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Tombstone Highway

Ruralizer

(Agonia; US: 16 Apr 2013; UK: 1 Apr 2013)

The guys in Tombstone Highway have figured out a truth that has eluded most of us: heavy metal is improved with the addition of banjo. “Old Blood”, the opening track from the band’s debut full-length, Ruralizer, opens with a satisfying squall of distorted guitar and thrumming rhythms, along with…something else. It’s not till a few bars in that the listener realizes, yep, that’s a banjo plucking away in the mix. It sounds fantastic.


That’s not even the weirdest thing: the weirdest thing is that Tombstone Highway is a band from Italy, meaning that the musicians are, y’know, Italian—even though play a southern-fried version of metal that sounds like Lynyrd Skynyrd on a lot of steroids. The tunes are straight-ahead, full-bore metal—nothing too subtle or flashy, with plenty of power chords and six-string wankery—but the southern flavor lends a bit of off-kilter charm to what could be otherwise forgettable compositions. Emphasis is on uptempo, high-energy songs, with only occasional slower tunes like “At the Bitter End” and the epically sinister, seven-minute “Graveyard Blues” to lend variety. The performances are adequate and sometimes inspired. Ironically, the weakest link is the regrettably lame cover of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen”, a barn-burner of a song that ends up getting the generic hard-rock treatment. Other than that, this is a strong set of tunes. Viva Italia!

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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Tombstone Highway - Bite the Dust (And Bleed)
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