Whether it is Motorhead dressed up in outlaw garb on the cover of Ace of Spades or the swagger of Pantera’s signature anthem “Cowboys from Hell,” the Wild West has a persistent but understated role in the imagery of heavy metal. In a music scene where Vikings, pirates and other LARPers run rampant, it’s only inevitable for a band to fully commit to the cowboy metal aesthetic. I don’t know if there’s another band that already beat them to it, but Louisville’s Stagecoach Inferno does a pretty damn good job of representing the idea on their first full-length album.
While Stagecoach Inferno likely knows better than to take the western theme 100% seriously, it never really feels like they see it as a cheap gimmick either. The band members aren’t playing any over the top joke characters and while the lyrics’ gunslinger narratives are fun, they’re never tongue in cheek or insincere. The western influence on the music is also tastefully integrated; it’s never overt but one can find a few flourishes on songs like “The Jackal” and “Hammer and Tongs” that channel memories of classic Clint Eastwood and “Ol’ Soulbelcher” exercises a good ol’ fashioned freight train rhythm.
But at its core, A Town Called Atonement is a fun American power metal with some classic elements. The tempos are often fast and always energetic, the guitars have a solid crunch to them, and the vocals have a certain gruffness without losing their sense of melody. You’ll also find plenty of anthems executed in traditional metal fashion, especially in the album’s second half. “How The West Was One” is probably the easiest track to get into thanks to its catchy mid-tempo build and “Restless Spirits” closes things out with a sweeping cowboy variation of the beloved battle/drinking song combo.
Overall, Stagecoach Inferno makes a fine example of cowboy metal on their first full-length album. The aggressive approach may make it easier to get into for those less acquainted with power metal, the theme makes it worth looking into for those seeking a variation on the classic metal style, and the songwriting is strong enough for everyone in between to enjoy. I still wonder if there’s a way to pull off country metal but if it’s not, then this just might be the next best thing.
“How The West Was One”