Tombstone Highway - Ruralizer
Agonia Records
Southern Stoner Metal
9 songs (46' 49")
Release year: 2013
Agonia Records
Reviewed by Andy
Surprise of the month

Globalization sure makes it hard to name any metal style after a region. No sooner has one done so than some guy from the other side of the world hears it, likes it, starts playing it, and might be really good at it. Here we have a case in point: Tombstone Highway's debut album, Ruralizer. H.M. Outlaw (banjo, guitars, vocals), and his partner in crime Emilio Sobacchi (drums), not only aren't Americans -- they're not even from the southern part of their country, Italy. But you'd never know it from hearing their music; this album, which feels like a labor of love by two serious fans of Southern-flavored stoner metal, is a series of meaty, riff-laden songs that cover every aspect of Southern doom metal perfectly.

With the first track, in case one doesn't get their Southern sound, the band unapologetically picks a banjo over their heavy power chords through parts of the song, though I felt that it was more of a gimmick rather than something to really make the song any better. The melody is strong throughout the album, moving from bluesy metal to more traditional doom riffs effortlessly. Sobacchi's drumming is quite precise and up to the task, but his performance is rather overwhelmed, through no fault of his own, by the multi-talented Outlaw, and with good reason. Outlaw's gritty vocals are a fantastic counterpoint to the music, but his guitar and riffs are what steal the show. The overall sound of the guitars, a guttural, fat distortion bristling with pinch harmonics at the edges, is a joy to listen to, and the massive riffs immediately grab the listener like the teeth of a junkyard dog sinking into an unwary visitor's leg.

Tombstone Highway succeeds most when it focuses on the doom riffs and eases off on the blues. The title track, although a ridiculous title (just what is it to ruralize something? I don't think that word means what they think it does), uses the slide guitar much more effectively than the aforementioned banjo, and Acid Overlord is extremely catchy, especially the chorus. At the Bitter End is a standout too, a monster of a song filled with crunching riffs, and Graveyard Blues, a heavy piece that lumbers along without getting too slow, is one of the better ones on the album. The parts where it gets weak is when it seems like they run out of things to do and start using Guitar 101 blues patterns; Bite the Dust (and Bleed) is an example of this, and Hellfire Rodeo doesn't have quite as much to it in terms of melody. That being said, nothing stays weak on this record for long; Outlaw's riffs see to that.

Ruralizer, while it has some weak points, more than makes up for them with its guitar-dominated tunes and its obsessively perfect copying of Southern-style metal, which bizarrely makes it all the more authentic for being such a careful copy. Like a spaghetti western, it might come from Italy, but it's even dustier, grittier, and more whiskey-soaked than the real thing.

Killing Songs :
Old Blood, Acid Overlord, Graveyard Blues, At the Bitter End
Andy quoted 85 / 100
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