Walk With The Wind
Four years back, Tomahawk’s smoking album Mit Gas boasted a range few rock bands attain, yet somehow still managed to be the most accessible rock-style record Mike Patton put his name on since Faith No More’s final offering, 1997’s Album of the Year. After a couple tours the group went on hiatus, drummer John Stanier focusing on Battles, Patton focusing on Fantomas and Peeping Tom. Original bass player Kevin Rutmanis is suddenly nowhere to be found (ousted from Ipecac label-mates The Melvins under a cloud of dubious events), so this now three-piece band presses on with their new album Anonymous.With principal songwriter Duane Denison on both guitar and bass duties and a brand-new spin on their approach, Tomahawk is now wholly different than nearly any modern act one can think up: legitimately American Indian-influenced, no longer just in name but in sound. Around the year 2000 Denison, serving as touring guitarist for Hank Williams III, found himself at numerous Indian reservations. Disappointed in the mundane blues/country played by many bands there, Denison dug deep in search of an Indian musical heritage that was purer and more eclectic. Finding several books dating from the time of Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency gave Denison the material he needed.
These all-but-forgotten remnants from a once-vast culture make up nearly the entirety of Anonymous (a title honoring the undeclared authors of Tomahawkâ€šÃ„Ã´s sources). Patton repeats wordless choruses in “Mescal Rite 1” and “Ghost Dance” that sound both authentic and true to his own style, set against mounting tribal percussion and arpeggiated flings of twangy guitar. Like a solemn wind on a vacant plain, “Cradle Song” finds the pace slowed and coupled with a threatening feeling of supernatural presence (“Hush, little darlin’ / and rest while you may / ’cause strife comes with living / and waking with the day”) brought home with minimal keyboards and even the boing of a jaw harp.
“Songs of Victory,” “Sun Dance” and “Red Fox” are most akin to Tomhawk’s earlier albums, the latter balancing on crunchy power chords and a pitch-perfect upper register delivery from Patton that all but shape-shifts into a growling refrain of “skin walker / skin walker you are.” But the strongest material here comes in the form of “Mescal Rite 2.” A sublime tune, as evocative as a bright, brilliant dawn, where a twirling clean guitar dances around with ease until calm, relieving vocals are chanted over light handclaps. The song shifts seamlessly into a flanged three-beat percussion line, Patton’s half-rap coming in atop the mix and eventually delivering the showstopper lyric: “I’m the happy ghost wandering in the horizon.”
It defies name, genre, convention and heretofore all expectations for the group. Anonymous is a marvelous achievement. It’s unique and enjoyable in the best way possible, an attempt at pushing boundaries of which Tomahawk should be proud.