Review Summary: Duane Denison, Mike Patton and John Stanier put together a record of Native American songs and pull it off admirably in arguably the best Tomahawk to date.
Anyone familiar with Mike Patton and his various projects knows that he can get a little crazy. In the last couple of years, he has released everything from pop music (albeit Patton-esque pop music) to a spastic tribute to cartoon music. In this decade, he's worked with everyone from avant-garde wacko John Zorn
to Norah Jones
drummer Dave Lombardo to Bjork
to math-metal pioneers The Dillinger Escape Plan
, just to name a few. He runs a record label (Ipecac) that is home to such diverse acts as Isis
, The Locust
, and he's a full-time member of more bands than just about anyone else in music.
is Patton's project with ex-Jesus Lizard
guitarist Duane Denison and ex-Helmet
and current Battles
drummer John Stanier. Ex-Cows
bassist Kevin Rutmanis was also involved in the band for the period of their first two albums, Tomahawk
and Mit Gas
. With these two records, Tomahawk proved themselves to be exceptional at producing quality modern rock with a few added bells and whistles. Tomahawk are one of Patton's more accessible groups, and that is undoubtedly due to the fact that Tomahawk is actually more Duane Denison's project than it is Patton's, though to say that Patton takes a backseat would be a gross misrepresentation of his role. So why all the background on Patton when it's really Denison's project? Mainly because it's important to note his growing influence on Tomahawk
since their inception. The group's last album, Mit Gas
, had Patton's exerting a greater presence on its 11 tracks than he did on its predecessor, which led to a more noisy and layered take on the group's already unique brand of modern rock.
Just how much influence Patton has had on this record is extremely debatable. While his presence is a vital part of the group's sound, the album's 13 cuts feel like a natural progression for Tomahawk, with each group member taking a more equal role in the ideas of each track while the record still feels like it's Duane's project. That's not to say that Anonymous
' ideas are predictable, or even to be expected. No, this is true progression; advancing the band's vision while not forsaking the past and always keeping the listener guessing.
is a very conceptually interesting release; each of its 13 songs are reinterpreted versions of some of the darker, more obscure instances of Native American tribal music discovered in early 20th century books that Denison found in his research for the album. The record's title references those who contributed to each song throughout history but have remained uncredited. Denison really seems to have done his homework with the songs, as each one sounds very much as you'd expect Native American music to sound, all while being heavily Tomahawk-flavoured. Vocally, Patton is up to his usual eclectic tricks and he adds tasteful samples on a number of Anonymous
' tunes. It's tempting to say that Denison's guitar work is the real highlight of the album due to his varied and unique presence on every single song, but truthfully, of the band's three members, there are no standouts. Tracks such as "Song of Victory" show that the band are certainly not beginners and are not afraid to throw in some crazy rhythms to make songs interesting. In any case, Denison's guitar is seriously riveting and just as, if not more interesting than his work on Tomahawk
and Mit Gas
. John Stanier's drumming is typically powerful and complements the arrangements to perfection. His approach captures the tribal feel of the songs and he is extremely precise without exception.
Opener "War Song" sounds like it could have been extracted from the Fantomas release Delirium Cordia
and ends with a well-placed rain sample. "War Song" is followed by the first of a pair, "Mescal Rite 1", which sounds like a more aggressive song that could have come from the Pocahontas
soundtrack. "Red Fox" is probably the most reminiscent of earlier Tomahawk material and features a dark, hard rocking but spacey atmosphere (previously seen in tracks such as "Captain Midnight") with some deep vocals from Patton, as well as Denison's incredible guitar, which switches between heavily distorted power chords and precise clean doubling of Patton's vocal melody. Stanier's presence is also vital, contributing to the tribal feel with some hard-hitting but atmospheric drum sounds. "Cradle Song" is quite possibly the creepiest lullaby type track ever recorded (with the exception of the Fantomas' take on the Rosemary's Baby
theme), while "Antelope Ceremony" is about as much fun as is humanly possible. Closer "Long Long Weary Day" is a solo Denison piece that doesn't sound like the rest of the record, but nonetheless makes for a very pleasant finishing track.
cements Tomahawk's position as one of the most interesting rock bands of the decade and is arguably their best release to date. While some fans may prefer the group's earlier work, Anonymous
is a far more unique record and Tomahawk are to be applauded for trying something so different and pulling it off so well. Much like Stanier's other notable release of the year; Battles' Mirrored
is truly a record with very few peers. One can only hope that the band continues their level of quality and originality and don't fall into the trap of repeating themselves as Patton's Fantomas did with their last release. As it is, the various members of Tomahawk can safely consider Anonymous
to be one of the best records that any of them have ever been involved in.
Highly unique sound
Fantastic performance from all members
Great variation of songs that stick to the album's theme
Less accessible than previous efforts
If you don't like one song, you probably won't like the rest
Final Rating: 4/5