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Italian stoner, doom and sludge have been throwing lots of surprises at me, and while bands such as Caronte and Throne present a more familiar style to fans of the genre, bands like King Bong have surprised me with their unique musical style while remaining undeniably stoner/doom in its origins. Tombstone Highway is another band that joins the ranks in these bands in expanding the musical possibilities, and the band is hardly a newcomer to music, originally forming back in 1999 and reforming again in 2006, with Ruralizer being the band’s debut after more than 7 years since their reactivation.
And Tombstone Highway did surprise indeed, as the band has fused the typical groovy style of stoner/doom metal with elements of country and blues to create a sound that is unique to themselves. Album opener Old Blood immediately sees the band incorporating banjos on top of the thick and heavy guitars, resulting in an experience that is rather quirky, to say the least. This certainly threw me off guard quite a bit, though this isn’t to say that the results aren’t splendid. Throughout the album, such southern rock influences can get rather strong, and this is what makes Ruralizer such an entertaining and interesting album. Slide guitars and bluesy solos are aplenty, throwing in a heavy blues flavour to otherwise already excellent tracks like Graveyard Blues, and the additional, pretty heavy usage of cowbells by drummer Emilio worked well with the groovy and catchy music as well.
Other than that, what we have on Ruralizer is your usual stoner/doom fare, and Tombstone Highway manages to do this extremely well. The downtuned guitars of H.M Outlaw provides much of the heaviness in the music, yet always retaining that groovy feel throughout, making the material on Ruralizer extremely catchy at the same time. These are the times when the music reminds me of my first exposure to bands such as Spiritual Beggars and the genre. H.M Outlaw’s raspy vocals also add a nice, gruff touch of rock and roll to the music. Emilio’s drumming is nothing particularly technical, yet suits nicely with the entire feel of the music.
Of course, with albums like that the old school flavours tend to come across rather strongly as well, and this especially so with the usage of hammond organs at certain points of the album, bringing one back to the 60s and 70s with early hard rock/heavy metal. For instance, certain moments on songs like Bite the Dust (and Bleed) even brings about some Deep Purple sound in its arrangement and structure.
With albums like Ruralizer, one can be assured that there will always be an album to turn to when one is looking for an old school sounding, heavy metal record to just groove or headbang to.