It would be nice if art could exist in a vacuum. I’m certain that a person finding Tomahawk randomly on YouTube or Spotify or whatever would have far different opinions than somebody who has known of Mike Patton since Faith No More’s The Real Thing blew up, which is probably like fifty albums ago in the Patton discography. Personally, Tomahawk has always been something of a “listen on shuffle” band when it comes to Patton’s work -- I like it, but more so in isolated doses. A “just the hits” philosophy, I suppose.
The band shares some similarities with Faith No More’s more metal elements and, conversely, with Mr. Bungle’s softer side. For those well versed in those two bands, that means Tomahawk isn’t subtle. Some metal is hyper focused on its image. Tomahawk is focused on the energy. It’s forceful metal, more about the punch than the build-up. Patton has a great voice and great range, but Tomahawk is dedicated to chugga-chugga shouting at its core, rather than showing off the technicalities. It’s not all Patton, though. The rhythmic guitar sets the tone and reinforce the punchy vocal element, but it’s really the bass that seamlessly shifts between rumble and a peppy, almost jazzy sway with the ability to change directions on a dime. The lyrics, meanwhile, are angry and comedic: something of a parody of a metal band that sings violently in “typical metal fashion” about cartoonish concepts that are, well, not so violent or brutal in real life. It has a lot of the classic imagery and sounds, but at closer listen, it often steps into far sillier territory while delivered as dry, matter-of-fact genre fare. Sometimes Patton sings those lyrics longingly, sometimes it’s a coarse bark, sometimes it’s a vitriolic shout. Often it falls somewhere in the middle between the latter two.
From the hook-driven “Business Casual” to the spring-loaded “Recoil” to the almost literal barking of “Dog Eat Dog” and the melodrama of “Sidewinder,” Tonic Immobility is forceful and aggressive guitar rock that’s not driven by the solos, rather the rhythm. Sometimes that approach feels repetitive over a full-length record, but each song here is quite distinct while still fitting into the mold.