Anonymous is Tomahawk’s third album and takes a distinct deviation from the rock, inspired by indigenous American music. It was released on June 19, 2007, on Patton’s Ipecac Recordings.
Mike Patton provides vocals, samples and keyboards on Anonymous. Duanne Dennison provides guitar, whilst John Stanier provides drums. On Anonymous Mike Patton and Duane Dennison share the Bass Guitar parts as Tomahawk was between bass players, with Kevin Rutmanis leaving the group and Trevor Dunn yet to join.
The album was recorded by John Baldwin and Jason Bullock, with additional editing provided by Ryan Boesch. Gavin Lurssen provided mastering.
This a droning and ominous intro piece with a soundtrack vibe. Like all the songs here, “War Song” is an interpretation of a Native American composition that discovered while guitarist Dennison was visiting reservations on a trip with Hank Williams III. As such, this song and the entire record contain tonalities and rhythms that are markedly different from the type of rock music Tomahawk normally writes. “War Song” functions well as an introduction to the album, getting listener attention and establishing a sensibility.
Mescal Rite 1 2:53
Disorienting and hallucinogenic, this track rises and falls and rises again on waves of aggressive psychedelia. Patton and Dennison execute the main theme together on vocals and guitar. Trippy and heavy at once is not a vibe often heard, but here it is.
This track is haunting, heavy, and scary, as befitting its title. Guitar and vocals again carry the chanted mantra that anchors the song, which gets a little seasick in the middle just to keep you tripping before chanting its way out. Very hypnotic.
Crazy cool and heavy groove on this one that’s in 7/4 but feels like alternating bars of 3/4 and 4/4 due to the strength of the second downbeat/fourth beat in the measure. The hook is more chant-ish once again, with fully tweezed-out vocal sections that precede it that sound like what Zappa might have written if he actually had done acid. Weird in the best kind of way. Rainy and screechy in the middle, then back to the action.
Imagine the creepiest horror movie lullaby possible and this track will start to come into view. It has a soft but disturbing throb to it guaranteed to upset any child but is slow, atmospheric genius, all the same.
Antelope Ceremony” is built on a musical figure that sounds like…well, a running antelope. One llisten willmake it perfectly clear. More dreamy psychedelic moments present themselves, but they make sense by this point in the album and just add to its left-of-center appeal.
Song of Victory
Short, fiery, and complex, “Song of Victory” comes careening out of the speakers at you in a big hurry, does its victory dance, and goes out the door again, leaving a shell-shocked quality in its wake. It is a brief but attention-getting interlude that wakes up the middle of the record.
This track sounds like prairie surf music at first before opening wide for Patton’s big chorus. The floating-yet-jagged feel remains throughout. It’s just the bigness that comes and goes.
“Sun Dance” finally delivers the big metal/industrial kick this band is capable of, though it takes a minute or so of tension-building to get to it that features more guitar and vocal interplay. The band drops the hammer out of nowhere, then floats off into space, returning after a while for more heavy mantra work before drifting off into the ether. It’s just one more peyote dream/mystical journey in an album that’s full of them.
Mescal Rite 2
“Mescal Rite 2” begins with a quietly triumphant feel that gives way to a Native American/reggae mix of a groove with an almost-rapped spoken word vocal over top. Delicate and beautiful.
Muted and down-picked power chords injected with dissonant Minor Seconds make “Totem” a bit of a pressure cooker. Patton’s spooky and powerful vocals make this one a little disturbing and make it a fitting song for any ritualistic uses.
“Crow Dance” is another whisper-to-a-scream chant anthem in Tomahawk’s signature Native American Prog style. The hook is wide open and grand like the Western sky and feels epic in scope. The ever-present psychedelia comes in and out and makes this track a little more cinematic than some of the others presented here.
Long, Long Weary Day
The closing track is a delicate clean-toned guitar instrumental adapted from an obscure parlor number that takes this set of music out with a gentle touch. It is completely out of character with the rest of the record, as well as being less anchored in Native American sounds. Still, it is an unexpected but blissful moment that winds down an intense batch of music.
The artwork for Anonymous was provided by Martin Kvamme and Mike Patton and continues the western motifs used on other Tomahawk albums.
Anonymous received mostly favorable reviews upon its release. Pitchfork.com’s Jason Crock called it an “odd headstrong little record” and AllMusic.com said in a review by Jason Lymangrover that is was “undeniably a stunning musical exploration.” Dennison was praised for his respectful interpretations of the original compositions and most reviewers considered it the best Tomahawk album up to that time.