Tool started out in 1992 with their EP. Opiate which turned a lot of heads. Excellent musicianship fronted by the best voice in rock today, Maynard James Keenan. It was very early 90's metal but Tool did it to perfection. The follow up full length LP. Undertow broke Tool nationally thanks to two claymation videos for Prison Sex and Sober. It got rotation on MTV but it was artful and heavy enough to gain underground credibility as well. In fact Tool acted nothing like a mainstream band, not appearing in their own videos and rarely giving interviewers straight answers. Maynard is infamous for not even appearing on stage, sometimes singing from the back stage area, sometimes underneath the stage, sometimes far off to the left side of the stage on a spiralling platform. On Undertow the music got darker and topped with their enigmatic actions, it seemed like they would only get darker on future releases. But "darker" would be the under statement of the century.
In the following review I will dissect each song piece by piece and give you provide further insight into the songs contained on the album.
Everything about Ænima is an experience. From the cover art, the CD art, the art behind the CD and the lenticular plastic CD cover and tray that animate certain artwork down to the music, you've never experienced anything quite like Tool. And God bless them for that.
Ænima starts out with the video and radio hit Stinkfist and continues Tool's bravery: releasing singles that are just as dark as anything else on the album, not compromising their art one bit for mainstream acceptance. The first song on this album comes in and smashes like a brutal hail storm, the bass thundering like a mid Summer storm, the guitar piercing and drums beating very violently. This topped with Maynard's vocals which at times sound like he's singing from over the phone but somehow add even more insanity to the song. Once Maynard starts singing and stretching his voice out, that's it. You know you're gonna be hooked on Tool. This song is about how the media keeps people afraid, stupid and docile so that they can "penetrate" their minds with their garbage and keep the consumers sheep. If you thought this was about fisting, you'd be partly right. Either way you take it, this song is about getting it from behind.
Eulogy is my favorite song on this album and Maynard once again continues the telephone effects. The lyrics are pure poetry. Maynard sings from the pit of his stomach about a person he knows who thinks they're godlike. Althought it's unclear who this song is about, probably the most likely answer is that it's about a type of person who just about everyone knows. It's been reported by many people that the song is about comedian Bill Hicks who inspired this album quite considerably (we'll get to him in a minute) but I don't think so. Maynard seems angry at the person this song is based on and Maynard very much loved, admired and respected Bill. (Maynard often borrows Bill's classic line: Evolution did not end with us growing thumbs in interviews.)
H. very well might be about heroin and the damage it causes. The bass on this song is particularly noteable. It's a very soulful song with deep, meaningful lyrics and Maynard's voice sounds beautiful. In fact, this song is so personal that Maynard has refused to play it live and that speaks measures for Tool's artistic value.
Useful Idiot is the first segue we're introduced to hear and is simply the sound of a record reaching the end of a side, creating a nice intro for one of Tool's strongest offerings 46&2. (btw, if you're wondering what a useful idiot is, here's an explination from The Tool Webpage: The term, originated by the high ranking Soviets, referred to the Soviet citizens whose loyalty to the party was unwavering. While the top party officials were living the good life, the average "Useful Idiot" was standing in line hoping that the bread wouldn't run out. But the "Useful Idiots" never questioned their masters' actions or authority - they were perfect citizens."). 46 & 2 is another heartfelt deeply poetic Tool anthem. This song speaks of a person wanting to change from their old ways and wanting to evolve new chromosomes, something that scientists say humans don't appear to be doing. If you want to learn more about chromosomes and the meaning of 46 + 2, I suggest searching the web because it requires long explination, something I won't do here. (Maynard would want it that way anyway :))
Message To Harry Manback is the second segue of the album and is an actual message to Green Jell-o member Hotsy Menshot. The message is both frightening and humorous.
"Harry Manback is a recording of the words of an uninvited Italian guest who came to Maynard's house one day. A so-called friend of a friend of a friend of Harry's .... Before we finally managed to figure out that nobody really knew him, he had already emptied the fridge and run up a huge phone bill. He got kicked out of the house." - Danny Carey.
Hooker With A Penis is an eternally relevant song about people who abuse the concept of selling out. In order to sell out, a band has to change it's entire format to fit mainstream radio's "standards" and suck up to get air time. Now, this is something Tool never did and it's doubtful that they ever will. Maynard lashes out about a boy who told them they were selling out, yet the youth was wearing Vans, 501's, drinking Coke and claiming Tool sold out yet still purchases their products. So if Tool sold out to "the man", the boy must be selling out too. This is a hard rocker, the only straight up metal song on the album and is packed with much arrogance, anger and rage. It also display's Maynard's sarcastic sense of humor which was also displayed at live shows and later with his other band A Perfect Circle.
Intermission is simply a keyboard version of the main riff to the following song jimmy. (no that's not a typo, it's spelled with a lowercase J because jimmy is only a little eleven year old boy.) The song is packed full of emotion and is about a boy who lost someone close to him when he was only eleven. "jimmy" is of course derived from Maynard's real first name James and no it is not about his mother. His mother died a year or two back and this album was made in 1996.
Die Eier Von Satan is from a German cooking show, discussing how to make cookies with no eggs but taken at face value sounds like a Nazi rally. This is more of the band's much appreciated (by fans at least) twisted humor.
Push it(on the album as one word, seperated due to epinions' language censors) is an experience. The 10 minute song starts off extremely slow and gets heavier on the choruses and then gets slow again. Then heavy. Then slow. Then mid tempo. Then heavy. Then slow. Then finally heavy again. It's about abusive relationships and how a person can't push themselves to give up on the person abusing them. Towards the end of the song, the victim eventually realizes that "there's no love in fear" and even though the person loves their abuser, it has to end even if it means by killing them. Of course this isn't a thumbs up for murder from the band, it's simply saying if you don't look out for yourself, you're going to become trapped and it's gonna become increasingly harder to escape.
Cesaro Summability is one which I can't explain. The title is the name of a mathematical theorem describing a method of adding certain infinite series but why it's here and what it means is unknown.
Ænema, the second single is next. Yes the title of this song differs from the album's spelling even though they're basically the same made up word. This time around the word "enema" is incorporated because of the many refrences to LA being "flushed" away. It's also based on Bill Hicks's classic album Arizona Bay. That album was basically a 62 minute prayer for Los Angeles to be flushed into the Pacific Ocean, thus ridding the world of corporate scum and plastic Hollywood big wigs which would in turn benefit the humanity of the rest of the world.
Third Eye is the album's closer and begins with various clips of Bill Hicks stand up routines. It's based off of the part of our brain called the pineal body (a tiny gland in the brain stem) which is nicknamed our "Third Eye", which is theorized to be extremely sensitive to light, and may be linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Drugs enhance it, explaining the use of Hicks' bits about drugs. This is a 15 minute epic which can't be explained because it would entitle a review all it's own. There couldn't have been a better way to close out this album.
Tool has the best rhythm section in rock today. Adam Jones is the band's guitarist and is responsible for the killer riffs you hear on each Tool album. Adam also creates Tool's music videos and helped Green Jell-o with their costumes (see the connection?). Danny Carey is one of the best drummers around today and Justin Chancellor is The God Of Thunder on bass. All musicians specialize in darker sounds, further more brought to life by Maynard James Keenan's ability to sing and in scream in what often sounds like fits of paranoia, anger, depression, bitterness, insanity or all of these at the same time. The music on Ænima is top notch and couldn't be better if they tried again. If you're looking to start out your Tool collection, pick this up first, this is truly the metal version of Dark Side Of The Moon. I draw the comparison due to the many changes in the music and how one track can shift and sound like a totally different track and then come back to sounding like the original. I also make this comparison due to the lyrics sounding depressing at first but upon further inspection, you'll find that these songs are darkly positive and relate to just about any living person. Pick this up now!
PS: The interpretations expressed in this review are mine. I strongly urge you to listen to this album and draw your own conclusions. If you're interested in getting this album and are either turned off or on by my explination of the songs, disregard that feeling and purchase the album. Even if you don't know what to make of it, you'll still get treated to one of the best metal albums of the 90's and of all time.
Read all 111 Reviews
Write a Review
Great Music to Play While: Listening