Release: 18 January 2019
Label: Underground Symphony
Anyone who has delved deeper into Pirate Metal than Alestorm will no doubt be aware how musically divergent the bands falling into that category really are. Running Wild plays that distinctive type of Speed Metal that Power Metal evolved from. Bands playing the “True Scottish” flavor play Folk Metal bordering on Power Metal that evolved from the likes of Running Wild, and then there are groups like Swashbuckle that play a thrashy type of Death Metal.
Calico Jack’s latest effort has the same relationship to the music of Swashbuckle that bands like Alestorm have to Running Wild in the sense that their music feels like it started off as Death or Thrash Metal depending on the song, and then almost completely rewritten into nautical Folk Metal. Although, I doubt this album would be anything better than okay if it wasn’t written as Folk Metal for several reasons, some of which impacted the quality of the album regardless.
The first is the growling vocals. While the growls have a very distinctive style and can sound veritably gruesome at the lowest registers on the album, the lyrics themselves are somewhat difficult to discern. Until about the third song, I thought the songs mixed languages, and I couldn’t understand the words until about halfway through each song. Since Calico Jack hails from Lombardy in Italy, it is very likely that the singer has an accent, but in terms of technique it does sound like he is giving it his all. While the singing does affect immersion, it should not bother listeners who put the instrumental music over the lyrics, and in certain cases like the incredibly rowdy drinking song, “Where Hath th’ Rum Gone”, the accent is barely noticeable.
Another double-edged sword is the riffing. Contrary to more conventional thrash or death metal, there is little virtuosity with the guitar work, with the exception of one or two solos like the high speed shredding on “Straits of Chaos” (which is a solo worth Dave Mustaine in his prime). For example many of the leads involve what can be described in posh terms as “variations upon a chord” across many of the songs. Regardless, I believe that the guitars probably weren’t intended to be a dominant feature in many of the songs, as the violins parts demonstrate clearly sophisticated song structures and considering that in numbers like “Caribica”, and “Grog Jolly Grog” the guitars have a more active role in backing the violins. While I might not approve of the complexity of the riffs personally, technique and delivery remains praiseworthy, as the guitars have a blazing speed across the album with the aforementioned “Caribica” even having some brutal sounding chugging in it. Overall, I think that the instrumentation comes down to nothing more than personal taste, as the guitars fill their role well and clearly can grab attention when they need to.
On their self titled album, Calico Jack, has managed to include all the necessary components of a good Metal album. One or two catchy drinking songs, one novelty song (“Caribica”), songs with cinematic components (the opening track and “Under the Flag of Calico Jack”), and some really heavy songs on the rest of the album. While I’ve already mentioned my qualms with the note-for-note variation, the blazing speed and aggression of the music comes across like Venom in concept. While I have neglected to discuss the specifics of the piratical folk present on this release the main feature of this album that differentiates them from normal pirate themed Folk Metal bands such as Lagerstein or Rumahoy is how they approach their Metal influences. And in the case of Calico Jack, one can safely say they differentiate themselves well enough to be unique but still stick to their theme well enough to remain firmly within the confines of Pirate movie soundtracks and the sorts of songs you would hear sung in port taverns.
- The Secret of Cape Cod
- Where Hath th’ Rum Gone?
- Death Beneath the Wave
- Devil May Care
- Songs from the Sea
- Sharkbite Johnny
- Grog Jolly Grog
- Straits of Chaos
- Under the Flag of Calico Jack
- Jolie Rouge