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Rhythm & Views

Tomahawk

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Heavy metal bands have long sought to absorb Native American themes, visual and musical. The Cult (which shortened its name from the Amerindian sounding Southern Death Cult) is arguably the only rock group to mine this path, particularly in the '80s with songs like "Spiritwalker" and "Bone Bag." During the '90s, of course, experimental folk-metal bands began to flourish after grunge borrowed from hair metal, but rarely have aggressive groups completely embraced Native American motifs. Too risky in terms of commercial potential, we imagine.

Leave it to Mike Patton (Faith No More), Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard) and John Stanier (Helmet), then, to circle their wagons around this music. "Inspired by Native American material from the late 19th century," Anonymous stands as a testament to the genius of these alt-metal masters and to the lasting power of these compositions. While it's unclear how the politically correct crowd will interpret this CD, Tomahawk deserves credit for expanding the boundaries of metal and for turning people on to songs largely colonized by the new-age crowd.

"Ghost Dance," for instance, is a rhythmic animal that pounds its way into the listener's cortex, bristling with Patton's harmonic chants and Stanier's massive kick drum, tom-toms and other native percussions. "Antelope Ceremony," meanwhile, is an atmospheric ritual of clean guitars and ambient voices, showing off Tomahawk's restraint and singular focus in presenting this and other songs in dark and interesting ways. But it's "Totem" that nearly hatchets you, with the snarling vocals and evil riffs.

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