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Pirate metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music, characterized by its incorporation of pirate mythology within the music and sometimes in stage performances. Lyrics often use piratical jargon and various musical genres, such as thrash metal,speed metal, and folk metal, may be combined with traditional-sounding songs like sea shanties. Folk instruments, such as the concertina, can be incorporated or emulated with synthesizers. Band members often dress up in period costume during performances, and concert attendees may do so as well. Pirate metal is sometimes referred to by the media as a music scene.
The earliest example of pirate metal appeared in 1987, when German heavy metal band Running Wild released their third album, Under Jolly Roger. According to Rolf Kasparek, lead singer and guitarist for Running Wild, the album's pirate theme was not planned. Instead, it grew from the album's title song. Eventually, the album's artwork was changed to match the title, and set decorations and costumes for future concerts were designed. The piratical lyrics also became a way to convey the band's political message, since their use of the devil as a symbolic figure was being misunderstood on their first album Gates to Purgatory. Kasparek began reading about pirates and, after finding "everything very interesting", he incorporated the motifs into their music. The subject matter was expanded during rehearsals for the fourth release, Port Royal, and their trademark style was solidified.
Although Kasparek was more interested in the true histories of the Golden Age of Piracy, pirate metal would eventually be inspired, to a greater extent, by the inaccuracies as invented or portrayed in novels and Hollywood films.