Alestorm Albums – Ranked! (From Worst To Best)

Alestorm are a pirate themed comedic metal band from Perth, Scotland formed in 2007 by, the only remaining founding member, Christopher Bowes of Splen and Gloryhammer fame.

With the release of their new album, Curse of the Crystal Coconut, the time has never been better to take a look at the band’s archive. With no further delay, here’s what we found to be the best and worst of Alestorm, ranked!

#6 – Black Sails At Midnight (2009)

Alestorm’s sophomore release had the unwieldy duty of trying to top their debut and, whilst there are certainly some great songs on offer here, their second album never quite goes the same distance as Captain Morgan’s Revenge.

Tracks such as Leviathan and the crowd-pleasing live anthem Keelhauled are reason enough to spin this record start to finish. It is occasionally very exciting and ends strongly with closer Wolves of the Sea being a particular highlight and one of the band’s best songs to end on of any album released so far.

#5 – No Grave But The Sea (2017)

Embracing the humour and cult meme status that made them a festival force to be reckoned with, No Grave But The Sea features some of the band’s most catchy material that all but entirely refuses to take itself seriously.

It’s hard not to smirk when listening to songs like Fucked With An Anchor and you will be humming the chiptune intro of Mexico for months to come after your first listen.

This record has no weak moments and the more comedic tone ensures a light and fun listening experience that’s great to party to. The only real draw of the record is that there’s less of a focus on guitar work and more on writing pop style hooks, but with an album this funny, it works regardless. It’s a great time.

#4 – Curse of the Crystal Coconut (2020)

Alestorm’s newest album to date is plain and simply fucking brilliant. The only thing that keeps at halfway in this ranking is because of the high barrier set by what came before, but know that from this point on all entries at this point are frankly interchangeable.

Curse of the Crystal Coconut feels like a return to form for a band that manages to interject a steady stream of folk elements that made their prior records so stylistically distinct in metal. The strongest moments on this album have to be the stellar epic known as Call of the Waves that has just about everything you could want from the band: awesome guitar solo, great main guitar riffs, catchy choruses and those aforementioned folk instrumentals, it’s a strong contender for my new favourite Alestorm song.

Not to say the rest of the record is a slouch in any regard. Wooden Leg Part 2 (The Woodening) is far more grandiose and spanning than, in theory, it had any right to be. A sequel to a great song from Sunset on the Golden Age, and in many ways a far greater song, Wooden Leg Part 2 not only features a choir singing the chorus from the first song but also a healthy and unexpected Japanese section that fits great too.

I could honestly go on about just how much I enjoy this album but if I did that then I fear we would be here all night. A great throwback to their past with that loveable roguish energy and humour to boot.

#3 – Back Through Time (2011)

The band’s third album confidently learns from whatever missteps Black Sails At Midnight made and came storming out of the gate without missing a beat.

What gives Back Through Time an edge over everything mentioned so far is the depth and variety in the songwriting on display here, paired with what I think could easily be their most tonally and musically consistent ride through to date.

This album is a riot from start to finish, it begins strongly and refuses to let up from the opening seconds of the title track to the final chord strum of the mighty masterpiece closer, Death Throes of the Terrorsquid, a song that even dabbles in a little black metal.

It’s hard to just listen to one song here and be done with it, chances are if you listen to The Sunk’n Norwegian or the stellar Shipwrecked, then Back Through Time’s morish quality will likely drag you under until you’ve heard it all through again.

#2 – Sunset on the Golden Age (2014)

Where to start with this one? Sunset on the Golden Age came out at a perfect time for me. This album was my introduction to the band and it was after their hit single Drink that I went from a casual observer to a hardcore fan.

For weeks I had this record in constant rotation throughout my playthrough of the outstanding pirate action/adventure title Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and I’ll tell you right now, there’s no better pairing, it was the perfect soundtrack to that game.

Without a doubt, Sunset is my go-to Alestorm album when I find myself in the mood for their music or when I’m out drinking and partying, as the band intended. To this day, six years later, I still find myself coming back to songs like: Quest For Ships, Mead From Hell, Magnetic North and 1741 (The Battle of Cartagena).

Alestorm managed to find that perfect balance between the humourous (see Mead From Hell or the aforementioned Wooden Leg) and the heavy (title track and Magnetic North) that makes for the ideal listening experience.

It would be a crime to not also mention the brilliant acoustic versions of classic Alestorm songs that bookend the record, highlights include versions of: Nancy The Tavern Wench, The Sunk’n Norwegian and Keelhauled.

#1 – Captain Morgan’s Revenge (2008)

The album that started it all and still what I believe to be their best effort yet. Without question Alestorm’s heaviest and more focused album, Captain Morgan’s Revenge is a thrill ride cover to cover and blasts you away with a sixteen pounder fun effortlessly with juggernaut standouts such as: Over The Seas, Nancy The Tavern Wench and Terror on the High Seas.

The record may have lacked the meme humour of their later efforts but the debut is not devoid of comedy, it’s just buried in more subtle ways, which to be honest, I think I prefer.

Captain Morgan’s Revenge started so much, not only for Alestorm, but also the countless pirate themed metal bands that clearly took inspiration that are also well worth your time.

It’s heavy, it’s catchy and it’s a great fucking time. People may write off Alestorm as a dumb comedy band but I believe that there’s a lot more under the surface, some truly fantastic songs lay beneath the waves and they deserve your time and attention. With Curse of the Crystal Coconut being so great, and seemingly very well received, the future is bright for the band, and I cannot wait to see just where the pirates go next.


The Mule – Movie Review

Clint Eastwood’s final ride. An honest confessional, gritty and hard hitting piece about the importance of family, changing times and the price of redemption.

Clint Eastwood is one of the hardest working and most well respected and influential film makers in the business, period. After many years of solely being behind the camera, directing mostly bio-pics such as; Sully, The Jersey Boys and the 15:17 to Paris, Eastwood returns to acting/directing in lead role for The Mule.

mule 1

The last time we saw Eastwood on screen was in 2013’s baseball flick Trouble With The Curve, prior to which was 2008’s renowned Gran Torino, the latter being more relevant to this new release, at least for certain story cues and overarching themes. More on how that ties in later.

This film sees Eastwood as Earl Stone who’s a respected, popular and award winning horticulturalist who always seemed to put his career before his family. Throughout the movie we see the effects and the leading double life that ends up taking on new meaning when he loses his farm and eventually gets involved in drug trafficking for a shady Mexican drug cartel.

mule 2

It’s a story of an evolving climate and how the world around our leading man has changed so much throughout the decades and this is expressed in a multitude of ways in the movie, both in subtle and nuanced ways and also in very crass, blunt and blindingly obvious statements and observations.

What we know about Earl is that he is far behind on the times, he hates the constant use of smartphones, the internet, the lack of meaningful social interaction and the climate of PC culture. All of these points are addressed through different methods and at times, whilst it can seem shocking or offensive to some, with Eastwood’s character throwing around racially insensitive slurs towards Mexicans, black people and other minorities as well as casually remarking about dykes on bikes, it fits the character well and adds to the gritty realism of the picture.

Desperation and wanting to hold onto glory are big themes throughout the film and naturally this transpires from award winning flowers to essentially becoming the most successful drug trafficker, enjoying the spoils and savouring a taste of being filthy rich and taking risks and the price of infamy, all in the cost of making a name for one’s self and being a somebody.

mule 3

A cost however, not only in a monetary sense. Earl Stone neglects his family, he misses his daughter’s wedding in the introductory moments of the movie and this sets up the fact that he wasn’t there for them when they needed him to be a father, or even a grandfather. Despite his best efforts to change and the extreme lengths he goes to throughout the picture, completing a total of over ten high risk and reward runs for the cartel, Eastwood proves that no matter what you can’t buy time, you can’t just purchase happiness and that the cost of redemption ultimately comes at the steepest price.

With all that said, It’s a beautifully directed movie as one would expect from someone with Eastwood’s extensive pedigree. This is a Malpaso/Warner Brothers production after all, behind or in-front of the camera, the man is always doing an exceptional job and has done ever since his earliest directorial efforts with 1971’s Play Misty For Me and 1973’s High Plains Drifter. Despite it’s more small scale and grounded setting, Eastwood’s typical sharp style and flair is present throughout. It feels real, we are dragged into this world, into this situation and it is at times intense which only ever adds to it.

Eastwood isn’t playing a gunslinger, he isn’t a bodyguard for the president, nor a no-nonsense San Francisco cop, but an old man doing anything and everything he can to make things right. The duality of the movie’s core themes is expanded upon with the cat and mouse chase as opposing rival DEA special agent, played by Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) is hot in pursuit. Eastwood and Cooper’s interactions for me were in my eyes some of the most standout moments throughout the picture. Every time these two were on screen together exchanging words it felt entirely sincere and genuine, especially towards the end. The chemistry on screen and the sharpness of the writing does not dull for a second, the cast here in general are truly standout throughout, especially with Eastwood’s daughter Alison, who brings a whole new dimension to the grit and realism on screen.

mule 4

The pacing of the flick moves along nicely that allows the slower moments time to breath but also glosses over the less important details. It’s the rule of show don’t tell, and this is form of visual storytelling and symbolism is explored in clever ways that will make you appreciate certain parts of the film; mostly each drug run and the way the rise and fall arc is presented here.

Some of the greatest parts of this film are the small details which Eastwood always has a genuine talent for in many of his directed pieces, from the way that Earl casually sings along to songs blasting from his Lincoln on every run, to the Korean war veteran sticker on the back of the car, subtly telling the audience that this man isn’t someone to fuck with. There is depth and subtext to a movie which is quite simple in scope and premise.

Here’s where the subtext began to bleed in whilst I was watching the movie, It’s in everything from how Earl thinks and speaks to the relationship with his family. Eastwood himself was always working and essentially put film making before his own children at certain times of their lives, he’s been married several times and even has a total of eight children himself. Through Earl I believe Eastwood echoes the sentiment of sincerity and almost uses this film as a platform to do so.

The times are changing and he’s older generation, he wasn’t there for his family and now in the twilight of his life he is making up for that lost time and doing right by them. In many ways, the violent and drug fueled story presented in The Mule feels like an allegorical way for Eastwood to say all the things he feels that were previously left unsaid and to make a change.

I really do not want to ruin this movie for anyone and there’s no accounting for personal taste, but I genuinely really loved The Mule. It’s gritty, powerful, moving and real. It tells a story of loss, pain, family and redemption and it’s masterfully acted, directed and acted by all involved. It’s a must see for any Eastwood fan or film goer in general who can handle some old world thinking. Don’t let PC culture dampen your expectations for the film, go with an open mind and come out with your own thoughts.

Soilwork – Verkligheten Album Review

Swedish melodic metallers return for a solid, if inconsistent, neon soaked inspired journey through a retro backdrop.

Verkligheten (Translated from Swedish meaning ‘Reality’) marks the longest duration between major releases in the band’s history, a gap of just over three and a half years, following on from 2015’s The Ride Majestic. In that time, frontman and vocalist Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid, released three albums under his classic rock project, The Night Flight Orchestra, and it is clear that the influence shows and the lines between the two bands begin to blur.

The album starts with a beautiful and uplifting, but brief, instrumental synth piece leading in to arguably the album’s best song, Arrival. This was the first single to be released alongside the announcement of a new tour, and the album cycle release and it set the bar for a high standard. Right away, the soaring lead playing and bright upbeat energy of David and Slyvain’s masterful guitar playing, coupled with the powerful blast beats of album newcomer drummer Bastian Thusgaard set up Bjorn’s charging growls excellently from beginning to end. Bjorn, as ever sounds amazing.

Arrival was the barrier to entry as far as I was concerned and I become somewhat worried with the release of the two other singles that followed, Full Moon Schoals and Stålfågel. These two songs represent a progression to a tamer but tighter focus on the main chorus hooks as opposed to the rest of the song, where the intros in both of these tracks, coupled with verses, felt like a means to an end rather than the main event.

That said, both of these songs feature ear-worm choruses that sound big, anthemic and are among some of the biggest highs on the album that are bursting with passion and feeling. This is however where the album begins to show its biggest weakness, and in short, it is the fact that the beginning being so promising only sets up the middle portion to ultimately fall behind as a result.

The mid portion of the album, largely spanning the length between tracks; When the Universe Spoke and Witan, in my opinion blend together in a way that makes them hard to distinguish and analyse entirely on their own. When every song on this release features a stellar chorus that bolsters them from being average, it can be hard to get too excited about Soilwork just going through the motions and playing to their formula strengths a little too closely to their chest.

It is the last few songs here that not only excite and invigorate, but also serve to essentially pump a breath of life into an album which would otherwise feel too long and too samey for the sake of it. The Ageless Whisper and Needles and Kin are classic Soilwork to a tee, benefiting from that fresh gleam of paint and their cleaner production as of late. It makes me wish that we got more songs here that played to the unique strengths of the band’s more memorable elements rather than seemingly flying through on auto-pilot.

I mentioned The Night Flight Orchestra earlier, and the amount of albums released in such a short time, because there is clear NFO influence bleeding through into Soilwork here. I for one am a massive fan of both bands, however I feel that in removing some of the grit and sharp edge to the guitar tone, the impact of some of the riffs is diminished in places. It’s very clean, almost to a sterile shine that, whilst fitting in astoundingly well with Bjorn’s angelic and moving clean vocals, unfortunately weakens the power and effect of his growls and harsh vocal performance.

What we have as a result is a fun, enjoyable album that does not quite reach the heights of what I believe to be their finest hour, 2013’s double album The Living Infinite, or is it as aggressive or dark as their previous album, 2015’s The Ride Majestic. Soilwork are a band that have carved out an identity all their own, it seems in trying to shake up their tried and true formula, they may have sacrificed some of their core as a result.

I read one review saying that this would be the darkest and most epic Soilwork album ever written, and whilst I can see where they are coming from, I cannot compare Verkligheten’s themes, instrumentals etc. to prior works like The Chainheart Machine, Stabbing The Drama or A Predator’s Portrait, at least when it comes to what to expect.

This is a newly refined and hungry version of Soilwork, adapting and learning from years of outside influence and once again carving out their own path as they forge ahead anew. This album takes risks and simultaneously takes it safe in places, however you can never move forward and make progress without a little trial and error. In conclusion, this is a catchy, fun and heavy album that does just enough to carry through its lengthy fifty minute run-time whilst losing a little identity in the progress, and the band’s bravery should be commanded. Sail on Soilwork, sail on!

Behemoth Albums – Ranked! (From Worst to Best)

Behemoth, (consisting of drummer Inferno, bassist Orion and guitarist/vocalist Nergal) pioneers of the Polish black/death metal scene are soon to release their new album, alongside two new signature guitars and a live DVD entitled Messe Noire, after a song on The Satanist. With all said, it’s safe to say that the band are ready to deliver on a successor to their 2014 release, so let’s look back at their extensive legacy and rank albums from worst to best.

#11 – Pandemonic Incantations – (1998)


It’s a great black metal album through and through. The aggression is there, and it is harsh as anything that had proceeded it, also featuring Nergal’s most diverse and experimental guitar work up to that point. Why so low down then? While it is great, of their entire main catalogue, I find it to be the least memorable and as a result, its lack of impression delegates it to the bottom of the list.

#10 – Thelema. 6 (2000)


You certainly can’t deny the sheer level of crushing brutality on display with this album. Thelema. 6 follows directly after Satanica (more on that later) and that release is both this one’s gift and curse. On one hand, Behemoth were now a fully-fledged death metal band and finally made the transition properly, and on the other, this album followed their big experimental underground hit, with less staying power.

#9 – I Loved You At Your Darkest (2018)


I have retroactively edited this article almost two years after it was originally written to include the band’s latest offering, I Loved You At Your Darkest. This record is a very important one for me and whilst holding a very special place in my heart (I went to the launch party of the record in London on 5th October 2018 and have the album’s symbol tattooed on my right wrist) it just is not as good as some of the other albums on this list.

I love a lot of the songs and the return to their more old school black metal sound is definitely appreciated. The few times I have seen them live performing Wolves Ov Siberia or God = Dog, I am equally as blown away as when tracks like Chant for Eschaton 2000 or Conquer All destroy the set list.

Whilst a very strong album overall with some great songs and stunning art and iconography, there is no denying that this is Behemoth’s big push into the mainstream and that this is their most accessible record to date. Behemoth are touring with Slipknot, they are up there now as one of the most well known mainstream bands. I believe the band deserves all the success and fame that they are receiving, I just wish that the entire record had the strength and power of the first few tracks consistently throughout.

It has only been through years of listening to the album at this point that I have been able to fully realise my feelings towards this record. It is very difficult for me but nonetheless. Overall, a very strong black/dark metal record with some standout songs that is occasionally weighed down by softer moments and toothless production in places.

#8 – Grom (1996)


It’s an old school album born from admiration to the second wave of black metal and for that it should be commended. Grom is a great listen from front to back. The reason it does not rank any higher than this, merely is because it’s just more old school black metal-era Behemoth, which was proceeded by such classics as demo tapes; Return of the Northern Moon and the Iconic … From the Pagan Vastlands. Grom lacks that genre defining dark magic.

#7 – Satanica (1999)


The biggest leap for Behemoth since their initial debut, Satanica was the bold forward step that dragged the band out of the shadows of second wave black metal and into defining the blackened death metal approach that they would go on revolutionise. Songs such as Starspawn, Decade of Therion and Chant for Eschaton 2000 cemented their new brutally crushing identity. The riffs were heavier, Nergal’s voice was much deeper and more akin to that of Cannibal Corpse’s Chris Barnes and overall it was a game changer.

#6 – Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic) (1995)


Behemoth’s first album may be far removed from the band they became throughout the years yet Sventevith has a timeless appeal that will continue to age gracefully. Instead of the brutal instrumentals and violent lyrics of latter records, their first album was much more atmospheric and focused lyrically on Paganism and Polish history. It’s a welcome and refreshing change and to some is regarded as the best from the band. Suffers from the same crutch as Grom still, they had better black metal releases before their albums.

#5 – Zos Kia Cultus (Here and Beyond) (2002)


This album, succeeding Thelema 6, is exactly what a follow up to Satanica should have been from the start. Zos Kia Cultus is vile, Nergal’s voice was even deeper and more guttural than had previously been heard, their guitar and bass tone was viciously bass-heavy, and the production was leagues above anything that came before. For the first time, Behemoth demonstrated a truly punishing and overbearing sound; thanks in part to some of the most aggressive drumming ever recorded. Songs like As Above So Below, No Sympathy for Fools and Horns ov Baphomet reigned in that the new death metal sound was here to stay.

#4 – Evangelion (2009)


A comfortable blackened death metal release following a successful streak of solid albums, Evangelion, to some, was too safe to innovate as prior titles had. It’s true; this album does not innovate but it refines a formula to a mirror shine and is flawlessly produced. The album follows masterfully and features, up to that point, the most technical and groove-heavy guitar and bass work yet. Daimonos is a monolithic opening track that pelts listeners with Nergal’s powerful vocals and Orion’s best drumming yet, The Seed Ov I tells a story of a man becoming a God and let’s just say there’s a very good reason why Ov Fire and the Void continues to close live shows to this day, it’s just that good.

#3 – The Satanist (2014)


Behemoth’s most recent album and a game changer not only for the depth of musical composition but for the story behind it. This was both Behemoth’s come back after an almost five-year absence, but also Nergal’s triumphant victory over his battle with Leukaemia. His battle with cancer is reflected in the vulnerability of the lyrics on display; especially noticeable in the title track and the songs In the Absence ov Light and the album closer O Father O Satan O Sun. It’s a little slower than prior albums, it’s still aggressive and powerful, but more mature and artistic overall. A beast of a different class.

#2 – The Apostasy (2007)


This album was fearsome and reflected everything that Behemoth had learned from their death metal releases (excluding one but we’ll get to that) and filed it all down to a razor sharp fine point. At the Left Hand ov God, Slaying the Prophets of Isa, Be Without Fear and Christgrinding Avenue all display Nergal otherworldly growl and the constant onslaught from Orion and Inferno as the entire trio decimate with fast, heavy death metal. It’s not their most technical, but its about the groove of the music and its entrancing level of violence is enthralling beginning to end.

#1 – Demigod (2004)


Take the brutality of Zos Kia Cultus and The Apostasy and combine it with the craftsmanship and refinements of Evangelion and The Satanist and you get Demigod. It truly is brutality perfected and managed to balance the chaotic death metal riffing with Nergal’s inhuman demonic growl in a way that has not quite been heard before or since. This was the time where the band were experimenting with foreign instruments such as sitars and other Eastern cultural strings to craft a sound that all culminates together into an immeasurable experience of grandiose proportions where Behemoth truly lived up to their namesake.

Aleksha with Nergal