If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Such a maxim need not be applied to Alestorm.
Perth’s finest purveyors and enablers of pirate metal; the five-piece, led by lone ever-present member Christopher Bowes, have resolutely stuck to the same schtick for over a decade now, to incrementally returns on their cult appeal.
Their template for nautically-flavoured headbangers is yet to wear thin on those who’ve bought into it – and why should it? Underneath the yo-ho-ho posturing, they have an ear for an insatiable hook that matches their lyrical absurdity with a jocular, knees-up bonhomie few others can match.
They’re like the Fast and Furious film franchise; each song may go through the same swaggering motions but submit to the aural overload and they deliver a pulpy, bouncy aspartame-injection of fun into your veins.
Sailing gallantly into the University of Leeds’s Stylus nightclub venue, accompanied by a bevy of support acts striking a similar chord of plunder-and-pillage shanties, the band are out in support of last year’s No Grave But the Sea, upon which they draw heavily throughout the night. Several of its tracks offer minor variations on the staple power metal-meets-folk accordion template they work around; Mexico burbles around an electonicore intro before plunging into typical fiddle-aping shredding whilst its full-throttle-thrash title track burps out brassy accompaniments that lend its tavern tales an oompah-band brio.
But otherwise, through an oft-marshy sound mix, the Scotsmen’s show deviates little from its blend of cod-carnival headbanger anthems and errantly puerile humour. Well over half the crowd are committed fully to the charade, decked out in tricorn hats and bandanas; the stage is dominated, incongruously, by a giant, inflatable rubber duck.
Bowes, kilt and keytar clad firmly in place, may match the fluid technical prowess of his bandmates; but it is clearly his filthy asides about wenches and unsavoury acts committed with pizza, as laid out in The Sunk’n Norwegian and a rollicking cover of Taio Cruz’s Hangover, that earn the belly laughs.
By the time signature rum soliloquy Captain Morgan’s Revenge heaves into view, he’s busy chugging back bottles of lager and conducting frenzied, cartwheeling mosh-pits from up on high.
It would be easy to caricature Alestorm were they not in on the joke; instead, chugging their wilfully dumb cocktail down still leaves a buzz worth braving the seas for.