Mike Patton is a guy who seems to be up for collaborating with nearly everybody as long as they can be counted on to bring something strong and off-center to the table, and that seems to be what led him to cross paths with Australian composer and performer Anthony Pateras. Working together under the group name tētēma, Patton and Pateras have created an intelligent but ferocious mixture of avant-garde experimentalism, world music accents, and heavy metal velocity on their first album together, geocidal. Patton has described the theme of the album as "the murder of place," and if you were looking for a soundtrack to global chaos, depicting a world where nothing seems truly stable or certain, then geocidal fills the bill from the start, as the ominous percussion and didgeridoos on "Invocation of the Swarm" give way to the neo-metal thunder of "Pure War," constructed from found sounds, crashing drums, and Patton's larynx-pummeling vocals. In many respects, geocidal sounds like the soundtrack to an imagined movie about a worldwide calamity, and that's a compliment -- Patton and Pateras have created a set of powerfully evocative music, with the dynamic give and take between the spare and the explosive elements making all sides all the more powerful, especially as Pateras' keyboards interact with Patton's vocals, which frequently play more like an instrumental texture than as verse that provides a literal narrative for the music. Tētēma doesn't match the sheer impact of Patton's work with Fantômas or the breathless absurdity of Mr. Bungle, but geocidal appears to be aiming for something deeper as it portrays a global culture that's not merely shrinking, but imploding on itself, and at its best tētēma is just as intelligent and compelling as Patton's collaborations with John Zorn; hopefully Patton and Pateras will have more dangerous visions for us all in the future (if there is one).
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming