Alestorm

support Skálmöld + Bootyard Bandits
author RUB date 14/03/19 venue VoxHall, Århus, DEN

To anyone familiar with tonight’s headliner, it should come as no surprise that an Alestorm gig means a party gig. The jolly pirates always seems to deliver, as they also proved the last time they graced our country at the 2018 edition of Copenhell. This time around in the quite different setting of Århus venue VoxHall, I would, for the first time, witness the band in a more intimate setting. Would this mean an even more insane pirate-party? Or would the band and audience have succumbed to the gloomy weather and the fact that this gig was to take place on a weekday? Time would tell, but I sure hoped it would be the former, as it is always nice to kickstart an early weekend in proper fashion like these Scotsmen are revered for. But first, we would have to see what the warm-up bands had to offer.

All photos courtesy of Hasan Jensen

Bootyard Bandits

Bootyard Bandits

The floor is packed as the first band of the evening takes the stage, so the venue must be very close to sold out. With no prior knowledge of this band, the stage props suggest their act has something to do with the Wild West, with both cacti and various Western-themed props visible. As the band enters to a sample of various Western themes as well, I even spot a banjo, so there is no more doubt in my mind: this must be some kind of country or Western metal — the thing I didn’t know, I needed in my life. Sadly, the songs are very generic hard rock with hints of harder metal rhythms and beats. Basically, it sounds like Steel Panther gone country, with tongue-in-cheek vocals. But without any knowledge of the songs, I’m not entirely sure they are quite as packed with humorous clichés and gimmicks, or even if whatever humorous lyricism there is, is meant in the same sarcastic way as the aforementioned band is renowned for. The songs are about drinking whiskey in the morning, which I have no issues with. But needless to say, I quickly feel that their gimmicky style is falling apart. And to make matters worse, from where I’m standing the banjo is almost completely inaudible (though better on the ground floor). Points for trying, but this is a very generic and dull performance in my eyes, even though some people look like they’re having fun. Alas, the majority of the attendees on the floor look bored as they resort to crossed arms and barely any movement during the gig. For sure, it is time for Icelandic Skálmöld to take the stage now.

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Skálmöld

Skálmöld

My first impression of Skálmöld is that they’re a much meaner bunch than the former band, yet still exist within the realm of melodic folk metal. This is definitely not hard rock anymore, and the crowd is ready from the first track as well. Much in the vein of Ensiferum, the band kicks off the show with both hard, pounding drums, deep growls and classic ‘soft choir’ voices. In fact, in many aspects and in various ways they are reminiscent of both their counterparts in the aforementioned Finnish band and in the Faroese folk metal band Týr, as the clean vocals and the way they’re utilized in the music are very similar to those artists. Earning some cheap points by showing off his Danish skills, lead singer Björgvin Sigurðsson tells us that it’s good to be back. People cheer and a pit emerges, albeit a fairly small one. Skálmöld thus do what they are supposed to, and even come out looking pretty good in the end. They warm up the crowd with their jolly take on the melodic folk metal genre and put on a solid performance that might even have gathered them a few new fans by the looks of the huge response the crowd gives them as they say their thanks and leave the stage.

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Alestorm

Looking around the venue and all of the many, many shirts, it’s easy to see which band people have come for, which is further emphasized as some are even dressed up as pirates! Kicking things off with “Keelhauled”, the crowd instantly erupts in a singalong, crowd-surfing, intense energy and simply just jolly good fun. This is taken to the next level when some patrons even execute stage dives to the tune of the eponymous “Alestorm”, although there’s plenty of security for tonight’s close-to sold out gig. With so many hands and feet in the air, the crowd actually looks like the high seas, which is very appropriate given the band in question. People keep bouncing and the atmosphere remains jolly throughout, as it should at an Alestorm concert. ”Are you here for a party tonight!?”, asks frontman Christopher Bowes, as the intro to the drinking song “Mexico” resounds from the speakers. It really seems like he is in an exceptionally good spirit tonight, firing one joke after another. ”Sorry, we have to play some of the old songs, even though everyone loves the new ones”, he apologises with huge irony as the intro to “Over the Seas” erupts, and when a member of the audience starts to crowd-surf in between two songs, he remarks that ”You must feel really silly crowd-surfing between [them]”, which draws huge cheers and laughs from the audience. On the stage, there’s plenty to write about as well. How about a keyboard solo performed whilst drinking beer? Is it something they put in the water in Scotland, or perhaps more likely the whiskey? Oh, I’m sorry. Of course, I mean rum.

The high level of intensity never really seizes at any point during the concert, and people happily mosh and bounce their way through one energizing hit after another. But around halfway through the set, “Nancy the Tavern Wench” makes sure people can catch their breaths as well. The movement is once again revitalized as “Hangover” is covered, and the band is even joined during it by the lead singer of Bootyard Bandits on acoustic guitar, and some (very huge) guy called Phil, who looks like an American Football player, downs two beers, and readily assists Bowes on the lead vocals. The crowd even initiates the sit down and row gimmick, as has become customary at any Alestorm gig. Nearing the end of the set, the crowd is instructed to split down the middle: ”When I say go you take off all your clothes and start having sex with each other!”, roars Bowes once again. Ending with “Captain Morgan’s Revenge” and “Shipwrecked” before the encore is a very strong duo, but is only topped by “Drink” and of course “Fucked with an Anchor”, which apparently is how Alestorm feels about every single one of us. It is basically humorous slander like this between songs that makes this for such an entertaining concert.

So, why is this band not as generic and boring as, say, Bootyard Bandits, one might ask? What Alestorm truly master is the crowd control, and plain and simple they just write better songs. And of course, more people actually know their songs. I would label Alestorm’s performance somewhere between really silly and truly great, but it just works so insanely well live. By now it would seem impossible for this band to throw a bad concert, which in itself is very impressive. The crowd is sent off into the night in best Mr. Bean fashion with the middle fingers raised and wide smiles: ”Fuck you all!”

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Setlist:

  • 01. Keelhauled
  • 02. Alestorm
  • 03. Magnetic North
  • 04. Mexico
  • 05. Over the Seas
  • 06. The Sunk’n Norwegian
  • 07. No Grave but the Sea
  • 08. Nancy the Tavern Wench
  • 09. Rumpelkombo
  • 10. 1741 (The Battle of Cartagena)
  • 11. Hangover (Taio Cruz cover)
  • 12. Pegleg Potion
  • 13. Bar ünd Imbiss
  • 14. Captain Morgan’s Revenge
  • 15. Shipwrecked

— Encore —

  • 16. Drink
  • 17. Wolves of the Sea (Pirates Of The Sea cover)
  • 18. Fucked with an Anchor

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