VGM cover artists SixteenInMono and SwigglesRP team up to bring us Shanty Raid, a thirty minute album of pirate metal influenced progressive metal based on the 1995 Super Nintendo classic Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest. Shanty Raid features seven tracks from the game, reimagined as pirate metal jigs and prog metal anthems.
Taking the pirate motif of the game to heart, several of the songs on Shanty Raid are infused with accordions, violins, and pirate-y sounding vocals, producing a sound in a similar vein as bands such as Alestorm. Overall, though, most of the album seems to have more of a prog metal style. It’s not exactly what was advertised, but that’s not a bad thing because the songs are all high quality. However, if you were hoping folk-y sounding pirate metal all the way through, you’ll probably be somewhat disappointed.
Shanty Raid opens strong with “Piracy!,” the albums version of “K. Rool Returns.” Accordion layered over a pirate-y sounding acoustic guitar melody and nautical sound effects eases the listener in before the soaring lead guitars and crushing rhythm guitars kick in. Then something unexpected happens: vocals! SwigglesRP does his best pirate accent as he sings from the point of view of Kaptain K. Rool. Not only is this a fun track, but it sets up the narrative of the album. The album loosely follows a narrative of the Kaptain and his men in their quest to rule the seas and stop Diddy and Dixie from rescuing DK from their clutches.
The next track “Locking Jaws,” a cover of “Lockjaw’s Saga,” is a more straightforward metal track with heavy rhythm guitars all the way through, and plenty of shredding. It slows down in the middle with some great clean guitar work and more melodic soloing before getting heavy once again. This track transitions right into the “Jib Jig” cover, “In the Pub For a Jig,” which is one of Shanty Raid’s standouts. This cover takes the simple melody from the original and transforms it into an Irish Jig on violin and acoustic guitar. The best part of this song is the vocals however. Throughout the beginning of the song, pirate banter, clanking drinking glasses, and other pub noises can be heard in the background as the pirate crew sings of their coming triumphs. It’s a very fun sing-a-long type of song, especially once the high energy electric guitars kick in.
The next track, “March Towards the Battle!,” is a cover of “Krook’s March” is a fun chugging piece of music. Accordions and other symphonic elements drive the main melody, while the drums and rhythm guitars chug along. There are a bunch of fun melodic lead guitar parts in this song as well.
The following track is “Brambles Symphony,” Shanty Raid’s version of “Stickerbush Symphony.” This song has a very different feel than the almost electronic sounding original, opening with clean guitars and some wonderful violin playing. Soon the rhythm and lead guitars kick in, and “Brambles Symphony” gets very proggy with lots of intricate lead melodies and a variety of different rhythm riffs. This track’s unique feel makes it another standout track on Shanty Raid.
Next up is “Chase ‘Em Out,” a cover of “Haunted Chase.” This track is another crushing metal tune. This one is heavy all the way through, with pummeling drums and rhythm riffs. There’s some great lead work here as well, but its a bit more simple compared to some of the other tracks. “Chase ‘Em Out” is a solid headbanger all the way through.
The final track is “Rescued and Kongquested,” a cover of “Donkey Kong Resuced.” This song has a lot of great harmonized dual lead guitar moments all the way through, and is a fitting, triumphant end to Shanty Raid. There’s also a reprise of “Piracy!” in the middle for a brief moment before a soaring solo takes flight.
From beginning to end, SwigglesRP and SixteenInMono throw down a ton of great riffs and melodies across Shanty Raid’s seven tracks. These two guys’ guitar styles have great chemistry and come together very nicely. The production quality is also top notch. The lead tone is very sharp and clear for a very melodic sounds, and the rhythm tone is thick and heavy. The drums, which I assume were programmed, have a very nice sound to them despite that, and the drum arrangements fit in nicely in each song. Additionally, the accordions, violins, horns that appear on some of the songs work to great effect to give those tracks a pirate-y feel and help keep the album diverse.
Additionally, the narrative of the album, as told through the two songs with vocals, and short spoken word bits between songs, helps to make Shanty Raid stand out. These narrative moments also serve to maintain the pirate aesthetic, even on songs that are more proggy than pirate-y.
Shanty Raid is nice mix of pirate metal and progressive metal that serves as a very nice tribute to Donkey Kong Country 2. If you’re a fan of the game and like guitar-driven music, this is definitely worth a listen. The pirate elements make this album a very fun listen and really help it to stand out from most metal VGM albums.
Shanty Raid is now available on most online music stores, including Loudr, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, and Spotify. If you like what you hear, be sure to check out SwigglesRP and SixteenInMono on YouTube to listen to more of their VGM covers.