on December 4, 2002
Tool is a band whose music is pretty hard to label. They've been called everything from metal, to numetal, to alternative and progressive rock/metal. While they exhibit attributes to all of the aforementioned genres, it's pretty safe to say that they've created a kind of music that's timeless, transcendent, deep, mysterious, forbidding and intriguing - all at once. To me, their name sums up the music they make perfectly - a "tool" for exploring the mysterious depths of the human psyche. The music usually explores darker themes like pain, anger, frustration and guilt, then regurgitates them into a volatile, yet beautiful and alluring catharsis.
How do I describe Tool's music?
I'd say they have the dark aura and minimalist experimentalism of King Crimson, the philosophical bent of Rush and the hypnotic, alluring quality of Pink Floyd - without really sounding like either of those bands. They possess their own distinctive sound.
On _Ænima_, Tool creates a 77-minute gargantuan slice of thought-provoking art-metal, which mainly encourages people to look deeper and think for themselves - whether it be looking beyond the surface of cliched beliefs (examples: what people are taught to believe in church, or what's seen and absorbed from television and more). When the mind is open to 'too' much outer influence, the mind is 'dead' - therefore, you lack your own thoughts and "you" no longer belong to "you".
Musically, the album is dark and given to adventurous, elaborate and spatial instrumentation - along with eerie and mysterious interludes. The opening track "Stinkfist" is a heavy and fairly straightforward rocker. Maynard James Keenan has one of the most distinctive and ethereal voices in rock today -- displaying the innocent, sad, poignant and reflective quality of Joni Mitchell one minute, then exploding into a frighteningly explosive scream the next, which can evoke Chucky, the doll (see the horror film "Child's Play", voiced by actor Brad Dourif). "Eulogy" begins with some spoon-like percussion and eerie guitar lines (which evoke King Crimson). It then turns into an explosive rocker. Maynard's vocals are particularly beautiful and impressive here. (Note: if you're new to this, don't make the mistake of thinking the percussive opening lasts forever - it doesn't). "H" showcases guitar ambience, tribal-like rhythms (from drummer Danny Carey) and explosive sections. "Useful Idiot" is the short interlude (which sounds like an ending of a scratched record) that segues into "Forty Six & Two", which is probably the most popular Tool track on this album. "Message To Harry Manback" is an interlude of an angry immigrant badmouthing the American nationality (which I find quite hilarious). "Hooker With A Penis" is pure confrontational metal at it's best. I think lyrically, this has to do with the music business (and the whole "selling-out" thing). It may have had something to do with a fan accusing Tool of doing just that. "Intermission" is a short keyboard piece (evoking that of a sports/arena anthem). It's actually a short 'keyboard' version (or opening) for the next track "Jimmy". This along with the rest of the tracks are the most "elaborate" on the disc. "Die Eier Von Satan" (German for "The Eggs Of Satan") is a recipe spoken in German. The backing music sounds almost industrial/death metal-like, containing shrieks and sadistic "slaps". "Pushit" is a heavy rocker, which shows off Danny Carey's complex, precise and intricate rhythms on the drum kit. Some of Maynard's vocals here reach ranges that weren't heard anywhere else (on this disc, or on any other Tool album). His Gaelic-ish vocals near the end (backed by a guitar/bass progression of 5th's) are truly poignant. "Cesaro Summability" sounds like guitar/amplifier feedback - fronted by baby screams. "Ænema" is a profane, dissonant heavy rocker, with snaky rhythms galore. Maynard James Keenan describes the city of Los Angeles - and says that it should receive an "enema" -- flushing it all away. "(-)Ions" is an eerie, dissonant and whirry interlude. I personally find this ethereal. "Third Eye" probably sums up what this album and Tool's music stands for in general -- thinking for yourself. The beginning dialogue features a sample taken from one of comedian Bill Hicks' standup routines. He says that many people denounce drugs - yet drugs have done something powerful for us - they've helped 'some' musicians provide us diehard music fans with what many of us consider "the best music of all-time" (examples: The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who - these are only a handful of 'revered' bands that have had certain members of each use drugs before). The 'third eye' is referred to as the human brain. Like the actual human 'eye', it absorbes and processes things (for benefit or detriment). When to 'open' (take in, absorb, believe) and 'close' (neglect, reject, refuse) the organ is our choice. The music on here features many instrumental and experimental twists and turns throughout it's 13-minute playing time.
_Ænima_ is an album that can take weeks, months and years to decipher. The lyrical and musical complexity is nearly infinite - to an almost unfathomable degree. It's an album you can listen to for years and still find new things to discover -- lyrically, musically and thematically. Tool has created music that can only be called timeless, transcendent, infinite and futuristic. _Ænima_ is a timeless masterpiece. Highly recommended.
on August 20, 2002
These one-star biased, uneducated 1 star reviews are disgusting. If you dont like it because its "too dark" or "too grim" or whatever, what the hell are you doing listening to Tool? The whole purpose of the Heavy Metal genre is to be like this and Tool does this perfectly. If you want something lighter go listen to your Ashanti or whatever. This CD isnt for everyone!! OR if you need something a LITTLE less abstract, try "undertow" which is great, too. AND let it grow on you. IT DOES TAKE MORE THAN A COUPLE OF TIMES for this CD to grow on you. It didnt start to grow on me until like a month after constant listening. You have to be patient with this CD to notice everything that goes into the craft of these songs (or opuses for that matter). This is undeniably one of the masterpieces of the 90's. Thanks to careless reviews, this CD has gone from its 5-star rating (where it should be) to 4 1/2... to the levels of Backstreet Boys and Michelle Branch. Tool's better than that. YOU CANNOT DENY the raw talent of the instrumental arrangements on this album. you just can't. I wanna see how many people looking at these can actually tell a good CD from a bad CD. click the helpful icon if you have recieved the reward from vast repeated listens of this CD.
on November 19, 2000
Precise, complex, and richly textured, the songs on Aenima move rock-n-roll to places it's never been before. This is some of the best music I've ever heard. The lyrics on this CD will make you think as well as feel: The vocals, guitar, base, and percussive elements combine effectively to emphasize a contrast between intricate melody and distorted screams of raw energy and emotion.
Williams' copy-and-paste editorial review above misses the true content of Aenima by universes: To say "There's not a whole lot of variety" and "high gear for the chorus, and repeat" in the same breath as "Tool" post Aenima (or Undertow for that matter) is incomprehensible nonsense. It's tempting to fill up the rest of the space with a diatribe on the distilled inaccuracies in Williams' short review ... but only because the review's inaccuracies, by contrast to reality, illuminate key elements in the music.
One word Williams got right was "texture". Perhaps "vitriol" too, to be fair, although MJK's lyrics seem to indicate his meaning is something beyond that: Near the end of the arguably (delightfully!) vitriolic song "Aenema", he urges the listener "don't just call me a pessimist ... try and read between the lines". But texture is certainly a key element that makes the music of Tool the rare animal it is: The very antithesis of repetitive, it turns out.
The song "H." is a good example: Even when a refrain is repeated in the lyrics (and then only once in a 6:07 long song), it has mutated into something different from what was heard the first time though. If you listen to what's happening underneath the lyrics, the guitar, base and percussion are modulating the rhythm, note emphasis, and the notes themselves throughout the song.
In a more insightful review by J. Ivey, Ivey observes:
"Eschewing the time-honored tradition of repeating a hook until it's beaten into the listeners head, Tool creates a striking guitar line and then casually abandons it. This in turn is then replaced with a new hook , only to be replaced again, all with fluid ease."
I've had to listen to some songs dozens of times to catch even half of what's going on. Many of the song had a raw feel at first, but this is deceptive: Listening more attentively, I can't help but think they are actually very precisely mapped out and must have taken many, many hours in the studio to produce.
Tool's lyrics often lay open and explore unpleasant, under-examined aspects of human nature: "Gee, what's under here Wally? Uhg. Oh...yak.".
Sort of like a Francis Bacon retrospective.
I think the heart of Tool's appeal (for me, at least) lies in what I perceive to be a Rejection of commercialism, "pop culture", the recording industry itself, and the insipid inanities we've become largely desensitized to that wash over us in waves via television newscasters, sit-coms with laugh tracks, radio talk-shows, newspapers, and the internet, as enterprises compete for our almighty advertising dollar.
The form of the music follows the function of great art: An alarm clock ringing, a wake up call. Or, perhaps, like a small stake in the heart of a very large vampire, Maynard is trying to set us free from a self created, soulless existence.
Then again, maybe I've just been listening to too much Tool lately. :-)
on November 3, 1999
Arguably the best rock album of the decade, Aenima is a dark, disturbing journey through the ugly underbelly of the human mind. In short, "Aenima" is Tool's masterpiece. Tool explores the brooding, seething, anguished human psyche better than any band on the planet, and delivers its message of existential dread with utter conviction.
The songs on "Aenima" constantly shift, morph and transform themselves, sometimes raging with fury, sometimes settling into relaxed interludes that still boil with a dark menace underneath their calm surface.
Maynard James Keenan's vocal work is the key to Tool's power, heard to maximum effect in such songs as "Eulogy," "Stinkfist" and the title track. No singer in rock captures the ambivalence and terror of the human experience as well as Keenan. When he and his outstanding bandmates are at full speed, they're untouchable. "Aenima" will bore into your brain with all the subtlety of a jackhammer.
Without this record, your collection can't be considered complete.
on July 25, 2002
One would expect nothing less from a band with such a manifesto: 'Our goal remains to touch our audience on a deep, psychological level'.
This is a truly groundbreaking work for the band, and for 'metal' as a whole, that rather poorly defined musical genre. Yet, Tool create and sustain their own, personal genre.
The album may be dark, with snatches of spite, justified anger and self-depreciation creeping subtely into the lyrics, yet the melancholy tendencies and anger are focused: the sheer intelligence driving these purveyors of rage is unquestionable, while the emotive and cathartic qulaities of the music only serve to entice and excite the listener further.
Of course,the music itself is breathtaking: prominently bass driven song dynamics underpin stellar drumming from one of the best in the business, along with inspirational guitar lines and Maynard's honey coated, steel wrought vocals.
Sadly,it is hard to fully praise this work without mentioning the songs themselves in some detail: loathe as I am to drag up an old cliche, in Aenima's case hearing really is believing.
However, a brief overview of the themes contained can easily differentiate this album from anything else recorded recently, possibly ever recorded: 'Stinkfist' concerns opening up to another person on a previously unexplored level, with the songs meaning delivered to us shrouded in a metaphor rather crudely suggested by the song's title, whilst Eulogy tackles the status of an unnamed friend who 'Had a lot of nothing to say' as a martyr, or otherwise.
Later tracks such as '46&2' and 'Aenima' explore Jungian philosophy and the hypothetical benefits of that 'hopeless hole' LA being 'flushed away' by a cataclysmic earthquake respectively.
In short, the album is a masterpiece of stunning musicianship and lyrical complexity-even incorporating excerpts from the late comedian Bill Hicks and numerous (criminally misunderstood, let alone necessary) segues into its fabric.
Tool not only challenge on a psychological level, they fully justify the price of the album: years on it still spins in my CD player every day.
Essential, compelling, unforgettable.
on January 28, 2000
If I could, I would put the first paragraph of this review with every album entry I see on amazon.com. Hey, music fans and others who appreciate art, at least TRY to behold all creative works on their own terms, whether you think it's a piece of art or a piece of s**t. No, perhaps its not a good idea to listen to Beethoven's Ninth or Metallica's Master of Puppets just before listening to Tool's AEnima - or maybe for some people, it's a great idea - the point is that, if one approaches a creative work expecting it to sound or look like something else, 90% of the time one will be sorely disappointed. Advice to others reading reviews: be wary of the extremes. If someone says "this is the greatest album ever made," don't put too much credence in it; if someone rips an album, ask yourself why they REALLY had such an aversion to it! - and if someone says "this is not real music," you can probably throw out that review for its snobbery! Another thing that gets tiresome while reading reviews is when people criticize music for its simplicity. Simplicity, in and of itself, is not a valid reason to criticize something any more than complexity alone is a valid reason to praise it.
Hey, "music fan from Texas:" could you try to be just a little less opinionated? One could easily say that your strong aversion to this album is a damn good reason to check it out. I did not approach this album as a Tool fan: in fact, after being a late '70s and early 80s headbanger (Blue Oyster Cult, Accept, Riot, Iron Maiden, Scorpions, early fan of Metallica, etc.) I have been mostly away from rock &roll for about fifteen years, exploring mainly classical and world music. Then, one day, I heard the haunting strains of "46&2" on the radio, and later, the brutal frankness of "AEnima" (to which I would think most people who've spent any time in LA could relate), and was blown away by the raw power of this music. I still love my classical and world music collection, but now it feels like I've made something of a homecoming to rock&roll, and it's encouraging to see that the "heavy end" of rock which (except for Metallica and precious few others) appeared to be going nowhere fast back in the mid-80s, actually was going somewhere, after all. I'm not a big fan of profanity in music, either, but, taken objectively, words are sounds, and if "explicit lyrics" add expression to music, then what the hell/heck? Whether they ADD anything to the music or not is up to the individual listener, but to dismiss music outright because it includes profanity seems a bit narrow- minded. Yes, every once in a while I catch myself listening to a piece of music, and thinking, "this is music?" - but really who's to say which sounds constitute music and which don't? Apologies for my verbosity. Bottom line: Joe Bob says check AEnima out!
on April 25, 2000
After almost four years and hundreds of spins in the CD player, Tool's Ænima is still a favorite.
There is no filler on this album, every sonic movement is exactly where it's supposed to be and it flows beautifully.
Danny Carey's drums add the beat and pulse, setting the pace for this dark journey. Adam's guitar and Justin's bass buzz and throb, producing one of the most distinct sounds in music today. Then, of course, there's Maynard James Keenan. There are no words to describe this man's voice. He sings, howls, and screams, dragging you along with him. It fits, perfectly, with everything, culminating into Tool.
It can be rare to find such a thought provoking album, but this is definitely one of them. The lyrics are fantastic and still have Tool fans pondering over exactly what they mean.
Stinkfist, H., 46&2, Pushit, Ænema, and Third Eye are the creme of the crop and will provide hours of listening pleasure. If this stuff doesn't move you, check your pulse....
on June 6, 2000
Aenema is the sonic equivalent of descending into a hellishchaos of nightmare conceived emotion, only to be lifted upwards intoan explosion of enlightenment and spiritual growth. The album's cover set this sentiment perfectly for me ... a white flash of light.. a near death experience that one must pursue while delighting in the audio landscapes that these incredible musicians have pulled off. And while the essence of your soul is englufed by its uncomprimising dark melodies, and anger filled exploding guitar riffs... and when its all done, your mind and soul have spiraled off into countless tangents... (the eyes of which emerge from the flash of white light)
This album defies easy categorization, becuase it is trluy original. This is not the death metal of fear factory / sepultura. Nor is it the subdued, compromised metal of the early 90's grunge era. This is tool. say no more. The music is cerebral and spiritual, and concentrates more on mood and emotion rather than just simply pummeling your brains out of your ears.
But as I mentioned before, "Aenema" is MUCH more. Unlike "Undertow", Aenema is constantly elapsing into new and ethereal territory, as each track rolls right off the other. These tracks arent really "songs" per say, but they set the mood for the power of each upcoming track. For those of you who consider these "space fillers", you are COMPLETELY wrong. Great care was taken with respect to the placement of the tracks, so as they could fluctuate the listener's mood as much as possible. If you can't listen to the album all the way through, then you are missing the essence of the album itself.
Be sure to check out the cut "Forty Six and 2" which has the best bassline of all time. The subsequent feel to it rings of early goth bands like Joy Division. "Hooker with A Penis" is consumed by gigantic metal-punk guitar riffs while elapsing into the semi melodic song structure that Tool executes so very well on this album. The title track is a satirical poke at Hollywood and the pop culture life, as Maynard exclaims in one of the best lyrics of all time : "Here in this hopeless f------ hole we call LA The only way to fix it is to flush it all away. Any f------ time. Any f------ day. Learn to swim, I'll see you down in Arizona bay." And last but not least is the stunning, and lengthy masterpiece that is "Eulogy". "Eulogy" is a symphony for heavy metal. The song structure is highly complex, opening with a soft collage of eerie basslines and soft percussion before being pummeled by loud guitars and maynard's screaming. The song quickly morphs into a defiant, hell ridden piece. In all of its 8 minutes, there is not one minute like an other.
But perhaps the best part of this album is Maynard's lyrics. They represent a spiritual journey through darkened realms... whether he yells, sings softly to us, whispers - he is the most dynamic frontman out there today. He is intelligent, as is Tool's music.
Heavy Metal as Mozart would have wrote it. Its beautfiful in its structure and compostion, yet ominous and seething with dark emotion. One of the best albums of all time... from any genre! A brilliantly executed masterpiece. HIGHLY RECCOMENDED!
on July 20, 2006
If you think Tool are in the same group as Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Kittie and Nickleback, they have no talent music wise, Maynard is a terrible singer and music is only about grown men crying vote no.
If you think that this band writes intelligent songs, makes great music, has a great drummer, bass player, guitarrist and singer, are not Nu metal(like Maynard raps, HA!) And that Tool fans are real metalheads with wide range in great metal than by all means click yes.
on March 6, 2003
After the success of Tool's 1993 debut album "Undertow", the band was already receiving acclaim for the live stint on the third annual Lollapalooza festival and for their disturbing music videos for the songs "Sober" and "Prison Sex". When it came time to record their sophomore effort "Aenima", bassist Paul D'Amour left the band and was replaced by Englishman Justin Chancellor. When the band recruited David Botrill, the band wanted to broaden their progressive-metal sound to newer heights that most bands wouldn't have done when it came to make a second album. Whereas most groups try to make a second album that was more accessible or stick to the formula that made their first album great, Tool didn't do any of those things. Instead, they went to darker and more melodic territories to set the "Aenima" album further apart from their debut album. What Tool did was make on one of the best hard rock albums of the 1990s that broke more rules on how to rock harder with a much darker sensibility.
The first track off of "Aenima" is the metal-power of "Stinkfist" with its atmospheric-like guitar intro which leads into a powerful rock tune with driving guitars from Adam Jones, melodic bass riffs from Justin Chancellor, hard-hitting drum hooks from Danny Carey, and awesome vocals from Maynard James Keenan who belts out these loud screams during the chorus. "Eulogy" is a brilliant hard rock tune with an excellent intro of weird bass riffs, atmospheric guitar sounds, soft percussions that lasts for a couple of minutes with Maynard singing in a distorted tone and then at full tilt sings clearly once the guitar and drums come in like a powerful punch into the stomach. "H." is a dark, melodic guitar-driven tune highlighted by Adam Jones' expressive guitar work that sounds a little bit like Black Sabbath and King Crimson backed by Carey's gymnastic drum-style. "Useful Idiot" is a forty-second instrumental that sounds like soft percussion sounds backing soft electrical sparks that serves as an intro to the bass-driven "Forty-Six & 2" that is highlighted by Chancellor's bass intro along with Carey's diverse drum-style w/ beautiful percussion sounds, Jones powerful guitar charges, and Keenan's powerful vocals.
"Message To Harry Manback" is a weird tune of a man talking to a man called Harry Manback backed by an ambient guitar background from Adam Jones that serves as a weirdness to the band. "Hooker With A Penis" is a powerful hard-rock song filled by powerful drums from Danny Carey, brutal guitar charges from Adam Jones, and ferocious screams from Maynard James Keenan who can probably scream the hell out of such current divas like Mariah Carey (no relations to Tool's drummer), Christina Aguilera, and Jessica Simpson. That man is wreaked with awesomeness. The next track is a break in the middle of the album titled "Intermission" which features a weird circus-like organ sound that shows Tool's funny side. Pretty cool intermission. Next is the melodic-power of "jimmy" dominated by Chancellor's melodic bass-riffs, Carey's brilliant drum-power, Jones' guitar grooves, and Keenan's hypnotic vocals. "Die Eier Von Satan" (or in translation from German to English, "The Eggs/Balls of Satan"), is a weird industrial-like tune with distorted bass riffs and percussion sounds, hard-driven guitar hooks, and vocals by Marko Fox singing in German with Gudrun Fox translating in English.
"Push*t" is another weird metal track that lasts for nearly ten minutes with a fuzzy guitar track that sounds at first like buzzing bees with mesmerizing vocals from Keenan, magnificent drumming from Carey and atmospheric bass hooks from Chancellor that shows the excellent musicianship of this band. "Cesaro Summability" is another weird track of a baby crying with distorted guitars in the background that serves as an intro to the next track "Aenema". "Aenema" is the album's big highlight with its melodic bass hooks, guitar grooves, powerful drums, and Keenan's powerful track that starts out as a metal-driven track until the middle of the song where Justin Chancellor's bass riffs dominate the track backing Keenan's mesmerizing vocals with Carey's powerful drumming accompanying him. Then Jones' brings in a powerful slide guitar solo until Carey comes in with this powerful drum track while Chancellor and Jones both come in with their assaults backing Keenan's vocals until the song softens up a bit and then becomes a even powerful song right through the end. Tool at its finest.
"(-) Ions" is a four-minute instrumental track of atmospheric sounds and electrical sparks in the background that serves as an intro the final track of the album called "Third Eye". The thirteen-minute song "Third Eye" starts off with a sample of comedian Bill Hicks talking the good things about drugs and saying that all the best rock albums were made on drugs. During Hicks' talks on drugs, Tool comes in with a powerful, blistering song with intense drumming from Carey, guitar grooves from Jones, and Keenan's powerful vocals who screams in the fourth minute of the song. After four minutes, a huge instrumental part comes in from Jones, Chancellor, and Carey comes in for about a few minutes then there's a quiet break during the eighth minute part of the song until things get loud again by Keenan's ferocious vocals who screams like a madman backed by the rest of the band's powerful instrument assaults.
"Aenima" is an excellent masterpiece from Tool. The band not only beat the sophomore slump but also went way beyond it. Tool would have more success to come including a headlining slot at the final Lollapalooza festival in 1997. Things however, wouldn't be so good in the years to come as lawsuits from their manager and record company came at them and forced their fans to wait for a new record in the next five years. "Aenima" is a true testament to Tool's power as a band and as a musical force.