Review: Sunken Chest

Rating: ★★★★☆
Sunken Chest

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Genre: Guitar-rock pirate-core
Rating: PG-13
Target Audience: Late teens to early retirement

Few bands embody “pirate core” so pefectly as Sunken Chest. Their debut album features various tunes that seamlessly blend rock club instrumentals with period(ish) pirate lyrics. While not remotely historically accurate, the resulting music lends the impression that it is what historical pirates WOULD have listened to, given the opportunity.

The album begins and ends with two of its slowest – and strongest – songs. Come All ‘ye Maties is a gentle salute to sailors, pirates, and all the various things that make us love our colorful subculture. It’s a warm and gripping ballad, makes an exceptional opening track, and is easily one of my favorites. Closing the album is Pirate Flag. Every bit as well done as Come All ‘ye Maties, it seems the perfect song for joining your fellow pirates in the pub after a long hard day of skewering Spaniards. Throughout both these tracks the instrumentals are slow and genuine. The vocals are easy on the ears, yet just scratchy enough to sound rough and piratey.

The middle tracks of the album – and therefore the majority of the CD – are faster paced and more aggressive in tone. All are very fun, and overwhelmingly pirate in content. A few aren’t quite as balanced as I would like (Ship’s On Fire, Batten Down the Hatches, and Ramming Speed). They’re plenty good – the lyrics are fun and the instrumentals are exciting and priatey, but the vocals aren’t always strong enough to carry the needed energy. Sometimes you just need the singer to rip off his shirt while yelling “WE ROCK YARRR!!!” with complete abandon, and these songs don’t quite meet this standard. This shortcoming isn’t fatal, but it’s clear these songs aren’t quite as good as they could be.

Other songs, however, are much more successful. Stowaway is highly enegized and catchy. The guitar work is heroic, yet it doesn’t overshadow the vocals about rum, barnacles, and other piratey references.

The next song, Monkey Knife fight, well… [ahem], pardon me a moment…

Yes. Yes! YES!!! A song about monkeys! And knives! And tequila and ring-tailed lemurs! IloveitIloveitIloveit!!!

Ok, I’m back now. This song rocks. And it has monkeys. And knives. Yar.

The one song I’ve not yet mentioned is the titular track, Sunken Chest. Being that it carries the same name as the band and the album, it’s fitting that it continues in a similar vein as the rest of the CD, but with an additional sense of fun injected. The refrain is fantastic for singing along to, and the lyrics do a fine job of introducing the band with some bragadocio, but without sounding pretentious. This song makes me long to see these guys play a live show.

Sunken Chest is a first-rate pirate-core band, no doubt about it. And their album is very good. My only complaint would be the aforementioned vocals concern. But these are the exception, apparent on only 3 of the 9 tracks, and they aren’t significant enough to overshadow the stronger traits of these songs – the lyrics are fun and piratey, the guitar and drum work is exeptional throughout. The guitars in particular carry that exceedingly rare trait of being able to sound somewhat piratey (how a guitar can sound piratey is beyond me, but sometimes, it just does.)

And excellent pirate album.

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