Released: 2013, Agonia Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
From Italy you say? I’d have expected Tombstone Highway to at least be the weeds sprouting in Zakk Wylde’s front yard, if not the kids cultivated in his cabbage patch. Let’s just say we all know what band Tombstone Highway have been listening to in their spare time.
The opening riff and pinch harmonics of ‘Acid Overlord’ are such that if it came with the Black Label Society name attached you’d be lining up to shake Mr Wylde by any, and all, appendages. As I’ve hammered the point about influences so far home that it’s currently choosing the wallpaper, really I should be focusing on the different elements of Ruralizer, and yes there are some. For a start first track ‘Old Blood’ uses a banjo in almost a backing guitar role, from which the fabulously named HM Outlaw has been able to coax a surprisingly plunky groove.
The vocals are also something new. For the ear that is used to American southern rock/stoner sound, the Italian accent is a little odd, but oh so welcome in demonstrating that Tombstone Highway aren’t trying to brush off their heritage in order to fit into this market. Interestingly on the short sharp ‘Hellfire Rodeo’ HM Outlaw’s voice brings to mind Alice Cooper if he teamed up with the likes of Corrosion Of Conformity.
There’s a very southern doom feel on the slowed down ‘Graveyard Blues’, whilst ‘Hangman’s Friend’ gives itself plenty of rope in terms of catchy groove, but never chokes on it. Given what comes later it tickled me that the initial riff of ‘Bite The Dust (And Bleed)’ sounds like a now-version of something Mountain might have come up with.
Covering a well-loved song is always a risk - particularly one that having ‘played’ themselves on Guitar Hero the wider conscious now feels ownership of - but Tombstone Highway’s should be seeing the words ‘you rock’ every time they play their version of ‘Mississippi Queen’. Aside from a few more musical flourishes the band have done very little to change the original, but it just seems to fit their fingers.
I’m not quite sure that Ruralizer is worth quite as long a wait as it seems to have been, given that these guys first started jamming back in 1999, but clearly some seeds take longer than others to bear fruit. And if you’re not into pinch harmonics and guitar solos it’ll probably taste kind of sour to you. Now though it’s down to Tombstone Highway to keep on watering these first shoots and see what else springs forth.
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs