Tomahawk’s fifth studio album Tonic Immobility is the most fresh and diverse hard rock release I’ve heard in modern times. It has always been a problem for a genre with decades of development and plenty of offshoots for groups to tread familiar ground and not come up with something that can turn its listener’s heads. Thankfully, Tonic Immobility doesn’t feel like it suffers from this issue at all. The adventurous nature of these songs along with the band’s eagerness to go on different tangents and song structures takes care of that problem, all while still delivering some ear-busting, heavy-hitting rock.
Opener “SHHH!” punches right out of the gate and delivers what you would expect from a modern rock record, with a nice touch of theatrical flair. The intro alone shows Mike Patton’s vocal flexibility, which allows the song to shine in its loud parts as well as its soft breakdowns. This dynamic display of restraint is definitely one of this record’s strong points.
One thing to expect with this album is the unexpected. “Predators and Scavengers” has all the instrumentation of post-hardcore, but it’s vocals swerve over the mix with an agile litheness, reappearing in different corners to make it feel like you’re under attack from a hoard of barbarians. Fierce and savage while still keeping with its artful presentation.
“Doomsday Fatigue” is another highlight – a slow slithering track that brims with impending doom. This song encompasses life in the pandemic very well, where danger looms outside from an invisible threat. “Sidewinder” is another track on the calmer end. Tinged with a menacing undertone, an unexpected piano accompanies Patton’s lush croons – reminiscent of the late Chris Cornell with a touch of Alex Turner.
If you’re looking for loud prototypical alt-rock like the band’s previous output, there’s a lot to enjoy here. “Business Casual” is full of thrash and bursting to the brim with grit and grime. The closing “Dog Eat Dog” is the perfect song to air out your aggression, with its chugging palm-muted riffs and sharp piercing textures. If you’re in for a groovier time, “Recoil” provides a little bit of dub and reggae. This seamless flexibility shows how Tomahawk is still on top of their game despite this being their first album in eight years.
Tonic Immobility is adventurous and restrained on all the right moments. A wisely crafted modern rock album geared to astound an audience that thinks they’ve probably heard it all.