacken, Bloodstock, etc.) and they wanted to give those newer fans a chance to hear two classics (it’s still weird; the ep they originally appeared on is hard to find, but they`ve all been added to bonus edition of Captain Morgan’s Revenge that is not hard to find). The dvd in the limited edition is priceless. You get to see these guys put on a show. There’s a lot of pirate banter among the group and the crowd (a lot of mosh pitting for a pirate band, I thought; these guys get mosh pits like the big bands, somehow), but the thing that holds it together is their musicianship. Just when you think it’s all “Arrrrr” call-back games between the group and audience, Christopher Bowes rips through keyboard solos like no one I’ve heard since Dennis DeYoung (and nobody I’ve heard in metal); Ian Wilson and Gareth Murdock do a bass-drum solo that’s awesome. Dani Evans, cool in his dreadlocks, does the job on the guitar. I’ve heard better, but he’s better than I first gave him credit for just listening to the cds; he comes across better live. As to packaging, we’ve gone from corny on the first two cds to, finally, a very cool cover. The front of the cd package is cool, but the same Captain Morgan picture is found in its full color glory on the front of the insert to much greater effect. Tired of seeing bands simply repeat pictures throughout an insert, the interior illustrations of various characters in new stances was refreshing. If you’re a fan, you’ll be quite pleased with this (though curious about the re-recordings); if you’re new, I’ll just say this is the most unique and trailblazing metal out there. It stands up folks, even with the yo-ho-hos and talk of making ba**ards and landlubbers walking the plank. Get this limited edition while you have a chance.

    Posted on January 29, 2010