Alestorm - Sunset on the Golden Age (2014) - Simplistic party anthems and two cinematic epics - 79% (26/08/14)
I guess there’s no need to introduce this quintet from the United Kingdom. Alestorm is still delivering its vivid mixture of folk and power metal built around simplistic lyrics which the band imagines applies to the life of pirates. While the band has improved its live performance, where its music works much better than in the studio (as one can see and hear on the highly recommended Live At The End Of The World), the band’s fourth full length release, Sunset On The Golden Age, is an entirely entertaining effort that works better than the previous Back Through Time.
From the first few sounds of the energizing opener “Walk The Plank” onward, Alestorm brings its by now signature sound to bear, involving sea-shanty inspired keyboard, solid riffs, catchy melodies, raw vocals, and simple, shout-along choruses made for concert play. The whole thing is crowned by an aggressive guitar solo and a laid back bridge. The band starts the pirate party very well, and continues to do so without delivering any fillers (provided you enjoy this sort of thing). As highlights, I would first cite the hymn “Drink!”, which is so simple that it works surprisingly well. Dumb as it may be, it’s impossible for me to hear this song without a stupid grin on my face. Another track worth mentioning is the cover version of Taio Cruz’s “Hangover”, which absolutely blends in, sounding like a classic Alestorm track. “Magnetic North” and “Surf Squid Warfare” have a few more modern influences including some metalcore passages in the former and short growls in the latter. These little experiments keep the record diverse and interesting enough to keep going in style.
There are two longer songs on the album. “1741 (The Battle Of Cartagena)” opens with video game samples that one would expect from Dragonforce or Kokumaromilk, but turns out to be one of the most epic and gripping songs in Alestorm’s career. This is maybe the best song on this release, as it remains engaging and memorable the whole way through, and surpasses the band’s usual lyrical topics for something historical. The title track, “Sunset On The Golden Age”, is Alestorm’s longest track to date, with a length around eleven minutes and a half. Sadly, this song is also among the weakest, since it gets quite repetitive and drags on for far too long. The mid-tempo pace has a few decent melodies and would have been a good song if its length had been around five minutes. As it is now, the song doesn’t fit in with the shorter and more energizing tracks that form the rest of the record, and ends a great album on a very mediocre note.
Despite the rather disappointing title song, Alestorm delivers its best studio album (along with Black Sails At Midnight) in my opinion. To my surprise, the band’s predictable musical and lyrical approach still sounds fresh to my ears ten years after its foundation under the banner of Battleheart. The limited edition of this release features five acoustic versions of Alestorm classics, plus a bonus track where the band proves that they are actually decent musicians(!). I would recommend faithful fans of the band buy this limited edition release, while occasional listeners go for the regular release. I usually prefer more original and sophisticated music, but a simple, energizing, and charming record like this can be a true relief from time to time. It’s why Sunset On The Golden Age will easily make it to my list of this year’s favorites.
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