In a music scene that is bursting with talent and no clear view on what sets a band out from the competition - surely a themed genre will draw a crowd. The prospect of three such bands playing in an intimate venue amidst the hotels, bars and tourist traps of Scotland’s capital is certainly something worth exploring.
On stepping over the threshold of Bannerman’s, there is an unusual feel to the gathered punters waiting on the venue opening. Piracy lurks in every corner. Someone somewhere has made a killing on bandanas - something the expensive clothes shops in the city don’t usually peddle. The reason? Red Rum have weighed anchor and have brought their shipmates Iron Seawolf into the narrow streets to pillage and plunder the good folks of Edinburgh.
Before any Jolly Roger is hoisted, we have the visually and sonically wonderful WARD XVI with their macabre stage act and equally theatrical make up and outfits. With a performance Alice Cooper would be proud of, their material is dark yet melodic and draws from their recent album ‘The Art of Manipulation’ a sonic trip into the mind of the fictional character Psychoberrie (Lead Vocals).
The singer, complete with chainsaw, cadaver and a bloodied face is incarcerated on stage with fellow bandmates Dr. Von Stottenstein (Guitars), Wolfy Huntsman (Bass/Vocals) and Lex Whittingham (Drums). The band are accomplished and despite some backing track issues, provide a powerful foundation for Psychoberrie who prowls across the stage and joins the crowd to create an inclusive performance that has some of the pirates looking slightly sheepish.
A quick chat with guitarist Stottenstein reveals the band will be taking some time to write their next album at the end of the year . One thing is certain - this band put on a great show and
the recorded material is as strong live as it is on CD…
...so keep a look out for them here:
IRON SEAWOLF are the first of the seafarers to take to the stage and the presence of a flute, accordion and an electric fiddle on the stage draw everyone a bit closer.
Nick Wragg (Lead Vocals/Violin/Viola), Owen Evans (Accordion/Tin whistles/Banjo/Keyboards/Orchestration), Sam Morley (Guitars), Alec Jacobs (Bass) and Giorgos Tsianakas (Drums) play a folk/pirate/metal/rock mash up that has a large dash of traditional sea shanty to confuse genre spotters.
There is no doubt whatsoever that we have a party on our hands and there is an obvious fun element to the performance with shared smiles with both the crowd and watching band members from the other acts. The material is upbeat, often frantic and clearly drives beer sales in the venue as the subject matter never strays far from rowdy, rabble rousing. Yarr!
A minor interlude during the show provides an opportunity for Evans to tell some pirate jokes. A glance to my right reveals this is a ploy to allow bassist Jacobs to seek out more beers for the stage. This is wonderfully corny but equally endearing as the band aren’t afraid to step away from the polish of a sterile show.
The Scottish crowd enjoy a few bars of the traditional song ‘Marie’s Wedding’ - a nice touch and those not too gassed to notice, dance along with broad smiles probably in nostalgic memory of their enforced school country dancing lessons (ask a Scot - it was a thing!).
Their album ‘Hoist The Black Flag’ and all the other information you may quest can be found here:
The main act of the night are the splendid RED RUM - a crew of ne’er do wells that have sailed the seven seas of the UK on this tour and received outstanding feedback along the way. Tonight’s crowd are well warmed up by the two support acts and it takes little to have the room reeling and jigging along with the opening salvo.
Dave Everitt (Vocals), Sam Wood (Guitar/Bouzouki), Alex Taylor (Guitar), Lizzey Ross (Keyboard), Danny Woolley (Bass) and Mitch Seymour (Drums) are adorned with pirate garb and when not playing, are hydrating freely and encouraging those in front of them to join in too. This is an upbeat experience and there is no will or reason to play forlorn ballads - and that’s part of the majesty of pirate rock.
At one point the crowd are ordered to sit down on the floor and start rowing. A similar sight at an Amon Amarth gig in Glasgow wasn’t quite as funny to watch but when a band is having fun, it’s infectious. This reviewer opted not to get a wet arse but did employ a hook finger to avoid being outed for being a land-lubber.
Red Rum are a polished act and the guitar work is particularly strong, providing raw metal to offset the traditional slant. The band don’t opt for laughs at every turn and at many points they have the punters choosing to headbang rather than jig with the folky melodies. The music is powerful, meaty and pacy - much like their contemporaries Alestorm and any of the premier league Scandinavian folk metal acts.
The highlight of the night must surely be the moment when Everett splits the crowd into the Tolkein Mordor versus Gondor. In a step away from the Pirate theme this is both confusing and magnificent as the crowd wilfully obey their Captain and face each other before clashing as only two warring armies would - albeit ten aside.
The sight of topless middle aged men may be offensive to some in the capital’s leafy Georgian streets but this is Saturday night in Bannerman’s and this is unadulterated pirate metal. If a crowd can’t lose their inhibitions here, then we are lost.
Red Rum continue their voyage and you can examine their charts here: