When it comes to the quality of Tomahawk’s Mit Gas, we might as well start at the top. First off: best compact disc package design. Ever. This record out-designs all other albums, including several formidable competitors like the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls, Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking, and every Pink Floyd record. Mit Gas flaunts a gold embossed Victorian floral pattern that is as intricate as the record itself. The design incorporates the entire package, including the disc and even the barcode. Classy.
Now for the content. Tomahawk is the so-called alterna-rock supergroup, featuring members of all of your favorite grunge and post-grunge stars, including Helmet and the Jesus Lizard. If it were 1995, this would be the average 10th grader’s dream band. Unfortunately, it’s eight years later, and half of these guys look like they’re about to keel over (especially Melvins bassist/scarecrow Kevin Rutmanis).
But the band’s performances are explosive enough to hint that the band just might be around for a few more records. Much of Tomahawk’s energy is derived from frontman Mike Patton, the most prolific musician in America (Sorry, Prince.). Patton has explored so many diverse creative endeavors in the last six years, including Mr. Bungle and Fantomas, aside from founding Ipecac Records, that Faith No More should no longer be treated as the focus of his career. Having said that, Mit Gas is his best album since Mr.Bungle’s California.
Despite the glaring spotlight on Patton, Tomahawk attributes the center of its songwriting efforts to guitarist Duane Dennison of Jesus Lizard fame. The songs on Mit Gas, Tomahawk’s second full-length, are utterly unstoppable and even denser than the album’s self-titled predecessor. Tomahawk exercises its hard-rock expertise and showcases the main element that it holds over almost every other hard-rock band out there now: musical subtlety. On “Mayday” and particularly on “Captain Midnight,” Tomahawk succeeds in matching its sheer power with its painstaking details and ghostly atmospherics.
Mit Gas is cohesive from start to finish. The only real changes in tone are the Bungle-esque “Natural Disaster” and the Melvins-ish “Harlem Clown.” Otherwise, Dennison’s faithful, grungey guitar sound drives the heart of the album without a fault. At times, Patton’s flexible vocal styles drift in and out of John Stanier’s jittery percussion. The influence of each individual member is present, including the sounds of the bands that they’re known for.
More importantly, the strength of Tomahawk lies in their extreme individuality and the void they have filled in the music industry today. Mit Gas will be overlooked by any listener who awaits the ugly features of commercial hard rock: overbearing social statements, testosterone-laden lyrics, and one-dimensional sing-along choruses. It’s not very often that the music industry is graced with a hard rock album that is as sensitively mysterious as it is aggressive.