Sometimes it’s easy to forget where metal’s roots come from. The mighty Black Sabbath did popularise the use of distortion, down-tuning and use of a slow creeping tempo, but sometimes we overlook other influences too: Cream, Hendrix, The Eagles and so on. But some bands never forget, and so we have Tombstone Highway from Italy who have come to remind us exactly where metal came from with their debut, Ruralizer…
First off, Tombstone Highway immediately strikes up thoughts of a mist-layered, pot-hole covered road that curves its way through a swampy landscape, while the skeletons of trucks and cars lay permanently alongside the battered road. However, once Ruralizer starts blaring, it’s a completely different affair – a catchy banjo and distorted guitar accompany each other as the drums slam along when the opening track “Old Blood” blares at you.
Instead, that image morphs into a bar that homes both bikers and hillbillies, who like to drink their beer and whiskey and listening to blues-influenced hard rock over a game of pool. Bearded hillbillies rocking in their chairs with guitars and banjos while the bikers shotgun beers and show off their tattoos. Really, the whole of Ruralizer should be in the soundtrack for the TV series Sons Of Anarchy.
“Old Blood”, even with the banjo, sounds like a mix between Down and Corrosion Of Conformity, with its rebel-yeah roaring vocals, mid-paced sludge feel and the wah-ing solo, while “Graveyard Blues” has a heavy Sever The Wicker Hand-era Crowbar vibe with its slow trudge, coarse vocals and the frequent use of squealing vibrato on the guitar – along with lyrics like “Beyond the summer tombstones she appears to sing a sad song”. However, bluesy licks come into play and connect each of the lines in the verses, bringing a rockier feel than constantly crushing metal.
The following tracks “Hellfire Rodeo” and “Ruralizer” pushes further towards the rock-alignment, charged with some clear old school rock influences – one of which becomes clear with the cover of Mountain’s infamous “Mississipi Queen”, later in the album, which is made absolutely dirtier than the original. On these tracks, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd seem to play a bigger role in the Tombstone Highway’s instrumental sound than Black Sabbath or Saint Vitus.
Basically, the band pretty much sticks to this formula throughout the rest of the album with only slight changes, and mostly just with the tempo (although “At The Bitter End” has a refreshing Hammond organ solo). It’s understandable then that some people will find this a problem, but Ruralizer, down to its core, feels like a celebration and it’s hard to fault it because it doesn’t pretend to be any more than that.
While it can be a little bit on the same level throughout, never bringing any polarising dynamics with different songs (like Red Fang do), you realise that you don’t need that with an album like this. It’s music to chug your beer too, not to open your mind to ground-breaking philosophies, which would only hinder the music itself if it tried to be pretentious in that way. So with that in mind, it does its job very well – it’s fun.
So if you’re looking for something new to soundtrack your weekends as you and your mates party and pass out to, then this is it. It’s worth checking out.
1. Old Blood
2. Acid Overlord
3. Graveyard Blues
4. Hellfire Rodeo
6. Bite The Dust (And Bleed)
7. At The Bitter End
8. Mississippi Queen [Mountain cover]
9. Hangman’s Friend
Tombstone Highway are:
HM Outlaw – Vocals/Bass/Guitars/Banjo
Emilio S.O.B. Sobacchi – Drums