Having been a leading light of the whole heavy rock and metal scene for three decades now, it would be impossible to believe that you’ve never heard of Mike Patton. Frontman for several high-profile projects, including his day job, fronting the always iconic Faith No More, anything he puts himself into is always incredible. Along with other side projects, such as Mr. Bungle, this review is focusing squarely on one of his other long-time guises, as the centerpiece of alt rock icons Tomahawk.
Due to the larger-than-life nature of the artist, and his unique legacy, anything he touches will always be overshadowed by his presence. With a career that started by fronting one of the biggest acts to come out of the USA in the late eighties/early nineties, his unique vocal style, range, and swagger, made him instantly recogniseable, and it’s that which has kept him relevant, even now, three decades later.
The beauty of Mike Patton is that he surrounds himself with some truly noteworthy artists, and for this outing, on new album Tonic Immobility, he has again aligned himself with three absolutely phenomenal musicians. The work itself, has all the hallmarks of the frontmans legacy, coupled with some fantastical elements, that push them far beyond the day job styling’s he’s best known for.
When you add in to the mix Duane Denison of The Jesus Lizard on guitar, Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle on bass, and John Stanier of Helmet on drums, what you get is a four piece of such underground royalty that nothing short of majestic is the end product.
After two decades in existence, and with album number five heading your way this very month, get ready to feel a way you haven’t felt in a really long time.
Before I delve in too far, as a seasoned Faith No More fan for three decades, I will always be drawn to anything that sparks a resemblance musically, and as it’s a ‘Patton Project’, it’s impossible to not listen and want to be pointing fingers. Let’s face it though, its Mike Patton, the man is a living legend, top of his game, and with that vocal range, which still, as much now as it ever was, sounds effortless, what’s not to instantly reconnect with on the most basic fundamental levels, and feel the warmth that comes with it.
So, to the album…
This is very much a game of two halves for me. Right from the off, it’s everything I’ve been wanting for years, and it propels me back to Angel Dust era Faith No More. It’s as if this was the legitimate follow on from that album, and the first five or six tracks take me on a journey. It’s like being fifteen again, and hearing all the classics, like Midlife Crisis, just like it was the first time.
The second half, from track seven, Fatback, is really where it diversifies, and Tomahawk become their own entity completely. As if emerging from the shadows, the tempo, mood, and tone changes, and what comes out the other side is much more a unique beast, all of its own.
Opener SHHH! rolls in with some quirky guitar work, and a drum pattern synonymous to one mister Mike Bordin, and I think anyone would be forgiven for thinking it was some new Faith No More work, even without Mike Patton’s vocal. It isn’t long before the man himself swaggers in, with that trademark monologue style vocal performance. It’s only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose, and when it does, BOOM!! It’s like a punch to the throat.
It’s so electric in pace, and so utterly enjoyable to hear, that it isn’t even important who it is, or who it isn’t, its one hundred percent awesome. Even after only a couple of minutes in, I’m sold completely, I’m there, strapped in, let’s go.
It’s so electric in pace, and so utterly enjoyable to hear, that it isn’t even important who it is, or who it isn’t, its one hundred percent awesome…
Track two, Valentine Shine, capitalises on that opening, and once Patton unlocks his larynx, it’s simply overwhelming. It’s so damned accessible too, it doesn’t matter if you’re an emotional emo fan, or a hardened black metal enthusiast, I doubt you would fail to be bowled over by this outpouring. The drumming is on point, infectious, and urgent. The bass rumble feels primal, and the guitar work is exciting and vibrant.
After this point, it all starts to get a little more experimental. Predators And Scavengers has a jazzy feel to it, yet anthemic too during the chorus. Doomsday Fatigue has a darker feel to it, like a film noir, mysterious, smoky, and deadly. In amongst Patton’s diatribe, which talks about conformity among other things, is the first time I’ve heard the ‘c’ word committed to tape. Yep, COVID. As the words ‘COVID smile’ are uttered, I knew it was only a matter of time…
Business Casual, after a saucy little Mike Patton introduction, returns to that classic heavy form pretty quickly, and it’s an absolute blessing to hear his iconic scream/shout chorus, boy have I missed those. This is where I return to those Faith No More comparisons, and if that’s what you’ve been hoping on, you won’t be disappointed.
It’s after this point where things get a little wild and whacky. Fatback has me thinking ‘introduction music for a new TV superhero programme’. It has a strange comic nature to it that really is peculiar indeed. It’s the track Howlie where the biggest departure takes place. It breaks away from everything to this point, and is by far the most alt rock offshoot. It shows the versatility of the band, and as Sidewinder rolls in, the piano driven, moodier number has Patton crooning over the opening first couple of minutes. This is broken up in tempo, as the mid-section is far more abrasive, before dropping back into a slower third and finale.
Album closer Dog Eat Dog is the track that really does set Tomahawk apart from the Faith No More vibe. While it still has Mike Patton being Mike Patton, the soundtrack is more mainstream in its nature, and I would even go so far as to say it even has some classic rock hooks. It’s no wonder this track has been doing the rounds to promote the new album, because if you really want a moment that defines Tomahawk, then it’s this track.
As completely as bonkers as ever, yet as legitimate as could be, this album truly shines, and shows exactly why Mike Patton is held in such high regard. The guys an absolute legend. Everything he touches just stinks of quality, and this is as compelling as ever
Tomahawk are back baby, go buy this album, hold it close to your heart, and remember just why we’ve all followed this guy, and his work, for as long as we have. Simply fantastical.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish