5. Mastodon – Leviathan
After the absolutely brilliant debut, Remission, Mastodon invested in a book & dropped this whale-shaped bomb on the heavy metal scene. It’s probably a good thing that they picked Herman Melville’s epic Moby Dick. Whilst we are all still waiting for that elusive prog metal concept album based on Dr Seuss One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Melville’s imagery allows the lumbering doom & sludge structures developed on their previous releases to take on a whole new level of mental.
4. Ahab – Call of the Wretched Sea
In a serious attempt to come up with the most obscure genre name ever, Ahab are currently the world’s only purveyor of nautical funeral doom metal. Whilst Mastodon may have done it first, Ahab’s interpretation of Moby Dick takes things to outrageously heavy places. Their low tempo, distorted, downtuned sound induces a trance-like state. Combine that with bass levels that tread dangerously close to the brown chord & you are on course for a messy listening session. Bring a change of pants or, better still, get the whole experience by listening to it in the bath.
3. Savatage – The Wake of Magellan
Savatage have (almost all) survived some terrible challenges in their long career & their 10th studio album is definitely their magnum opus. A soaring rock opera which mixes 2 real life events with the fictional account of a sailor who, tired of the word, decides to sail out to sea & die alone. The lyrics combined with the liner notes tell a complex & epic tale which is narrated for the most part by Zak Stevens’ voice, more suited to musical theatre that progressive metal. Chris Caffery & Al Pitrelli’s guitar work is excellent but it’s Jon Oliva’s keyboard arrangements that make this album stand out as a career high-point for one of the most creative & painfully underrated metal bands ever.
2. While Heaven Wept – Vast Oceans Lachrymose
Classifying this album might be more challenging than drowning a fully grown spaniel in a toilet bowl but While Heaven Wept’s unique brand of progressive doom power rock is something special. What they attempt on Vast Oceans Lachrymose would cripple lesser musicians but the symphonic multi-tracked genius on their 3rd album blows away all the competition. Introduction of the new vocalist, Rain Irving, appears to have been the missing shot of steroids that finally allowed them to create this melodic masterpiece of superhuman quality. Epic 16 minute monstrosities & 0utrageous operatic vocals are the order of the day. Dive headfirst into this album, it will swallow you whole.
1. Alestorm – Captain Morgan’s Revenge
Scotland’s finest purveyors of nautical nonsense
Nope. I can’t do it. I was going to write a cheeky wee sentence about them, then we could all have a laugh at their expense but I can’t do it. I got halfway through my first sentence: “Scotland’s finest purveyors of nautical nonsense” & I had to stop. A proper review of this album reads as follows: Hahahaha Failstorm.
They are shit, end of story. On to the real number one.
1. Running Wild – Port Royal
Rock ‘n’ Rolf’s band made the transition to pirate overlords with their 87 album Under Jolly Roger but their follow-up, Port Royal cemented their crown as king of the seas. The title track, Raging Fire & Blown to Kingdom Come are all speed metal anthems in their own right but it is with Conquistadores that the ‘Wild boys peak. Galloping bass lines Steve Harris would be proud of & a chorus as infectious as ebola make for a tasty combo of Germanic genius. Overcoming an extremely weak production, you’ll definitely need to turn this one all the way up to 11 but other than a single mis-step with Final Gates, a rather pointless instrumental track, you are faced with a classic. Next time someone tells you Swashbuckle are the best pirate metal band, remind them that Running Wild are the true lions of the sea, then run them through with your rusty dagger.