After an explosive drum intro from Peter Alcorn, the album's title track gets underway with a keyboard-heavy riff that sits upon a simple guitar line that packs a real punch. This song really takes the listener back to the band's early days, with a tale of piracy and sailing the seas. A mid-paced verse soon gives way to a more upbeat chorus with a slightly dancy rhythm and plenty of powerful gang vocals to back Bowes' rasp. Harsh vocals, sung thoughout by Vernon, are more widely used on this album, and they are used in a supporting role in the chorus to really increase the power. A lengthy keyboard solo fills the middle of the song, and helps to enhance the song's folky melodies. Mexico opens with a melody that sounds like something from an old video game soundtrack, before opening into another highly melodic keyboard-led riff. This is one of the band's more light-hearted efforts, with lots of references to drinking, but the chorus is so infectious that I can see this becoming a live staple for years to come. A polka-esque beat drives the verses, before the pace picks up in the choruses with a shanty-like melody and more powerful gang vocals. To the End of the World is the sort of song that made me fall in love with Alestorm in the first place. I really like it when their songs have a bit of a sinister edge to them, and this is one of those numbers. A crunching metal riff, with that trademark synth-accordian over the top of it, is the song's driving force and the overall heaviness of this riff sets the tone for the song. The verses certainly have more dirt under their nails than many of the band's recent offerings, and the chorus is a real winner with a great mix of clean and harsh vocals. It is songs like this that make you realise just how good a band Alestorm can be, and they really excel when they stay away from the overtly humorous lyrical matter. Bowes and Vernon, the band's two keyboardists, really outdo themselves here with plenty of folky melodies and doomy soundscapes that really enhance the song's mood perfectly. Bodor gets his first true guitar solo on the album too, and shows that he is probably the best guitarist the band have had with some extremely tasteful lead runs. The next song, a self-titled effort, is enjoyable but is a real barrel-scraper when it comes to lyrics. Musically, the song is fantastic with a strong upbeat feel, choppy guitars, and powerful keyboards. It is also gives Vernon a real chance to show off his vocal skills with extended periods of harsh vocals being used exclusively to good effect. The lyrics really are awful though, especially during the choruses, but I suppose it does sum up the band's USP which is key being a self-titled effort. Bar ünd Imbiss does the meatheaded pirate metal so much more convincingly than the previous number and definitely sets out the band's stall much better. Co-written by Bodor, the song is quite guitar orientated with some strong grooves in the verses and plenty of little lead breaks for him to real sink his teeth into. The choruses has a bit of a feel of Nancy the Tavern Wench but with a heavier overall vibe which makes me think that this is another song that will become a live favourite.
Fucked with an Anchor is everything you would expect it to be. Filled with angst and humorous lyrics, this song is sure to become a fan favourite. It is one of the album's most instantly memorable numbers, with a chorus that will bury itself in your head and you will probably find yourself singing at extremely inappropriate situations. The verses are acoustic-led, which gives the song a bit more of a minimalist feel, but things do pick up during the choruses with plenty of gang vocals and crunching power chords. Pegleg Potion is a real throw back to the band's early sound with a slightly thrashy rhythm and powerful guitar chords. Vernon has plenty of harsh vocal sections here too, and his voice mixes perfectly with Bowes to create a dynamic and heavy song that is still filled with melody. The chorus is packed full of catchy little keyboard leads which really make the chorus one the album's best moments. Musically this is a very strong song, with plenty of virtuosity throughout including a keyboard solo and the guitar/keyboard duel which really sounds excellent. Man the Pumps is probably the weakest number of the album's second half, and fails to pack the punch of the songs that surround it. The chorus is pretty good, and again has quite an old-school Alestorm feel, but the rest of the song has quite a plodding feel. While I do enjoy their more mid-paced numbers, I just feel this song lacks the atmosphere that the best of their mid-paced numbers possess. The guitar solo is pretty good too, and goes on for a good length, but it does not fully redeem what is a less interesting number. Rage of the Pentahook opens with a fast riff, and the verses slow things down somewhat with a solid slab of groove metal in Bodor's riff and Bowes' storytelling lyrics. There is a lot of music packed into a relatively short song and shows the band's versatility. Alcorn really shows off his skills here, with great groove-based drumming and fast thrashy beats at other points to fit the mood that is required. There is even a little acoustic-based melody at the end that is very different from the rest of the song and ensures that it ends on a strange, but also satisfying, note. The album's closing number Treasure Island is fairly lengthy and shows off all of the band's best songwriting assets. The song's intro has a bit of a prog metal feel with an off-kilter beat a layers of melodic keyboards. There are plenty of strong guitar riffs throughout, which is unsurprising considering that Bodor co-wrote this one as well (he co-wrote four of the album's ten songs in total), and that provides a bit of a change from the usual keyboard-heavy sound. That is not to say the keyboards take a back seat, as their pomp is still felt here in spades, but there definitely seems to be more emphasis on guitars here than usual. It is certainly an ambitious song, and ensures that the album ends on a high. In fact the acoustic outro, which reprises a melody from the album's title track, is really very nice indeed and has the feel of a calming sea after a nasty storm! Overall, No Grave but the Sea is easily my favourite Alestorm album since Black Sails at Midnight as it contains all the hallmarks that made that album and their debut album so great. I am glad that the band have moved away from the humorous songs somewhat and focused again on epic songwriting and storytelling.
The album was released on 26th May 2017 via Napalm Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Mexico.