Release Date: Jan 29, 2013
Record label: Ipecac
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal
Tomahawk fills a void. As its members were at the start of the band essentially free agents exiting their respective roles as figures in the Alternative boom of the early to mid 90s, the likes of Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard), Mike Patton (Mr. Bungle, Faith No More), John Stanier (Helmet) and Kevin Rutmanis (Melvins — the only one with an active gig), Tomahawk provided a means to keep them all participants in the industry, making good music that continued in the direction of evolving what had been up to that point the primary music of the decade prior.
On 2013’s Oddfellows, Tomahawk abandoned the Native American concept taken on Anonymous, choosing instead to mine the hard-edged, riff-heavy metal of their 2001 breakout. Tomahawk has always found humor in the fact that their sound probably won’t land them on the mainstream charts anytime soon, as the screeching lyric from their first album "This beat might win me a Grammy!" will tell you, but cuts like "White Hats/Black Hats," "Warratorium," and "South Paw" show a willingness to write a memorable song within the perimeters of pop, dunk it in the evil depths of metal sludge, and keep it from floating too far into the deep end. Mike Patton continues to amaze as one of today’s most versatile vocalists, cycling through his many styles, and turning on a dime from a menacing baritone to belting it out to asking seductively, "What’s that the thing on your lip? You got some shit hanging off your lip.
Supergroups are a funny thing. Sometimes, they just don't work. Too much ego, too much expectation, elements that mesh in their original bands jar, or whatever: you end up wishing that they'd just stayed in their comfort zone. Sometimes, though, you get an end result which is the sum of its parts and more beside.
On “I. O. U.
Only in the metal press could a band consisting of the squawky crooner from Mr. Bungle, the guitarist from the Jesus Lizard, the drummer from Helmet and the former bassist of the Melvins be considered a "supergroup." On their fourth LP, and first since 2007's less than great Anonymous, super-duper-group Tomahawk earn their hyperbolic moniker. Mr. Bungle/Faith No More/Fantômas vet Mike Patton brings sometime Melvin Trevor Dunn into the fold, further intensifying Tomahawk's pseudo-avant weird-metal sound.
It’s no small irony that while Tomahawk’s latest album is titled Oddfellows, it is their most accessible by far. Don’t get me wrong; it’s only accessible by the standards of Mike Patton and Duane Denison. Fret not, the record is still plenty — and deliciously — weird, yet the previous dominance of experimentation is more tempered in favor of concisely constructed songs, several of which, dare I say it, border on being catchy.
When Tomahawk first emerged they were heralded as something of a slightly left-field supergroup. With Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr Bungle, star of Firecracker) , John Stanier (Helmet, Battles), Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard) and Kevin Rutmanis (Melvins) on board it was something of a surprise that Tomahawk weren’t quite as full on and strange as perhaps might have been expected. Indeed their first two albums (Eponymous and Mit Gas) were filled with menacing perfectly written rock tunes that were a lot more conventional than might have been expected.
Oddfellows, eh? Yeah, that just about covers it. After a nearly six-year absence, art-metal megatron Tomahawk-- Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison, Helmet/Battles drummer John Stanier, Fantmas/Melvins bassist (and newest recruit) Trevor Dunn, and Mike Patton, man of a million voices and just about as many bands-- have returned with Oddfellows their fourth LP. Recorded with Black Keys producer Collin Dupuis at the blooz-rockers' Nashville studio, Oddfellows has been touted as Tomahawk's most straightforward, stripped-down release to date.
It’s been 20 years since Mike Patton made Angel Dust, his band Faith No More’s masterpiece, and it’s not unreasonable to suppose that a major chunk of his fanbase is hoping that he’ll make that album again with one of his other projects. Tomahawk, returning with their first album in six years, haven’t gone in that direction by any means, but there’s a spirit of experimentalism and a refusal to adhere to any given template that harks directly back to those simpler days of 1992. The band, featuring Melvins/Mr Bungle mainstay Trevor Dunn on bass this time out, cover territory as diverse as frantic rockabilly (Rise Up Dirty Waters, Typhoon), ethereal noir soundtrack music (Choke Neck) and spaghetti western hokum (I Can Almost See Them); but no all-encompassing term, even prog, does it all justice.
Tomahawk is the middle child of Mike Patton’s career. They’re not as extreme nor pummeling as Fantômas; they’re not nearly as weird as Mr. Bungle; and they’re not as “big” as Faith No More and never will be. Yet on paper they’ve got as much firepower as anyone. Near-legend drummer ….
When we last heard from Tomahawk on 2007’s Anonymous, the group had set aside some of its more eclectic tactics for an album inspired by Native American imagery and concepts that founding member Duane Denison had encountered while touring with Hank Williams III. Prior to this self-described detour, the band also parted ways with original bassist and former Melvin Kevin Rutmanis. Now, after six years, the veritable supergroup has returned with its fourth release, Oddfellows.
Tomahawk’s third record Anonymous (2007), which threw the band’s frenzied math rock behind an actual Native American songbook (sample track title: “Antelope Ceremony”), was perhaps the weirdest thing yet in the Mike Patton oeuvre. For anyone acquainted with the kitschy horror metal of Fantômas, the FM-on-autoscan excess of Mr. Bungle, or the avant-garde applesauce of Patton’s solo efforts, the weight of that statement is clear.