If you are planning to take to the high seas in order to undertake devilish pursuits, a check list will include a sturdy vessel, lush beard, a potent weapon and of course a jolly roger. You might also need a suitable soundtrack too and that is what Italian metallers Calico Jack can offer in highly enjoyable fashion. Recently signed to the Ronin Agency and working on their debut album for a release later this year, we thought a retrospective look at their previous EP Panic In The Harbour was in order, especially as it is now getting another thrust into the broader world and inspires potent anticipation for the band’s first full-length.
Hailing from Milan, Calico Jack was formed in 2011 by brothers Toto (rhythm guitar) and Caps (drums), the pair taking the band name from Captain John Rackham’s nickname, a notorious English sea raider who sailed across the Caribbean Sea during the Golden Age of Piracy and famed for inventing the pirate flag, the Jolly Roger, and for having two notorious pirate women is his crew: Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Fusing classic eighties heavy metal with Scandinavian folk metal and creating exploits inspired by Anglo-Saxon sea shanties and folk songs, the band swiftly grew in personnel, releasing their first demo Scum of the Seas in 2012. Panic In The Harbour was unleashed a year later to great responses at home and around Europe. Now with fresh interest in release and band, and that impending full-length, the line-up of Toto, Caps, Giò (vocals), Melo (lead guitar), and Dave (violin), is ready to had a very potent year.
As soon as opener Where Hath th’ Rum Gone? whips up attention with a lure of bow across strings you get a rich inkling of what is in store, and once thumping beats hit and riffs gallop with riotous devilment, the Calico Jack sound and its character is in full blaze. There is no escaping an Alestorm reference or of Running Wild but equally there is a healthy spice of a Korpiklaani in its revelry, a dirty Adam Ant essence within its colourful nature, and the punkier metal of Kvelertak to its roar. The grouchy guttural vocals bring the intimidation whilst swashbuckling exploits are driven by violin, hooks, and anthemic rhythms, not forgetting just as magnetic group shouts. The dark addictive tones of the bass also only add to the compelling adventure and though it is fair to say that there is a great familiarity to the band’s sound, equally it makes for a fresh and feisty proposition.
The opening enjoyable contagion of the ale sodden proposal is immediately matched by House of Jewelry. It makes a more imposing entrance, riffs and that increasingly captivating throaty bass colluding for a magnetic and aggressive coaxing. Vocals and the heavy drum swipes built a hostile environment but one coloured by the spicy flame of violin and the instinctive swagger and swing of the emerging encounter. Again you basically know what you are going to get but it does not stop the blend of classic and folk metal creating an infectiously captivating escapade for ears to devour and the imagination to eagerly run with.
Grog Jolly Grog is another drinking song you just instinctively raise your tankard to whilst rocking your body with the raucous sway and volatile attitude of the addictive festivity. It also brings a whiff of old school punk to its hooks and raw abrasive riffery, nothing dramatic but an appealing scent explored more in the closing Deadly Day in Bounty Bay. The final song is the most adventurous and inventive on the EP though that imagination is certainly beginning to show its flair and temptation towards the end of its predecessor.
Deadly Day in Bounty Bay opens with lapping waves on a shore and a single tempting of guitar. The ever alluring bass soon adds its voice to the emerging narrative of raw riffs, salty violin seduction, and melodic winery. The start of the track has ears and imagination gripped but it is when it takes a breath and returns with a virulent bait of lively beats and contagion fuelled bassline that the incitement really comes alive. Everything from the gruff vocal delivery to coarse riffs, the jab of rhythms to teasing hooks has an irresistible infectiousness to them, one bred with a post/punk tenacity which is more Clash/ Damned bred than anything. In fact at times it is easy to suggest the song is the folk metal equivalent of The B52s’ Rock Lobster.
Ending with its best track but only thrilling ears from start to finish, Panic In The Harbour with its re-emergence to fresh attention is a recommended appetiser to the upcoming album from the band. If it can live up to the anticipation now inspired we will see, but we will bet no gold against it.
The Panic In The Harbour EP is available now from most online stores.
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