Tomahawk return with more top-tier avant-garde noise-rock | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Tomahawk return with more top-tier avant-garde noise-rock 

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click to enlarge The four buds that make up Tomahawk.

The four buds that make up Tomahawk.

Eric Livingston

Twenty years after the release of their self-titled debut LP, freaky supergroup Tomahawk have returned with their fifth and best album yet, Tonic Immobility. Formed in 1999 by the best of the best from the avant-punk and noise-rock scenes, Tomahawk originally consisted of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle vocalist Mike Patton, the Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison, Helmet and Battles drummer John Stanier, and Cows and Melvins bassist Kevin Rutmanis—who has since been replaced by Melvins and Bungle alum Trevor Dunn. The group has faded in and out of existence multiple times, and when they do come together, they’re a rarity among supergroups, pushing ego and flash aside for the sake of the song while bringing all their members’ outstanding qualities to the forefront. On Tonic Immobility, Tomahawk’s chemistry works better than ever before. These songs plow straight ahead on Stanier’s stopwatch-perfect, rock-solid foundations, while Denison’s southern-fried postpunk guitar twang guides them through huge, creepy dynamic shifts. Patton pulls out some unanticipated tricks, trading in his usual operatic singing and ballistic vocal noises for an eerie, unsettling growl, sounding almost like he’s taking a cue from Daughters (another group on his Ipecac label), who have transformed themselves from a sassy grindcore band into a seasick noise-rock powerhouse. “Tattoo Zero” recalls the unsettling chiming of Jesus Lizard’s “Pastoral,” “Fatback” hammers with Helmet’s aggression, and “Howlie” tastes like the grimy crawl of the darker moments from the 1995 Mr. Bungle album Disco Volante. Tonic Immobility stands on its own as a killer record, but it’ll also scratch any itch you might have for more music from Tomahawk members’ old bands.   v

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