Released: 2015, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
It’s never a good sign when a band split with their label on the eve of the release of their debut album. And in late December, that’s just what happened to Austria’s Outlawed, who parted ways with Noiseheadrecords less than a month before Stormbound was to hit the shelves, so to speak.
So with a painful lesson learned, and hopefully some valuable experience gained, the band are handling things themselves for the time being. And more power to them.
Stormbound is an ambitious, if somewhat odd affair. Its western thematics make for an unusual pairing for the band’s death/thrash n’ roll bluster, but give Outlawed credit for taking a shot at it and, for the most part, making it work. It's a welcome change from the usual viking hordes/pagan rituals/medieval mumbo jumbo, to say the least.
The album gets off to a bit of a clunky start with the sumptuous acoustic intro “Born To Wander” giving way to the rather leaden title track that just never quite gets itself into gear. But “The Lacerator” kicks up the tempo and technicality, and it's a pretty smooth ride from there on out.
The sprawling and rather excellent “Wages Of A Gunslinger” and the more complex “Archetype Of War,” both loaded with drama, big riffs and Hannes Waclawek's throaty growl, sounds a bit like Amon Amarth channeling Sergio Leone, with “Wages” given an acoustic accent at the outset to set the mood. The band certainly aren't shy with this tactic, yet are able to incorporate it with great affect.
While it can be tough to discern the Western narrative when Outlawed are thrashing and bashing away, there's no mistaking the acoustic twang, mournful harmonica strains and tomtom-like percussion of the instrumental “Endless Wastelands Part I.” You can almost smell the campfire and horse shit.
“Endless Wastelands Part II” closes the album in suitably epic fashion, but retains some of Part I's atmosphere with its plucky guitars and majestic sweep. It actually has something of a “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”/“Fade To Black” Metallica-esque flavor in that it builds and builds. It makes for a convincing finish to an interesting and worthwhile debut from a band that show they mean business, even if business does not seem to be their strong point at the moment.