As a mad musical genius, Mike Patton continues his wild-eyed adventures of conquering every genre possible with Anonymous. In Fantômas he tackled horror music and cartoon themes, in the Executioners he had a go at hip-hop, in Peeping Tom he deconstructed pop, and in Mr. Bungle he combined doo-wop, funk, Middle Eastern and carnival music to make a wonderful schizophrenic mess. Anonymous maintains his journey into uncharted territory by mixing Tomahawk's unique blend of mathy-doom metal with Native American tribal chants. This blend of drastically differing musical styles could easily result in something that sounds forced or even satirical -- especially since one style is centuries older than the other -- but instead, the entire experience creates the feel of camping out at a haunted American Indian Reservation. All of the songs are embellished versions of tunes from books of transcribed "Indian songs" published in the early 1900s (with the exception of an instrumental guitar ballad that ties up the album nicely, adapted from an anonymous parlor song.) Patton fans will likely rejoice about the absurdist outcome, though the record is quite a departure from the Tomahawk of old. The group sounds less like a band performing this time around, and this may be partly due to the fact that they recorded separately. After the departure of Kevin Rutmanis (bass), Duane Denison (guitar) and John Stanier (drums) recorded their parts in Nashville, and then sent their finished product to San Francisco where Patton added his vocals and samples. As always, Patton runs amuck and uses this opportunity to show off his unrivaled range and his masterful ability to veer from layered oceans of eerie moans to psychotic barks and crooning modal scales. The result actually feels more like a Fantômas concept performed by Bungle than a third Tomahawk album, and fans may be disappointed that it doesn't sound like their last two releases, where they distinctively rode the line between savage and brooding within the constraints of heavy metal. The ominous element is present, but the dynamic shifts drastically into a more atmospheric new age realm scattered with a few chaotic explosions here and there for good measure. It feels more like a soundtrack than an album, where pieces vary from eerie, to unnerving, to mystical. Although this is a unified record that should be experienced from start to finish, individual songs have slight and interesting variations to keep the experience from becoming stale. For instance, "Antelope Ceremony" has jazzy-prog movements like something out of Zappa's Apostrophe period, and "Sun Dance" integrates four bars of thunderous punk into an otherwise tranquil desert soundscape. There's a good chance this departure from their formula will appeal more to people who want to pick up where California left off on "Goodbye Sober Day" than fans of Helmet or Jesus Lizard. But considering that the band is playing in a completely new style, and incorporating traditional Native American instruments (rain sticks, flutes, buckskin drums) this is undeniably a stunning musical exploration -- and as far as original artistic endeavors go, this ranks among Patton and company's most ambitious endeavors. The only question left is whether or not the guys knew they were capable of creating this type of music when they originally named the band.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover