Wolves of the Sea

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With the release of their third album, Scotland’s Alestorm have not only continued with the metallic shanties about all things Pirate-y, but they’ve upped the ante of their scope and grandiosity. As Black Sails at Midnight Improved upon Captain Morgan’s Revenge, so has Back Through Time also improved; bigger, more raucous fun and more metal, Back Through Time shows Alestorm as consistent as any folk act in the scene today. Oh and you want epic? How about Vikings battling Pirates (“Back Through Time”) and the return of the mighty Leviathan in an eight minute black metal styled track (“Death Throes of the Terror Squid”)? I visited with scallywag Chris Bowes to find out even more about one of my very favorite current bands and one of my favorite albums of 2011.

Well I’ve heard your new album, and I hate to start off with a cliché, but it’s your best album yet!

Well, they all say that don’t they? I’ve never once had a interviewer say, “Yup, I’ve heard the new album and it’s terrible”. That’s cool that you like it though.

Is this the same lineup as on the last album?

No it’s not. Our last drummer (Ian Wilson) ran away. I’m not sure where he went. He ran away said, “fuck you guys, you’re all dicks” and we never heard from him again. So we had to hire a new guy (Peter Alcorn) on very short notice. He drummed on the new album, as well as helped out writing some of the songs.

Would this new drummer be responsible for the increased level of blast beats and ‘heavier’ material on this album?

Yeah. Our last drummer, he could really do the old drumming thing very well, so it held us back. This time around we were able to me much more stupid with the drums ‘cos we had a bit more confidence that we could actually play the songs. But yeah, there’s a few more blast beats and stupid bollocks.

I’ve got to say I love the way the album opens with the blast beat and a song about Vikings battling Pirates due to a wormhole time travel thingy. That’s a great way to get the two stored warriors together

It goes back a little to the whole internet argument thing about who would win between so and so, but some of it is me being annoyed with the Pagan/Folk/Viking metal thing. These bands and fans that supposedly worship Odin and stuff.

How do you feel about Viking metal as a whole?

Some of it is OK like Tyr and Enslaved who are interesting, but otherwise it seems to be 3-minute songs about Odin’s beard and stuff.

But you, as a concept band about Pirates, what happens when you run out of songs about Pirates? I noticed on the song “Scrapping the Barrel” you actually address your critics about your lyrics.

Not too many have actually noticed that. It’s definitely a song about the naysayers and critics who say we can’t just sing about Pirates all the time. I mean what the fuck?! The first song is about time travel and Vikings, but we did it anyway. There’s a whole world of stupid shit we could do if we wanted, but we are happy writing about Pirates.

I noticed the last song “Death Throes of the Terror Squid” seems to be a return of the mighty beast from the song “Leviathan”.

I think that song as a bit of a “Leviathan Part 2”. In the first song these Pirates try to kill the sea monsters but it eats them, but this time they kill the shit out it.

So that’s the end of the beast, no “Leviathan part 3”?

Who knows, that’s what Hollywood is for! Maybe it will come back from some form of genetically created monster. Or they all wake up from a dream and they are all monsters?

So you are getting ready to hit US shores again in August. The last time I saw you was on the Pagan Knights tour back in 2009 I think, and you told me then that you really enjoyed touring the US. Are you looking forward to coming back?

Yeah, this is our third time in the US. That Pagan Knights Tour was fun! I’ve been really looking forward to it, more than anything all year. It’s just really nice to play in countries where the people speak English and you can party with the people as opposed to after the show where the fans can only speak five words and all they say is “I’m very much enjoying show tonight!” over and over. Its just nice to shoot the shit with people that speak English.

Who are you touring with this time?

We are touring with Kamelot. Have you heard of them? They are some sort of gothic power metal band or something. Then there is Blackguard and The Agonist. We aren’t sure how it’s going to go…

That’s seems like an odd bill! The Agonist are a female fronted metalcore act. The Pagan Knights Tour I saw you on was with Suidakra and Tyr, which was a pretty perfect bill for you, if you ask me.

Yeah that was a nice little tour. Those guys were fun.

So back to the album. Are you happy with how it came out, three albums in?

I’m very happy with it. It sounds better than we imagined. It was nice to improve some things and give it a nice folky edge. And there are things like the last track, which you already said has a bit of a black metal feel to it, we had Ken Sorceron from Abigail Williams do a little vocals there. And we didn’t hear those ’till after the album was done, as they were done out of the studio. That turned out awesome!

You couldn’t get Lord Byron from Bal-Sagoth to make an appearance, seeing as I know you are a huge fan?

I was actually talking to him about the possibility of him adding some huge pretentious spoken words or narration on the album, but it didn’t work out.

I still hear an even bigger Bal-Sagoth influence in your sound now. Especially in the orchestration and synths, which are pretty full on epic and over the top now. Not just Pirate-y twiddling.

Yeah, it would be nice to take the band more fully in that direction,  but it’s too much hard work! It’s nice to make one or two tracks with that sort of over the topness, but not a whole album.

Let me ask you about bands that rip off other bands’ styles. Right after your first album, a US band called Swashbuckle released an album of Pirate metal (I thought it was pretty terrible compared to you guys.) What are your thoughts on them?

We are actually pretty good friends with them. There’s actually a song on the new album, called “Swashbuckled” that’s a tongue n cheek song about all of them dying in horrible ways. It’s good fun. I just hope they don’t sue the fuck out of us over that song. The guitar player’s girlfriend is a lawyer, so were fucked. Luckily, they don’t quite know how the song goes yet.

You’ve been with Napalm for three albums now. Are you happy with them and plan to stay there?

They’ve played nice, so we aren’t going to be dicks as we are happy. As long as they release out albums and give us some money once in a while, we will stick with them.

Another Napalm-artist, Lord Jaldaboath of Jaldaboath appears on the album as I understand it provided the Pirate-y voice that announced the Vikings on “Back Through Time”. How did that occur?

We actually talked about doing a split-single with them a while ago, doing some stupid covers, but I dunno if it will happen or not. I’d still like to do it at some point. They are one of my favorite bands right now.

I hope so, that would be great. He is an odd character. I did an interview with him, via email, a while ago and he was in character for the whole interview!

Yeah! He’s a really funny strange guy. He’s one of the strangest  guys you’ll ever meet.

Speaking of covers, I noticed on the limited edition of Back Through Time, there is a cover “I am a Cider Drinker” by The Wurzels. As a former Brit, I appreciate that gem!  And there’s a cover “You are a Pirate” from the kids’ show Lazytown. What’s next? A Chas ‘n’ Dave song? What’s the one song you’d love to cover?

We’ll definitely have to up the ante and do something even more stupid! Maybe we’ll just become a cover band that does outrageously stupid cover songs. We are going to do a version of Spandau Ballet’s “Gold”, but make it about digging for gold.

Do you have a video planned for the new album?

Yeah, actually a couple of days ago we released a video for “Shipwrecked”. It’s awesome! It’s us on a green screen beach surrounded by babes and a midget. I’m sure it’s all over the internet by now.

When you go to the studio to record the album, is the whole thing written and ready to go? I’m picturing lots of drunken improvising and silliness in the studio.

Actually, it’s all written and done. We get in and get out. I’d love to be one of those bands that goes to a studio and jams for three years and possibly comes out with an album, but that sort of thing requires money which we don’t have.

Well, that’s all the time I’m allotted. I wish I could catch you on this current tour. Have fun, OK?

Oh I will, catch you next time. Cheers mate!

Alestorm Official Web Site

Napalm Records


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