Gig review: ALESTORM – Forum, Kentish Town, London, 22 February 2018

I pitched up at the Forum as Rumahoy were prowling the stage bashing out infectious lumps of good time rock to an enthusiastic, packed house of swashbucklers and buccaneers. Pirate metal was in town.

The band were suitably attired as masked brigands of the ocean, looking out over a sea of tricorn hats and bandanas. Captain Yarrface fronted a band pitching towards the melodic end of the spectrum (despite appearances), with a few prog-like flourishes. ‘Netflix and Yarr’ had the crowd waving arms right to the back of the balcony. ‘The Triumph of Piracy’ featured Cabinboy Treasurequest on vocals and ‘Forest Party’ kept the mood bubbling with some sweet moves from Bootsman Walktheplank on guitar/Pete Way strides.

Captain Y cranked up the yo-ho-ho-ing for the last song, ‘Pirateship’ which was an epic of sorts, in its camp, theatrical, German-drinking-song-style.

The crowd lapped up the short set and the band departed in triumph after taking the customary stage selfie. Although they needed two attempts at this as Yarrface messed up the first. To err is human. To arggghhhhh is pirate…! (© Dave Wilson).

The mass sing-along of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ has become a staple crowd warm up routine at plenty of gigs lately. It hit the mark here. Alestorm hit the stage to a pumped-up, boisterous reception.

Kicking in with ‘Keelhauled’ and a supercharged ‘Alestorm’, our trusty corsair crew ensured the energy levels stayed off the scale. A bloke next to me (with crayoned-on piratical scar on his cheek) was sporting a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘Entry Level Party Metal’, which just about perfectly describes the Alestorm phenomenon.

I mean, take the stage set: a giant inflatable bath duck sat between the drum kit and keyboard station for no apparent reason and the band’s catch phrase ‘Oh Wow!’ was graffiti painted in two-foot letters on the riser. Mainman Christopher Bowes bedecked in kilt and flip-flops ran around and over everything, feeding off the electric vibe in the venue.

‘Magnetic North’ and ‘Mexico’ were pumped out on dirty riffs with Bowes’ keytar set permanently to ‘accordion’. The crowd joined in on all the big choruses. I’ve rarely experienced an atmosphere like it.

The latest album was plundered regularly, with the title track ‘No Grave But The Sea’ and ‘Pegleg Potion’ the best of them. The album has a harder, thrashier edge (in between the trombone and fiddle loops, that is), with some of the vocals being handled in a pseudo-death growl by keyboard player Elliot Vernon.

Peter Alcom’s drum sound was simply huge. He was a picture of furious activity all gig. Some of the double bass drum weaves were speed-metal in intensity and the off-beat drumming on the aforementioned ‘Keelhauled’ was breath-taking.

The emphasis stayed firmly on catchy powered-up sea shanties and jigs with chantable choruses like ‘That Famous Ole Spiced’ and the utterly brilliant ‘The Sunk’n Norwegian’. This featured a proggy keyboard break and bright, punchy riff, causing further mayhem and flayling of limbs in the pit.

Moments of individual flair for guitarist Mate Bodor were few and far between. So when the ballad-like ‘Nancy The Tavern Wench’ gave him a moment in the spotlight, he grabbed it with both hands, stood on the riser and grinding for all he was worth.

This, coupled with ‘1741 (The Battle of Cartegena)’ provided the only change of pace and mood within the entire set. ‘Drunken Sailor’ and ‘Hangover’ soon had us back to the chaos of Captain Pugwash on acid, with guest appearances from beer-swilling singers and extra guitarists. Absolute madness.

And then the headlong rush through ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’ and Shipwrecked’ through to the encores.

If I was looking for a bit more variety in the show, I was most definitely in the minority. ‘Drink’ and ‘Wenches & Mead’ were greeted with same full-throated enthusiasm by the punters as the opening salvoes.

Finally, ‘Fucked With An Anchor’ brought this carnival of freebooting bedlam to a riotous close. To say this was a party is the understatement of the year. And it’s only February.

Alestorm don’t do half measures.

Review by Dave Atkinson

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.

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