Swashbuckle – Back to the Noose Review

SwashbuckleBack to the Noose
Rating: 3.0/5.0
Label: Nuclear Blast (EU | USA)
Websites: myspace.com/swashbuckle | swashbuckle.info
Release date: July 24th, 2009 (EU) | August 11th, 2009 (USA)

Swashbuckle_-_Back_To_The_Noose_artworkPirates are becoming an all-too-common and all-too-silly theme in our current society—sort of a strange zeitgeist, if you will.  Everything from the pirates in Somalia to The Pirate Party in Sweden and pirating music has been used to discuss where our society is in these modern times, with a fair number of throwback jokes about scurvy, and lots of people running around going “Arrr!” in order to praise the almighty Flying Spaghetti Monster.  In fact, my understanding is that given this current trend, global warming should in fact be coming to a halt soon.  But I digress.

One thing I can’t imagine that anyone saw was the emergence of pirate metal.  Sure, metal has been growing sillier in certain corners (see: Korpiklaani’s video for “Wooden Pints”), but I thought for sure that we could probably have avoided such an occurrence.  And yeah, I guess as a reaction to the sort of trite, predictable nature of a lot of metal these days, this sort of stuff is probably to be expected.  But, really?  Pirate metal?

Yes, pirate metal.  Well, shit.  OK.  More accurately Swashbuckle—the winner of Nuclear Blast’s Myspace contest.  So here we go: so this record should probably be reviewed in sort of two sections–the metal aspect and everything else.  Metalwise, this record fucking rocks.  It’s described as thrash, and I guess that’s probably about right—one could compare it to At The Gates mixed with SOD, but there’s a bit more of a hardcore touch to it. It borders a bit on what we know, fondly or not, as deathcore, due to the existence of breakdowns and man-choruses (i.e., groups of shouting men)—but such things are not super common, and the music has a lot more in common with SOD or Anthrax than it does with Suicide Silence.  The tracks are well-paced, fun to listen to and heavy and songs like “IT CAME FROM THE DEEP!” and “No Prey No Pay” are definitely highlights.  The riffing is tight, the drumming is good and the vocalist is a good metal vocalist (despite his silly fucking lyrics=.

The second part of this record is what I referred to as “everything else” earlier.  There is just a general level of silliness that permeates this record.  I try not to take everything too seriously and I do appreciate some of this stuff.  I thought the scene with the pirates attacking the cruise ship (also known as the track “Cruise Ship Terror”) was pretty funny—but just like the funny segue space on hip hop CDs, ska discs and other comedy discs, it’s only going to be funny a few times, and after that it’s going to be skip-worthy.  Also, the use of the word “shenanigans” on a metal record is cringe-worthy—actually, the whole “Gay Pirate” voice could go and it would probably improve the record.

SwashLoco1Stage3The other part of “everything else” is the Caribbean interludes—these are great.  Even if this kind of music isn’t your thing, you’ll be surprised at how much you enjoy these little segues.  They’re well-composed and interesting, but to some extent they feel out of place with everything else.  I think the thing that is missing, for me, is including these segues within their metal, not between it.  Sure, the segues are sort of pushing a story along (at least at the end of the record, where “All Was Fine Until” leads into a story about The Swashbucklers going down because of the kraken—apparently, someone watched those stupid movies with Johnny Depp one too many times), but I think I would take these guys a lot more seriously if they showed some musical finesse in a more progressive sense, instead of just writing two different kinds of songs: THRASH! and calypso?

Anyway, I still think this is a pretty good disc.  The music is fun and fresh.  It’s not terribly progressive or interesting beyond the Caribbean interludes, but it’s also not boring or over-hashed.  However, I have two questions: was this really the best band that Nuclear Blast could find on their MySpace competition?  And secondly, how far do you really think these guys can take this thing?  After a while it’s just going to be kitschy, silly and, I predict, a flash in the pan when it comes to where metal is going.  This record will sell some copies, I’m sure.  People are on a big pirate kick and apparently metal guys are no different (poor ninjas, not nearly as easy to put into a band where someone gets to wear a funny hat and do a silly accent), but I don’t particularly think that this stuff has a long shelf life unless these guys can get their sound to mature somehow.

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