Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tomahawk - Oddfellows

Well, that took long enough.  6 years after Tomahawk blew everyone’s minds with Anonymous, they’re finally back with Oddfellows, another challenging entry in their arsenal.  In a way, it represents a new sound, as it’s essentially a cross-pollination of the original sound that fueled the self-titled debut and Mit Gas with just a hint of the kooky groove that made Anonymous so memorable thrown in for good measure.

It’s unique enough that some of it may soar over your head on the first listen, but you’ll find yourself being drawn back to it regardless, and the more you listen to it the more cohesive and infectious it becomes.  What initially appears to be a madcap offering with a lack of solidity eventually emerges as a vibrant and bizarre collage of zany sounds and massive riffs that fits together nice and snug.

Trevor Dunn is a nice addition on bass, blending in when required to and rising to the occasion whenever an opportunity to invent something delicious presents itself.  Patton is on fire throughout. He spits, he growls, he croons, hisses, and sings with a vigor that threatens to overwhelm the rest of the band at times.   Yet Duane Denison drives the bus with an ease that masks his talent.  His ability to veer from squeezing delicate melodies out of his guitar to riffing and pushing the Tomahawk sound into pure rock bliss is astounding.  Last but not least, John Stanier does a fantastic job on the skins.  He drums with power and finesse, readily adapting to every twist and turn, and offering up a truly noteworthy performance throughout.

Song Notes:
1) Oddfellows – The album starts with a title track that has the kind of drive and power that make The Melvins so wonderful.  Yet it’s Tomahawk through and through, and it’s a great start.

2) Stone Letter – The most accessible track on the album is a nice song with a sweet hook.  It’s candy, but that’s not a bad thing.

3) I.O.U. – It’s groovy, it’s melodic, and it’s probably the first sign that this is going to be a strange party.  Don’t worry, it’s the right kind of strange, and more often than not, those are the best parties.

4) White Hats/Black Hats – This is one of those kooky Tomahawk jams I love, a venomous jaunt that races along at a breakneck pace.

5) A Thousand Eyes – I thought the Anonymous vibe was strong throughout this one.  That’s a good thing.

6) Rise Up Dirty Waters – Patton owns this one.  It has a California (c/o Mr. Bungle) feel and sets the stage nicely for another aggressive foray into madness.

7) The Quiet Few – This is one of my favorite songs on the record.  Fun, feisty, and more than a little strange, it is a great example of the Tomahawk sound.  Stanier’s drumming is superb here, and Denison’s mastery of that haunting twang is equally impressive.

8) “I Can Almost See Them” – Another song with a heavy dose of the Anonymous flavor.  Majestic stuff.  Trevor is such a steady hand, but I could almost feel him dying to go apeshit toward the end. 

9) South Paw – Another rowdy jam with a really nice hook and some truly delicate timing.  Denison is at his most metal and Patton wails to great effect.

10) Choke Neck - If a deranged band fronted by Mike Patton in full-on Vegas crooner mode took the stage in hell, we might get something like this.  Again, this is a good thing. 

11) Waratorium – My favorite track on the album, this is a true blast that allows everyone to show off while providing a unified assault.  Such a wicked jam.  The band is on point, Mike is kicking ass and taking names, and the song is delivered in classic Tomahawk fashion. 

12) Baby Let’s Play______ - A demented oddity that may turn you on.

13) Typhoon – The band closes out the album with another groovy jam that oozes joy.   This one will definitely leave you wanting more.

I had a great time with Oddfellows, and I think you will too.  I have seen some reviews calling it the band’s finest hour, and I still think that honor belongs to Mit Gas.  I have seen some lukewarm reviews, but I couldn’t help but notice that many of those revealed a dislike of the Anonymous album.  That may be an important barometer for anyone looking to snag Oddfellows.  I think Anonymous is a masterpiece, and I know many of you share that view.  You’ll love Oddfellows.  For those of you out there who don’t dig Anonymous, the Tomahawk sound you know and love is now laced with that flavor.  I think that’s a big bonus, and it’s one of the primary reasons I’m enjoying this one so much, but some may see it differently.

Duane Denison’s vision has given Tomahawk a feel that's all their own from the very beginning.  Using Patton as your big gun without slamming headlong into the sonic oblivion he loves to flirt with is a wise strategy indeed, and it has yielded many treasures thus far.  Oddfellows is the band’s latest, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates good music.

Author's note: this review was originally published by the crazy cool people over at RVA.

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