Sunday, September 29, 2013

Heavy Lifting and Tomahawk's "Oddfellows"

Back when I was first enrolled in CrossFit Central’s “Level One” program as a summer project, my Aiki Brother introduced me to Tomahawk. I have always been in awe of Mike Patton, but his massive discography is a bit overwhelming. Anonymous was the first album of his music that I had gotten into since the late 90s, and its reinterpreted American Indian flavor hangs incongruously over my early CrossFit experience like a veil.

The “Level One” program was scaled back from CrossFit Central’s regular programming, but it was challenging, nevertheless.  Although it served as an introduction to the training method, there were some ubiquitous CrossFit components that were not emphasized. Lifting weights to find max loads was one. When I started up again a year later in a "regular" class, I felt a little uneasy (maybe even irritated) about the emphasis on heavy lifting. I had a history of back problems that had subsided during my year of independent practice, and I was nervous about re-aggravating the condition.

These apprehensions have also subsided in the past couple of years, but I have come to recognize the hazy line between caution and fear. Some athletes explore this frontier with reckless abandon when they lift heavy. For others (like me) it requires some self-examination and reflection to decide whether I am being careful or scared. Although I’m still struggling with this internal boundary, by focusing on form, my max weights have increased little by little and I’ve never tweaked by back while lifting.

This summer, as my deadlift approached 300 pounds, I got into Tomahawk’s new release Oddfellows.

In comparison to its predecessor, Oddfellows is a relatively straight-ahead heavy rock album, especially if you accept that heavy rock music can have irregular, angular time signatures and sinister atmospheres. Although it is not as stylistically diverse as many of Patton’s other projects, it still captures Tomahawk’s capacity for extreme dynamic impact. Because it is less idiosyncratic than a lot of the work that Patton is associated with, Oddfellows generates the impression that Tomahawk might emerge as a focal, perhaps even commercial, project, rather like Faith No More and Mr. Bungle were in the 90s. Considering the broad proliferation of projects that he maintains, it would be interesting to see him associate with one as a more widely visible vehicle.

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