Pirates, the oft-forgotten metalheads of the seven seas. Drinking and plundering and pillaging and sword-fighting and drinking some more, and making up phrases like “Yarrrrr!” and “Keel Haul!” and “But why is the rum gone?” What’s more metal than that, I ask?
The romanticised pirate life – more popular than ever thanks to the “Pirates of the Carribbean” franchise – appeals to many metalheads, and it’s no surprise (at least, not to me) that “pirate metal” will soon because one of our legitimate sub-genres.
Pirate metal bands share one common trait – they sing about pirates. The music is generally folk-influenced, but pirate metal bands can also play death, punk, thrash or power metal, as long as they wear silly hats and sing about wenches … and mead.
I’ve included a few of my favorite pirate metal (and pirate non-metal) songs.
Running Wild – Conquistadors
The ultimate pirate metal band, and proof that Germany produces some of the best metal. From the Port Royal album, released in 1988, when I was three years old:
Running Wild performed their last ever show (although they’re a metal band, so satan knows how many “comebacks” they’ll do) at Wacken 2009, and I was there, and it was awesome, and of course they played “Conquistadors”. I am up the front at this point (but you can’t see me):
Alestorm – Wenches and Mead
Who can’t admire a band that manages to write two albums and several EPs about nothing but pirates? I’ve been a fan of these guys back when they were a local Scottish act called Battleheart, with two shitty-sounding EP’s available for free download from their website.
As word spread, Battleheart grew more and more popular until they got enough interest to sign a record deal with Napalm Records, who asked them to change their name to avoid confusion with Battlelore, also on the label. They’re darlings of the Europe festival circuit, and lovely guys to boot.
Alestorm is a true success story for online promotion and word of mouth in the community, and they deserve success. From their 2008 album Captain Morgan’s Revenge, “Wenches and Mead”:
Running Wild – Jolly Roger
Deserving of two places on the Pirate Metal list, Running Wild’s classic from 1987’s Under Jolly Roger. My friend Jonowar used to sing vocals in a cheesy power metal band called Warbeast, and they covered this song, which was my first introduction to Running Wild:
This is a fan tribute video, and it’s full of cheesy wipes and silly effects, but it’s quite sweet. The sound is TERRIBLE, however. So if you’ve never heard the song before, listen to the first one, please!
Nick Cave – Fire Down Below
In 2006, an 2 CD album came out called Rogue Galley: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanties, featuring various artists covering old sea chanties, pirate songs and folk ballads. I heard my all-time favorite man, Nick Cave, was on the album, so of course I had to hear it.
It’s an odd mixture of styles – some songs you love, some you hate – with a thick leaflet of linear notes explaining the origins and history of each song. Nick Cave does two songs on the album, and this is the better of the two. I just love Nick’s voice over this riff. Warning: there are a couple of swear words in this.
Battlelore – Buccaneers Inn
Metal Archives defines them as Symphonic Epic Metal, and while I might debate this definition, I definitely like this song. From 2003’s Swords Song album, the Buccaneer’s Inn rips into the cool tinkling keyboard melody that manages to sound simultaniously like horses galloping, water dribbling and beer sloshing around in a near-empty tankard.
I’ve always loved how Battlelore keep their riffs incredibly simple and catchy – the focus here is on the storytelling aspects of their songs and the interplay between the harsh male and melodic female vocals.
I saw Battlelore live at Bloodstock last year, and wasn’t impressed (they had sound issues for 25 minutes, but the female vocalist isn’t strong enough to sing well live) but on record they still sound amazing. Clever geeks will pick up the LotR references:
Gavin Friday – Baltimore Whores
Another favorite of mine from the Rogue’s Gallery album – listen to the lyrics! (Warning: bawdy lyrics)
Finntroll – Jakten’s Tid
Not strictly “pirate”, and I have no idea what it’s actually about because I’m not fluent in Swedish, but Finntroll’s use of traditional Finnish humpaa really brings to mind a pirattey setting. This is another fan video, made for a school project, so show them some love!
Swashbuckle -Cruise Ship Terror
I saw these guys at Wacken last year, and they honestly didn’t impress me much, but I’ve been giving them a second chance, and they’re actually quite good. Swashbuckle has a dirty US thrash sound. It’s a lot less “catchy” than everything I’ve listed above, but worth a listen. A bit more raw and brutal, like pirates really were. This is from 2009’s Back to the Noose.
Yarrrrr! Any more wicked pirate songs to share?
Fire the Cannons!