I got the opportunity to see Tomahawk open up for Tool in 2002 at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, OH. To say that I hated the performance is an understatement. I was covering my ears half the time while rolling my eyes the other half. It simply wasn’t music that I wanted to hear, especially considering who would be playing in an hour. I had much the same reaction the first time I saw Meshuggah open up for Tool in 2001.
However, now Meshuggah is one of my favorite metal bands. I simply did not understand what they were doing at the time because I didn’t take the time to really listen and appreciate what exactly they were offering.
And so I entered Tomahawk’s latest release Oddfellows with this type of openness. After all, I have been wrong before. Could I be wrong again?
The album opens up with “Oddfellows”, which sounds like something out of an 80’s King Crimson album. The following track, “Stone Letter”, is a stark change as it is a straightforward rock track with punk overtones. Things become somewhat sinister and eerie with “I.O.U.” and the ghostlike tremolo-picked guitar line hovering in the background. “A Thousand Eyes” is saturated with a thick spring reverb and simply oozes atmosphere.
“Rise Up Dirty Waters”, which might be my personal favorite track of the album, sounds like something right out of Twin Peaks and features fantastic call-and-response vocals. The bass is constantly running up and down while the jazz drums are frantic yet understated. The song begins quiet but quickly builds up in intensity and energy during the chorus.
The production of this album is rich and satisfying. There are plenty of guitar effects for the axe wielder to appreciate while the bass and drums are dynamic throughout. Patton, as usual, is fantastic, creating some beautiful harmonies and knowing how to use his voice as an additional instrument rather than simply a vehicle for delivering vocals.
The entire album has strong elements of Ennio Moriccone and feels very cinematic. It’s an album that feels like a journey, as though a story is being told and we are lucky enough to be allowed to join along for the ride.
The Final Word: There is something hypnotic and fascinating about Oddfellows. It’s not an album that one puts on for a rockin’ good time. It’s an album that is meant to be studied with great attention paid to it. Sure, it can be used as background music but that would be a waste. Tomahawk have released an album that is as seductive as it is insane.