While I would stop short of saying No Grave but the Sea is Alestorm’s greatest album yet – that honour would go to Back through Time – it is arguably their catchiest. It may not have the diversity of Sunset on the Golden Age, but it’s a damn good album. It opens with the rousing title track No Grave but the Sea, an anthemic song that is recognisably Alestorm, and is going to sound absolutely brilliant live. If you believe it, there’s a touch of the Charlie Daniels Band’s The Devil went down to Georgia to it. To say No Grave but the Sea (the track) is “recognisably Alestorm” is to foreshadow the rest of the album, which is essentially a typical Alestorm album. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if you enjoy the formula, of course.
Mexico kicks in with a bit of electro in the intro, and is arguably the catchiest song Alestorm have ever written. They must have spent a lot of their last journey to sea fishing, because there are hooks galore here. This one will definitely be getting club play from my alter ego, DJ Crowley.
To the End of the World is the most dramatic track on the album, to the point where it’s almost Dimmu Borgir-esque, though not to the extent of the Symphonic Black Metal bridge of Death Throes of the Terrorsquid. The song includes some harsh vocals and perhaps more “serious” storytelling with its vague horror theme. Máté Bodor introduces some an excellent guitar solo on this track, and his superb playing resurfaces noticeably several times throughout the album.
I approached the eponymous track Alestorm with caution, prepared for maximum silliness, but it is in fact an excellent song – possibly even the best on the album. The riffs and vocal stylings are surprisingly heavy, as if Alestorm ran into Chris Themelco of Orpheus Omega at the local tavern, and decided “We’ll have what he’s having.” Another track that will shine live, the chorus is guaranteed to get anyone into a partying mood. An ode to drinking in the style of Drink and Rum.
Bar ünd Imbiss is the most piratey song on the album, and sees further excellent guitar work from Bodor. One for the Alestorm purists.
The one track on the album that frankly made me cringe was the laboured and puerile Fucked with an Anchor. This track was so Blink-182 it hurt. It’s almost like Alestorm knew it, “Now when I speak it’s rather absurd” being an actual line from the song. This stands alongside such gems as “Fuck you, you’re a fucking wanker, we’re gonna punch you right in the balls.” If this is the standard of humour Alestorm are scraping from the bottom of the barrel these days, I’m glad this was the only outright “comedic” track on the album.
The rest of the album continues in a fairly typical Alestorm trajectory, with few standout moments. Pegleg Potion includes some excellent harmonised shredding from Bodor and Christopher Bowes (vocals and keytar). A more curious track is Man the Pumps, and I choose the word “curious” judiciously, as it seems to me there are some serious homoerotic undertones to this track. Is it just me, or does it actually go there with lines like, “I’d never seen a pump before nor held one in my hand,” “We were a crew of scurvy dogs but sure we loved to pump,” and “But when they spied where I did lay, the mood it fell bereft / For by the time the sun arose, I’d pumped myself to death?”
Overall, No Grave but the Sea is a strong album, and a worthy addition to the Alestorm corpus. At its best, it brings tracks that will tear any room to shreds when played live. It’s a tour I know I’m looking forward to. And for a little extra comedy, be sure to check out the bonus tracks. Bowes literally barks his way through every track on the album. I shit you not. Bowes-wow.
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