Album Review: Invictus
Written by jackgonzo on May 16, 2017
Like many pirates my first experience of The Pirates Charles was through Bilge Munky Radio. Maybe more than any other band that was played on that show they caught my immediate attention. I had the pleasure of seeing them perform at the Northern California Pirate Festival during my first trip there and they are one of those rare bands who are even better live. So it is fortuitous that the first album we review here at Scoundrel’s Inn is one that not only did I support on IndieGoGo but from a band who influenced me so much.
This album is a bit of a departure in a sense for The Pirates Charles. This is a much heavier PC than we have seen in the past. Not just in the music itself but in the themes they cover. As Spoo Diggity himself says, “On this album, more than ever, I use piracy as a metaphor for the courage we need to fight our one True enemy; The one enemy we all fight: our self.” This is very true as you go through the album, which I suggest just sitting down with a glass of your best rum and enjoying. This is by far the most ambitious album The Pirates Charles have made. It has an old school 70s feel in its design and contains maybe the most industrious pirate song I’ve ever seen.
“The Stalwart March” is your amuse-bouche. A definite march with some great violin with the definite PC sound. We are quickly followed by “Fortress Of Five Kings” which opens with a beautiful flute to violin piece. This song sets the tone for the album with the heavy guitar and violin that feels very determined. The lyrics play like a monologue and the entire song reminds me of an Iron Maiden style song. Think Iron Maiden meets Lindsey Sterling.
“Chasing The Wind” has even heavier riffs than “Five Kings”. My one complaint on this song is the vocals feel like they fight the guitar at times, but knowing the theme of the album this very well may be on purpose. Even with the heavier guitar it is still obvious that this is a PC song. The highlight of the song for me came around the 4:30 mark, truly shines in the song.
“Take A Drink” at first doesn’t have that traditional PC feel. It doesn’t quite have the kick that previous drinking songs of PC have had, but this isn’t your traditional drinking song. Being a metaphor may be lost on some who listen to the song just at face value.
Long time PC fans have been waiting for a studio version of “Black Spot” and it doesn’t disappoint. It has the traditional PC style but infused with the new heavier trend they have in this album. Along with “Black Spot” is “Sailor’s Life” which also does a good job mixing the old school and this new style. It also doesn’t feel out of place on this album even though it is much lighter than the rest. There is especially a good half point breather before it finished in epic fashion.
In this middle of this album is the star for me, “The Storm”. It runs 11:41 so you know the ambition tied to this song is high. The best way I can describe it may be that it’s “Dark Lady” meets “Mariner’s Revenge”. It is a great example of storytelling in a song. This song just shines and shows the pair the band has on them to even attempt a song of this magnitude and folks, it works. The entire song, from lyrics to musical choices, works. It is most definitely something they can place their tricorn on and say, yes, we did that.
“Voyage of The Majestic” is an all instrumental number that most definitely took me on a journey. My notes while listening to this song: almost feels like a song PC would write for Black Sails; or possibly if the POTC movies had been made in the 70s; now suddenly reminds me of the cartoon Hobbit movie and Wicker Man. A great skill of a composer is to be able to take you on a journey without saying a word, they accomplish that here.
“Nothin’ but Time” really shows off their flute player’s talent. It is an interesting choice to put after “The Storm” and “Voyage”. It is a playful song in a way but personally it may have gone on a bit too long for such a song. I may have watched too much Iron Chef on Sunday as it almost felt like a cleanser before you move on in the album.
“Invictus” is the title song of the album and takes us back to the heavier sound at the beginning. It sounds like a quite personal song as well as almost a sister song to “Five Kings”. I have no real formal training in music or music history but the lyrics gave me a Chili Peppers/late 80s punk style feel that I quite enjoyed.
“Astronaught” feels very much like an old school PC song. It actually reminded me of “The Horn” and feel it would fit in on Rise. Which is a bit funny because “Flat World” also, again, feels very old school PC but would fit more on Conquer. Now “Flat World” I predict will become a fan favorite, especially at live shows. It is quite catchy and you can’t help but want to dance to it. Spoo wanted to add specifically about this song, “Flat World is one of 2 tracks written by Hauk Heimdallsman, who helped produced the album. He played with us for a few years, and plays bass on the album, and is the front man for “Black Hat Society”.”
We end the album with “Embrace The Wind” which takes us back to the heavier PC. It is a great bookend to “Five Kings” as it has many similar musical pieces that tie the two together, like the great violin play. Again I think this will also be a fan favorite that will be desired to be played live if for nothing else just to yell “We fought like wolves” during the song.
Now as this is the first album we review I had to come up with a scoring system. I tried to make it as simple as possible and so I scored each song from 1-5, then averaged it out. This album scored a 4.15/5.
PC fans who love that old school sound will find things to like, even if they don’t appreciate the heavier aspects of the album. It goes on sale online on May 19th, go to thepiratescharles.com for more information. The first live CD release show will be at the Northern California Pirate Festival on father’s day weekend in Vallejo, CA. I will be there, I suggest you be there too.