Alestorm has returned with their fourth collection of sea shanties, and by this point in their career, one has to wonder if they’re going to find new creative inspiration or begin truly scraping the barrel for material (as they put it). In truth, “Sunset On The Golden Age” is a mix of both, as there are new elements, but they tend to fall within Alestorm’s familiar sound. With that said, “scraping the barrel” is too harsh a phrase to describe the quality here. Alestorm still provides a number of incredibly enjoyable songs, primarily through their ability to be catchy beyond belief. This focus on sheer catchiness is embodied in the two opening tracks, “Walk The Plank” and “Drink”. Both rely on choruses that are relatively simple, but entertaining nonetheless. In fact, “Drink” might just be the most memorable thing the band has ever recorded.
Most of the other songs tend to follow suit similarly, but there are a few ways the band mixes it up. For one thing, nearly every song has a keyboard, bass, and drums breakdown. These sections tend to be based on folky keyboard melodies, and definitely show Alestorm incorporating far more folk metal influence than ever before. This is particularly prominent on songs like “Magnetic North”, which is a slower song overflowing with folk elements. “Sunset On The Golden Age” also has a couple of lengthy tunes. Both “1741 (The Battle of Cartagena)” and the title track prove to be highlights simply through the epic emotions they conjure. Their choruses are both among the best of the album, and the songs (particularly the latter) provide a great soundtrack for the imagery Alestorm provides.
The middle of “Sunset On The Golden Age” is definitely the weakest part. “Mead From Hell”, “Surf Squid Warfare”, and “Quest For Ships” are not bad songs, but they’re pretty standard for Alestorm. The only slight experimentation they offer is the use of harsh vocals at the end of “Surf Squid Warfare”. This is done in more a death metal vein, compared to the black metal explored on “Death Throes of the Terrorsquid” from their previous album. Things pick back up again with “Wooden Leg!”, which is the fastest and most spastic song. It is one of those tracks that pummel you into oblivion with the tenacity of the chorus. You’re going to be hearing the words “Wooden Leg!” far more than you need to, but by the end of the song, you’ll be shouting those words alongside vocalist Christopher Bowes.
The one song I have yet to mention, “Hangover”, is quite possibly the best on the album. It is a Taio Cruz cover (if you have no idea who that is, you are not alone!), but it fits in perfectly with what Alestorm does. It’s not quite a ballad, but certainly slower and softer than most of their work. Nonetheless, it is the perfect “sing-along” song that will certainly come to life if played live. The only downside with this song is that one of the verses shows Bowes rapping, which nearly ruins the song. Luckily, the chorus is so incredibly potent that the song overcomes that hiccup.
In the context of Alestorm’s discography, “Sunset On The Golden Age” shows a slight progression. There is an increase emphasis on folk melodies, but the riffs are still quite prominent. On the whole, it is probably the most consistent album the band has done, simply because all of their albums have a couple of tracks that stick out like a sore thumb. Upon first listen, this was my least favourite of their albums because no tracks reach the heights of “Keelhauled” or “Captain Morgan’s Revenge”, but with subsequent listens, it proves to be incredibly enjoyable.
Be sure to check out and like Alestorm on Facebook!
"Walk The Plank"
"1741 (The Battle of Cartagena)"
4.5/5 or 90%.
Written by Scott