Heavy/Power Metal from Finland
Finland – the land of meatpies, saunas, and alcohol. The country has always had a formidable metal underground, but in recent years its traditional metal scene has been revitalized by a set of fresh faces. Led by torchbearers such as Angel Sword, Chevalier, and Legionnaire, the Finns have put out some of the best heavy metal in the last couple of years. With the October release of Marauders, Outlaw are determined to join the fray.
Outlaw first came onto the scene last year with the release of their Speed Calls demo. Heavily inspired by Judas Priest, the demo is a high energy and extremely memorable testament to the NWOBHM. Enthralled by the band’s tight musicianship, I was playing Speed Calls well into 2018, and I could only hope that the full length follow up would be worthy of the demo’s hype. Luckily in our case, Outlaw take the next logical steps with Marauders – it lives up to the quality of the demo and then some. This time around Outlaw have expanded their sound and the NWOBHM smorgasbord of Saxon, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest mixes with US power metal and old school Swedish metal styles of bands like Liege Lord and Heavy Load respectively.
As expected from such a NWOBHM-inspired release, twin guitar melodies and catchy choruses are the centerpieces of Marauders. It’s a simple, safe, and tested approach to traditional metal, but it’s deceptively difficult to nail down. Given the prevalence and accessibility of this sound, band after band after band have attempted the style to little effectiveness. A strong grasp of songwriting is required in order to avoid sounding like a recycled version of the Iron Maiden. Lee Anvel, the primary songwriter and vocalist of Outlaw, undoubtedly possesses this talent.
The songs on Marauders are all straightforward in structure, but varied in sound and pacing. You’ll get everything from speed metal bangers like “Tyrants of Ice” to rockers such as “Vice” to mid-paced numbers like “Reaper’s Tale” to massive epics such as “Heroes of Telemark” and “Thunderstone”. While diverse in style, the tracks are unified by Anvel’s uncanny ability to write memorable vocal melodies and infectious choruses. Lee makes damn sure there’s no shortage of singalong moments on Marauders. Anvel’s vocal style is more relaxed and restrained than some of his peers so you won’t find any extremely ambitious falsettos or intense moments of the sort. I would have liked to hear him take more risks with his vocals, but his current style is still effective as is.
The vocals work in tandem with killer riffs to really deliver the whole package here. Guitars drive the album forward as each song is jam packed with unforgettable guitar melodies and riffs that would be right at home on Judas Priest’s Screaming for Vengeance. The rhythm section works to accent the guitars and doesn’t have a particularly strong identity of its own, a common feature of this style. The production and mix strive to bring out the best characteristics of the band. Marauders has a clear and warm production without being overly sterile. The mix puts the vocals and lead guitar in the forefront without burying the drums and bass, effectively highlighting the defining characteristics of the band.
You’ve heard it all before – there’s nothing truly original here, but that’s where Outlaw’s strength is. Marauders is a familiar and friendly album that’s executed well. It’s a testament to the classic, melody-driven metal sound that we all grew up with and loved. This isn’t an album for risk takers, but sometimes all you need is good heavy metal.
Favorite Track: Tyrants of Ice
Album Rating: 91/100