[review originally published on http://thecennsor.wordpress.com/]
Aye, the fearsome Scots are back. With the third album in four years, and lots of ideas less than in the past. It may well be such a “haste” accounts for the lack thereof, but be it as it may, that’s a fact.
What’s funny, they actually unashamedly and blatantly admit it, making a whole song out of it (not by chance titled Scraping the Barrel), where they go so far as to advice that “if you don’t like it [the fact they've run out of creative gas], go start your own band”. What’s funnier, the song itself is a pretty nice piece, catchy as can be, and the album just gets better and better in the second half (the song is placed more or less in the middle).
But let’s try and go with order. Back Through Time is named after the first song, the idea behind which is pirates going back through time (you would’ve never guessed it, would you?..) to fight none less than those who used to wreck havoc on the seas centuries before them: the vikings. Yes, you can already tell by now they’re out of ideas. The song actually runs smoothly enough, as do the following; it’s nothing but the same old piratey folk-heavy metal – with a brief hint at blackish tones by the end of Death Throes of the Terrorsquid, the longest track of the lot which somehow reminds me of Finnish viking metallers Turisas.
Folk undertones (though it’s not like they really are confined to the background… but anyway) are massively to be heard on The Sunk’n Norwegian and on the drinking song (another obvious non-surprise) Rum, arguably the catchiest of all.
Rum raises the whole tone and tempo of the album, coming straight after the aforementioned Scraping the Barrel, on which a few words more ought to be spent. Other than displaying a rascal attitude which no doubt fits the pirate monicker perfectly, Alestorm admit they’re, well, quite literaly scraping the barrel. In doing so though, they also take the time to pay due to their legitimate and, so to say, most prestigious predecessors: “you may think you’ve heard all this music before / that Running Wild did it back in ’84″. To me, such a tribute amends the fault (but is it so in this genre, really?) of lacking fresh ideas and earns the album a positive review. There might be nothing “genial” about it, but it’s nonetheless clever and funny – and what else is this kind of music about? As a side note, it made me think of what they did on the promo copies of their previous album, where a piraty voiceover warned you in a not-so-piraty fashion that “argh, piracy is a crime”.
Midget Saw and Buckfast Powermash, closing the first half of the album, are perhaps the most blatant example of Alestorm reaching their creative boundaries. But there’s still some good energy left, and like I said that shows on Rum and the following. Swashbuckled also has a nice folky scent to it, and the melody does flow pretty well. Then comes the utterly useless (and pretty idiotic, if you like) six seconds of Rumpelkombo, which must have been intended as a homage (?) of some sorts. Not only didn’t I get it, but I find it an annoying (or just plain stupid) break right in the middle of the music flow. Of course you can just leave it out of your mp3 playlists, but on a CD that’s just an extra annoyance.
Anyway, the following Barrett’s Privateers kind of compensates for that questionable idea. It’s arguably the best track on the album, with a traditional folky melody and a bit of a pirate narrative which at least doesn’t meddle with minimum-quality fantasy or revels in overused concepts and repetitive rhyming. Death Throes of the Terrorsquid cuts quite a figure as the album’s finale, with a slower epic-scented tempo, before taking off towards the end to venture into black metal territory (not too long though, and in my humble opinion that’s just good); all in all a very good piece, with which Alestorm prove they can actually take that one step further, in spite of being stuck at the same old… same old, on the rest of the album.
The limited edition features two bonus tracks, both covers, the first being George Baker Selection‘s Paloma Blanca (renamed I Am a Cider Drinker on the ablum), and the second the infamous “pirate” hit You Are a Pirate. Not that they were much needed, but they grant an already short album some extra lenght, and they add to the fun all in all.
THUS SPAKE THE CENNSOR: Back Through Time does indeed take you back, though not much further than to Alestorm‘s previous chapter of their own pirate saga; even those claimed echoes of Running Wild‘s are but to be heard in the lyrics and not much else. Which is actually good; as Alestorm themselves sing, “the times are a’changing” and it would make no sense to try and copy the German pioneers of the genre nowadays. Pitifully though, there’s not much of a change to Alestorm‘s inspiration, and that might hurt them in the long run. But as for now, Back Through Time is a nice addition to your collection if you like what these Scots did so far, and the lack of freshness isn’t necessarily that much of a downside within this genre. 7/10