A great man once said, “There’s no such thing as pirate metal” and, while I whole heaaaartedly agree with him (see what I did there? Highlight of my writing career) I’m going to insist on referring to Swashbuckle as pirate metal throughout this review just to irk Mr Traveller. Because that’s the kind of scamp I am. While many bands who occupy this ‘genre’ (Verbal Deception, Alestorm) have recognizably sea shanty-esque melodies to their pirate odes, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Swashbuckle for just another thrash band.
Clocking in at under seven minutes, ‘We Hate the Sea’ is a four track affair and the first release since 2010’s full length, ‘Crime Always Pays’. The mathematicians among you will be well aware that that works out as, on average, a writing rate of approximately one song per year; quite a feat when the majority of the songs are under two minutes long.
Aside from sounding like it’s been recorded in a toilet stall (which, given the content of some of the material on this EP, could be a distinct possibility), it appears that Swashbuckle have taken a new approach to their sound. Gone are the melodious warblings of the lead guitars that tend to be synonymous with pirate metal, and in their place sprouts the bullish, one-dimensional riffing of the rhythm guitars. The lack of melody is accounted for at least on album opener ‘Beer Goggles’, where we see a more overbearing use of keyboards than we have in the past, and their eagerness to integrate themselves with the meandering guitar riff gives this song the kind of dynamic that sets us up to be pleasantly surprised. And then the rest of the album ensues.
The next three songs are a blur of breakneck, palm muted riffing and thrash-by-numbers drumming broken up only by the two seconds of silence that separate each track. The primary ailment with this release is that Swashbuckle have neglected to write actual songs – you know, musical compositions with shifts in pace and tone. Instead it’s just one finger-blurring riff tacked onto the end of another with incomprehensible lyrics containing as many syllables crammed into each line as possible. Though, to be fair, their incomprehensibility is somewhat of a blessing. Those who were following the band’s promo videos for the release will be well aware of their penchant for juvenile humour and the lyrics to this release are no exception, reading like a tribute to the undersides of classroom tables and toilet stall doors.
Given the vast amount of time between releases, ‘We Hate the Sea’ is a severe disappointment and a devolution in both songwriting and integrity (not that pirate metal holds any large merit of integrity in the first place). It comes off as a half-arsed attempt to placate fans and seems like little time or thought was put into the release.