Review Summary: Tossed right in your face, yelling all the way
Boy, do you guys know this dude Mike Patton? Ain’t he great? So versatile and prolific, always making something new and exciting with one of his myriad projects? Isn’t he awesome you guys? Isn’t he?
Yeah, Mike Patton’s productivity and versatility are pretty much public knowledge by now. But if there’s one vexing aspect of his fanbase it's the often made assumption that whenever Patton’s name is attached to one of his featured projects it automatically means he’s the brains behind the whole operation. But here, on Tomahawk’s debut (which is one of his more well-known projects), the real man behind the wheel is rock guitar extraordinaire Duane Denison of The Jesus Lizard fame.
Denison’s powerhouse position is obvious from the get go. The track “Flashback”, though embellished with weird vocal-processing effects and noisy samples that are oh-so-Patton-esque, features a monster of a guitar hook on the chorus that reeks with the murky swagger and acerbic confidence of TJL’s “Goat” or “Liar”. Even Mike’s muffled vocals delivered in an inebriated yell evoke the sounds David Yow would often expel from his throat.
The guitar’s leading role is exemplified throughout most of the album. Whether it be the jangly blues of “Jockstrap”, the creeping suspenseful strokes preceding the roaring hooks of “God Hates A Coward”, the raucous atonal blasts of “Sir Yes Sir”, Duane Denison is as much the star of the show as the often-celebrated vocalist is. But the great thing about this record is even though the similarities between harder, punkier Faith No More cuts and a bulk of The Jesus Lizard material are hard not to notice, the way it all comes together is perfectly organic and natural. With a loose narrative concerning a serial killer character the album delves into an unstable psyche of a murderer, presenting a selection of punchy, noisy and bare-teethed tunes that sometimes give you an atmospheric breather pause just so they can pounce on you again and beat you senseless. The competent rhythm section is holding up their game, providing the much needed backbone and occasionally taking the lead in building the tension before a new blast of sound, with the production providing the perfect balance between clarity and weight. And, of course, Mike Patton does what Mike Patton does – which is scream, croon, hiss, whisper, lulling the listener with gentle falsettos one minute and performing vocal exorcisms the next; sometimes his parts are distorted with eerie effects as to amplify the mental deterioration the character is going through.
Another great strength of the album is the actual songwriting which could’ve easily turned out to be just a series of noise jams for the sake of themselves. But Tomahawk take their time to write stuff you will remember and will be compelled to revisit every once in a while. Highlights include the aforementioned “Flashback”, “God Hates A Coward” and some left hooks too, like the emotionally charged and almost romantic “Sweet Smell of Success”, the eerie melodic verses and the pummeling metallic choruses of “POP 1”, the punky drive of “Laredo”… basically almost every other track here has something to offer, some little detail that distinguish it from the rest but the cohesiveness of the overall sound of the album remains consistent and intact.
“Tomahawk” is one of those cases where every element of the equation compliments each other perfectly, which more often than not doesn’t happen with the so-called “supergroup” formula. Sure this album is pretty far from a mainstream rock release that would get a lot of airplay and chart mentions but it needn’t to be; it’s a perfectly executed collection of spunky and rather original material that should not be overlooked by any fan of mentally questionable rock music.