The Dread Crew of Oddwood - Lawful Evil Call me Diabolus. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – I granted the privateers in Alestorm a Letter of Marque and they went on to capture The Good Ship TYMHM and raise the Jolly Roger high over the AMG Staff’s Top Ten Lists. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating circulation. Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul, I simply drink away the accursed rain. Alas, my initial deed could not go unaddressed forever; I was ordered to write about The Dread Crew of Oddwood’s Lawful Evil. With a philosophical flourish Cato threw himself upon his sword; I quietly take to reviewing.

Lawful Evil isn’t exactly a metal record, but its target audience is metal fans. Oddwood play an entirely acoustic Celtic style of folk that sounds pirate-y in nature. I was immediately reminded of Alestorm’s glorious Rümplügged acoustic EP due to this, but “bacon powered pirate core” this is not. See, Oddwood didn’t just strip away all metal pretensions from their wonderful folk music like Captain Bowes and his crew of merry miscreants, they add in metal pretensions via some riffs, progressions, and overall vibe to their folk. The brunt of lead work goes to non-traditional instruments like mandolins, toy pianos, and tin whistles, with guitar and upright bass providing a solid foundation rooted in heavy metal traditions. There’s a bit of weirdness a la Troldhaugen to my ears, but Oddwood doesn’t gleefully leap off the deep end as often as those guys. Lawful Evil is, in short, an atmospheric record. It just so happens that the atmosphere is a particularly rowdy pub.

Unsurprisingly, I like this. As is the case with Alestorm, Oddwood take full advantage of their limitations and play deftly within them. Their commitment to the bit as shoddy and perpetually hammered privateers makes songs like “Whalin’ Rumbo” and “Sand Lobster” superbly catchy folk romps that come across as endearingly familiar because you get to “know” Oddwood’s characteristics throughout the record. Attention to detail is always a good way to ensure quality. “Side Quest” represents everything good about this band, being catchy as the scurvy on a ship without oranges and going all-in on the chorus, making a short tune that wastes a grand total of zero seconds, and I have an almost pathological urge to replay it. Britney Slayes from Unleash the Archers lends her considerable pipes to “Siren’s Song” and its storytelling efforts; a pretty chorus lures our protagonists towards the rocks as sirens are wont to do, and the music takes an effective dark turn when the entire ship is massacred. When the chorus is reprised one last time, added harmonies are bittersweet; this commitment to the theme makes this track a highlight. As a self-referential track, “Heavy Mahogany” works remarkably well, being at the perfect tempo for an energetic folk track and having a strong hook in the chorus that reflects Oddwood’s heavy metal wood aspirations perfectly.The Dread Crew of Oddwood 2016

There’s very little wrong with Lawful Evil, as Oddwood are strong songwriters with a knack for hooks and effective time management. The worst thing I can say about the songs themselves is that “Raise Your Pints” comes this close to achieving Alestorm-tier mastery of drinking songs but narrowly misses that mark. As Alestorm are savants when it comes to writing catchy tunes about booze, this is a rather small criticism. The other flaw is the mastering, which clocks in at an inexplicable DR6. With how gorgeous Rümplügged’s DR10 sounded, it seems weird that Lawful Evil is so squashed. It’s not awful or anything, but giving each instrument more room to breathe would’ve made this a great listening experience instead of a good one. This doesn’t hurt the quality of the songs though, so it’s a relatively minor issue in the grand scheme of things.

Lawful Evil is fun, well-written, and remarkably concise for a record with 14 songs on it that isn’t grindcore. What’s interesting about Oddwood’s music is that it seems gimmicky and insubstantial, as if it would get old after a few listens, a few beers, and a few laughs. However, when we pull back the curtain of the pirate stuff we see a strong and adept group of songwriters instead of the weak old man of Oz desperately pandering to gullible Alestorm fans. I can enjoy gimmickry if there’s substance behind it, and that’s definitely the case here. I feel obligated to point out that regardless of how many times I said Alestorm in this review, Lawful Evil isn’t going to be my number one record of 2016. That said, it will be one I’ll be returning to consistently throughout 2016 and the coming years often enough.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-release
Websites: thedreadcrewofoddwood.bandcamp.com | thedreadcrewofoddwood.com | facebook.com/thedreadcrewofoddwood
Releases Worldwide: March 25th, 2016

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  • Wilhelm

    The tune is solid jolly raucous but the compression kills the sound like a 18th century boarding sabre, these lads could be riding the high seas but are left sweeping the poop deck.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    A pirate band to rival Alestorm? Inconceivable!

    • There has been one of those since about 1983. They’re called Running Wild.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I have a really good friend, an Italian dude who REALLY loves Running Wild. Every time we talked about music he would mention Running Wild. Therefore I can’t read the words “Running Wild” without hearing them in my head with a thick Italian accent.

      • [not a Dr]

        It’s time to convene the Fourth Meeting of the Brethren Court!

    • jappjapp

      Try Lagerstein! They are the clostest you get to Alestorm :)

  • Brother Ben

    Call me old fashioned, but no pirate metal crew has come close to touching Running Wild. Under Jolly Roger shamed the rest before they were even in the womb

    • YAAAR, he knows! ^

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      I’m on the fence as to whether pirate metal even exists. Alestorm’s just one of the best folk metal bands around, Swashbuckle is a crossover thrash sorta band, these guys are a fun Celtic style folk band, and Under Jolly Roger is a killer 80s heavy metal record. If we took away the pirate content, I’m not sure we’d consider them all that similar, and probably think Alestorm is closer to Korpiklaani or a good version of the last Turisas record.

      • El_Cuervo

        “a good version of the last Turisas record”.

        Turisas is so much better than Alestorm are, have ever been, and will ever be.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Yargh, matey! You be right. And it’s about time for Turisas2016.

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          25 days late but still pretty funny!

          • El_Cuervo

            ??

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            It’s the 26th today.

          • El_Cuervo

            I see. You were being sly and witty and suggesting that Turisas2013 is a joke compared to Alestorm.

            HAHA

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            Suggesting? Nah. Asserting? Absolutely!

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Good points. The gimmick factor is one way to stand out from the crowd and gather a following. If you take a person who never heard Kiss and never saw pictures of them, and play them their music, they’d probably say “just another stadium hard rock band”.

        Then there’s Ghost, who look like a BM/DM band, but play the opposite kind of music.

        The Alestorm/Turisas comparison is apt. In spirit, I’d say bands like DC Oddwood, Alestorm, and Trollfest are quite similar in terms of festive fun.

        Lastly, as a parent who’s listened to his share of kid performers, it’s interesting how close some of the songs on Lawful Evil come close to sounding like something similar to Splash’N Boots’ “Treasure of Gold”.

        • Thatguy

          Good thoughts, MG. And this does sound like the Wiggles.

          This would get a -3.5 from me.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            To me it’s goofy fun, like Gloryhammer, but with well-structured songs, like DiM says, beneath the goofiness. I have to admit the idea of a potty-mouthed Wiggles would be entertaining.

      • I’m fairly tempted to call some of this “cartoon metal”, cause their image (both Alestorm and this lot) is rather cheesy. There’s an air of almost pretentious “let’s make up something new”, without really doing so in any way to it as well, but first of all, cheesy is the one word that keeps popping up.
        Not that I want to be overtly negative, I’ve enjoyed my share of both Alestorm and Finnish forest folksers.
        Now I’m of to patent “ninja metal” before someone else does. Hi-yah!

        • [not a Dr]

          I want ninja metal to exist. But I don’t see how ninjas could be metal, damned be their silent, sneaky ways!

          • I forgot to take that aspect into the account.
            Would you settle for some noisy samurais? If so, check out Whispered (search youtube for Jikininki).
            Much like Nile, they are rather confused about their own identities, as these lads hail from Finland.
            They’ve actually got a new album rising of the horizon of the land of the rising sun on May 20th.

      • Brother Ben

        I can agree with that, but because of the gimmick the comparisons are unavoidable. I like Alestorm, but I prefer Running Wild. I also prefer classic metal to most folk metal, so it may be a genre preference.

      • RuySan

        Pirate Metal is as stupid as Viking Metal or Pagan Metal. Themes shouldn’t function as sub genres.

        • I think Oderus Urungus really “gets” metal in a way that too many other frontmen simply do not. It’s SUPPOSED to be theatrical; it’s SUPPOSED to fun. We’re not curing cancer — we’re purging demons. ~ Axl Rosenberg

          That passage stuck with me. Gave me a new outlook on metal and genres…

  • The Calgary Nerd.

    Well I gave Alestorm a chance after Diabolis recommomeded it. Gonna have to listen to this.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Wikipedia has this to say on the band’s origins: “The Dread Crew of Oddwood formed as an eight-piece in 2008 after Wolfbeard O’Brady organized a meeting at San Diego Comic Con for fans of the SEGA Genesis game “Ecco the Dolphin”. Only eight people showed up to the meeting, and the group formed the band’s original lineup”.

    Sounds like the start of a movie (with Jack Black in a lead role, of course).

  • Innit Bartender

    Kudos for the incipit! Leave it AMG to protect and nourish the immortal classics!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Judging from how many times Alestorm was name-dropped I could have sworn this was a side project from the Alestorm guys.
    Hell, I even had to go back and count how many times Alestorm was mentioned in the review to make sure they were not referenced more than the band being reviewed. The Score? Alestorm 7, Oddwood 9.

  • The Calgary Nerd.

    Having listened to the full album I’d give it a 3/5. Decent but if yeh wanna sail the high seas mayties, y may want to go with Running Wild or Alestorm

  • This seems like something that would be fun at ye Olde Pirate Faire but its appeal only lies in its gimmickry. It’s not BAD, but unless I’m wearing an eye patch and have a fake parrot on my shoulder it’s nothing special.
    But then, I don’t like Alestorm either so maybe it’s just me.

  • jappjapp

    Everybody should know about Lagerstein too. They are closer to Alestorm than these guys! But I love this!