What do you get when you mix lots of rum, lots of beer and heavy metal? ALESTORM is here to drink your beer and play a killer show. And they’re all out of beer. For their first headlining show in Serbia, the band played the renowned Belgrade Youth Center, with a show clocking above an hour and a half. The Belgrade show felt like a sort of a homecoming for the band, as they have been recording music videos here for over half a decade.
The last time Alestorm was here recording a video for their self-titled track, the band recruited local extras to recreate a club show. Judging by how the video turned out, it was apparent to everyone (the band included) that Serbian fans were itching for some bad-mannered, tongue-in-cheek pirate metal. Having seen them this summer at MetalDays festival, I knew Alestorm would deliver.
Slightly more than four hundred metal fans were there to greet the band as they walked on stage, goofing around as usual. With the first notes of the thundering accordion in “Keelhauled”, everyone lost their mind. Glasses full of beer flew across the crowd engaged in a part-dance, part-moshpit. The crowd effortlessly overpowered Christopher Bowes’ raspy vocals as he took us through the band’s opus, including new tracks such as “Mexico”, “1741 (The Battle Of Cartagena)” and old tunes like “The Sunkn’ Norwegian” and “Nancy the Tavern Wench”.
Everything about the band spells goofy, from their cartoonish appearance and stage set-up to Chris’ hilarious interactions with the audience. “Do you like drinking beer,” he asked as the crowd burst with approval. “Do you like shoving pizza up your asshole,” he continued, dead serious, as the crowd once again loudly cheered and applauded. “I knew it,” he remarked. Even more, entertaining was the sight of the band along with two crew members performing the cover of “Hangover” with everyone both on stage and off stage having equal fun.
What gives their cartoonish appearance even more charm is their genuine happiness on stage. You can feel the incredible energy the whole band is exchanging on stage resonate with the crowd, leaving no one standing still. People were moshing and forming walls of death as drunken fans got keelhauled across the sea of arms towards and from the stage.
The math is simple: you give something to the audience, they give something back. Every band member was as engaged with the audience as possible, to the point where Mate Bodor’s guitar was at the mercy of the people in the front rows. It’s the sincere love for what they do and not taking themselves too seriously that made Alestorm as huge as they are now.
The opening slot was reserved for an equally unique and entertaining (in a whole different way) Viking metal act Skálmöld. What they lack in clichéd Viking image gimmicks, the band more than makes up for in epic tunes about Norse mythology in native Icelandic. The venue was already packed solid when Skálmöld started their set, with the front rows getting progressively more crowded as their show pushed on.
With folk and Viking metal being extremely popular in these parts, the crowd was obviously hungry for the sound Skálmöld presented. Both their latest album “Sorgir” and their earlier works were received equally enthusiastically by the fans. However, it wasn’t until the band played “Kvaðning” off of their debut album “Baldur” that the fans turned into a huge choir, following the band note for note as if they had previously rehearsed.
The band’s music is full of Maidenesque melodies, multiple vocals, atmospheric keys, and backing vocals, all performed masterfully. The band members were constantly interacting with the crowd, all of them as excited to be on the stage as the audience was to hear them play. Their honest enthusiasm left an immense impression on me, and if I loved the band up until now I love them even more after this concert.
At the end of the night when the stage lights dimmed down, all of the fans looked like they have just been run over by a galleon. Their black shirts stained with beer and soaked in sweat, water dripping off their long hairs and foreheads. “You have got to be the smelliest bunch I’ve ever encountered,” Chris remarked as he came close to the front row at one point.
A satisfied grin graced everyone’s face as they made their way out of the venue, only to meet Chris and keyboard player Elliot Vernon taking pictures and hanging out with fans. Sometimes a crazy party like this is all you need to get you going through the week. And if this night was anything, it was certainly the best way to get all the negative energy out of your system and remember to enjoy life a little more. Just like Alestorm does.