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Live Reviews : Alestorm and Barbarion @ The Hifi, Melbourne

By on January 27, 2013

You know, when you walk down Swanston Street and see a bunch of tri-corner hats, corsets, fake shoulder parrots and enough eyeliner to paint all Fed square, something big is going down in Melbourne. It’s more exciting than Christmas decorations (there’s something to be learned here, Melbourne City Council…). And indeed the mighty Alestorm filming their live show is very much a big deal. Their previous shows in Melbourne have only been spoken of in the highest regard.

First off was Melbourne’s Barbarion. For starters, anyone who uses or adopts the term ‘body positive’, you’ve met your role model and spokesperson. One singer looks like the perfect midway point between David Boon, that Huey guy from Huey’s cooking, and a Roman warrior. Except his moustache makes Boon’s look like weedy 15 year old bum fluff. This level of commitment to facial hair means abstinence from ever comfortably eating soup. The other would be a cross between Ron Jeremy and Amon Amarth. But enough about image, one thing is for certain – they most definitely demand attention, exude confidence, and display a particular prowess for getting any crowd riled up. Sprouting some huge Judas Priest-esque riffs, Barbarion have not just two guitarists, but three. And two massive singers. These guys are impossible to ignore. With a great command of the crowd, they had the crowd singing their catchy choruses, chanting and clapping, and metal’s favourite pose of holding invisible oranges was most certainly not out of place. Barbarion are not about subtlety, but they do manage to entertain all walks. A personal highlight was their final song – “Matilda (my favourite wife)”, because they did a fantastic job at getting some audience involvement going, not unlike a Blind Guardian show singing “Valhalla” for 10 minutes after the song is over.

With plenty of excitement and energy in the air left behind after Barbarion, a room full of inflatable swords and wench-tacular (I’m sure it’s a word) costumes eagerly anticipated the headlining act to appear. Suddenly a great orchestral composition chimed through the PA and I expected a panoramic sweep of New Zealand directed by Peter Jackson to be played in front of me. Surely enough, a Hobbit-like Chris Bowes took the centre of the stage in front of a drum rack armed with spirit dispensers of Captain Morgan Rum (great advice for any band with a decent size drum kit) and the music took a change for the more party-inclined. Surely enough with an explosive interest they began with “The Quest”; lightning speed guitar and drumming quickly enthralled and mobilised the audience.

As a frontman, Bowes fully adopts exactly what Alestorm is about. They know how to party. Oh, and they like pirates, if you didn’t already figure that out. His stage banter was both heart-warming at times and hilarious at others. My favourite part:

“Who likes Pirates? Who likes songs? Who likes songs about pirates? This next one is called “The pirate song!””

Amidst other things, putting on all sorts of hats that the audience threw at him, getting crowd surfed all the way from the stage to the bar at the back of the hi-fi, drinking all sorts of spirits from the drum kit and sculling a beer upon audience request, Bowes energetically engaged the audience much like the relentless leviathan he sings about.

I felt the set was very well paced – Slower more sing-along songs (I would say sombre, but only contextually so – Alestorm are a fun band!) such as “Nancy the Tavern Wench” were nicely placed amongst more fun songs such as “Shipwrecked” and “Wenches & Mead” (my personal favourite). Then came a song I feel has divided Alestorm fans – “Death Throes of the Terrorsquid”. This is their prolific, progressive epic number that you really need to strap yourself in for. Also, Bowes tries some more harsh Black Metal-esque vocals compared to his usual gruff pirate-y singing. I never thought much of the studio recording, but this transformed into an epic journey taking many twists and turns. His vocal delivery I felt came across much better live than it did the studio version – and I felt this song was nailed flawlessly. It’s always nice when a live performance breathes some new life into a song.

Following what is probably their most catchy song – “Keelhauled”, the night began to come to a close with a healthy dose of banter and ‘encore teasing’ (This is our last song… no actually we have time for one more! No we actually have one more after that), which I think really showcased their ability as performers and entertainers beyond just playing their instruments. I felt “Captain Morgan’s Revenge” should have been the finale just because the way the chorus came across as so memorable, I think it would have been a better to end on that song, but it was merely one of three encore songs. Everyone left in a fervor of excitement, alcohol and thoughts of pirates.

Alestorm is not something you put on in your room on your own and do some soul-searching to. Alestorm is an alcohol-fuelled amalgamation of pirates, metal and fun. It’s quite rare you see a band so engaging yet so playful, energetic and epic, being able to pull it off successfully. There is more party in this band than entire Australian summer festivals. What you all need to do is go buy a pirate costume, buy a plastic sword, buy a few bottles of rum and combine all these things together at a future Alestorm show. You will not be disappointed. Besides – who doesn’t like pirates and alcohol (if you don’t, that says more about you than it does Alestorm)?

Photography by Scott Boelson.

1. We stand alone
2. Sons of war
3. Victory surrounds you
4. Man of men
5. Metal man
6. My favourite wife (Matilda)

1. The Quest
2. The Sunk’n Norwegian
3. Leviathan
4. Shipwrecked
5. Over the Seas
6. Midget Saw
7. Nancy the Tavern Wench
8. Pirate Song
9. Back Through Time
10. Wenches & Mead
11. Death Throes of the Terrorsquid
12. Keelhauled
13. Rumpelkombo
14. Set Sail and Conquer
15. Captain Morgan’s Revenge
16. Rum


Outside of occasionally contributing to Metal Obsession, Luke is the guitarist and brain behind Knightmare and Seventh Sage, and also plays in Septerrus. Luke studies Engineering full time at Monash, likes Mexican food, and also does other things besides metal.