Cap’n Bowes is an odd chap, both he and his plate of beans. Kilt clad and bursting at the seams with musical ideas he crams out album after album with his many projects. Curse of the Crystal Coconut isn’t just a phenomenal album title, it’s also Alestorm’s sixth full length, coming three years after the moderate success of No Grave but the Sea (2020). Thematically it spins on and um… develops? on the silliest ideas present on that album with inside jokes and sea shanties galore. Folk metal marries power metal in Alestorm’s greatest moments, and throughout their history they’ve hit many buttons elevating them to soaring heights. Buttons which Curse of the Crystal Coconut fails to even try to hit. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if it gives fans the finger or laughing along with them, and lots of the material have turned from party and drinking themed nonsense and parodying to inane stupidity; to that end songs like mindless opener Treasure Chest Party Quest and Pirate Metal Drinking Crew need to be tossed in the nearest bilge and left to rot.
Alestorm’s finest have always been those that blend the cooky, nonsensical comedy with epic, piratic storytelling. A concept that has worked massively well for Gloryhammer (perhaps sans the pirates), but is slowly being dropped out of Alestorm’s repertoire. Wooden Leg Part 2: The Woodening is the faux epic near the end of the album, being closest to this old style. A slower tempo, pumping rhythms and the epic feel bring about all the things great about the band, and hearkening to Mexico and 1741 (The Battle of Cartagena) from previous albums it even tosses in some of that retro video game sound; done right, done with feeling and pitching in the greatest elements of Alestorm’s talents, it marks a highlight on an otherwise pretty unremarkable album. Tortuga on its end is an attempt. That’s probably the best thing you can say about it. It fails at everything it tries, but it is an attempt at difference. Bowes is a quality songwriter (remember when Universe on Fire made an entire power metal fanbase love a damn techno song?), but whatever it is he’s trying here works about as well as guest vocalist Captain Yarrface’s voice. Which is to say not.
There are of course moments that work much better, taking the serious side and blending it with a bit of twisted comedy. Folksy, tavern melodies and singalong vocals hit the stage in Pirate’s Scorn, getting a none too bad effort from Bowes in the vocals department, and Fannybaws is the token power metal stomper that doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. Second keyboardist Elliot Vernon has become a bigger part of Alestorm since his joining, but thankfully his core like harsh vocals are less present than on the previous album, and he gets to stick mostly to hitting melodic flaunting alongside Bowes’ keys and the riffing of Máté Bodor, salty like the waves. In the end however, Curse of the Crystal Coconut isn’t a lot to cheer for because it doesn’t even seem like the guys are trying to be as good as they can be. They say Bowes doesn’t care about catering to metal fans or pirate fans, and maybe that’s true, but maybe he should.
Standout tracks: Call of the Waves, Pirate’s Scorn, Wooden Leg Part 2: The Woodening