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Tool - Undertow CD (album) cover

UNDERTOW

Tool

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.12 | 400 ratings

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2 stars Tool's first studio album presents a very serious sounding collection of riff-based songs, polished up with pristine production, and a tight focus on textural and rhythmic development that hints at a generation of Nu-Metal bands that were to follow in their wake. Lyrically, Tool show a social awareness of the darker side with

"Intolerance" - somewhere between Black Sabbath and Placebo, there is a definite air of progression about the riffing, which is broken down and built up through the verse chorus structure, with a new AC/DC inspired idea kicking off a return to the main riff for an interesting bridge that features a repeated chant and Barrett-esque plectrum slides up and down the guitar neck. The concentration on a single riff idea with interesting jammed ideas arising from it gives it the feel of psychedelic rock.

A sound effect starts "Prison Sex", which then launches into a funked-up Sabbath style riff. The repetition in this song cements its metal roots - and again, Tool use the trick of breaking down the riff for the bridge.

"Sober" kicks off with a fullsome bass, and Radiohead-esque guitar work - but all centers around a rythmic idea on a single chord.

We get to "Bottom", and, as expected, it's more of the same - the main "problem" I have is that every song is in the same tonal area, so that once you've heard one song, you've pretty much heard everything they have to offer.

"Flood" is where things start to get more interesting - but a song it remains.

"Disgustipated", the closest thing to Prog on the entire album, begins with some very interesting rhythmic and ambient ideas that accompany an apparently comical preacher. Once the preacher has finished, the next section of the piece seems to be based on the crowd rain chant from "Woodstock". A rhythmic bridge leads to a texturally enhanced re- iteration of the chant before the crickets start up, preceeding a spoken section - the words to which don't really grab me, but that's a personal thing.

However, from a progressive point of view, there are no "exotic" instrumentations, (even counting the quasi-Sitar sound at the beginning of, and the Tabla and other somewhat vaguely Eastern sounds in 4 Degrees - the only really different song on here), no big surprises, and no development of musical form, especially compared to more adventurous bands like, say, Radiohead. There is, in fact, closer comparison to grunge bands, particularly Kurt Cobain's Nirvana - especially in the 5 minutes of crickets chirping included in "Disgustipated", which reminds me of the silence before the "hidden track" on "Nevermind" - and Rage Against the Machine.

Hence my marking is, as ever, based on the Prog Rock quotient - as a work of Progressive anything, this offers little interest. This might well be your bag - and the riffs that Tool write rock very hard, and the breakdowns and use of plectrum sliding and feedback creates nice effects that accentuate tempo changes. This is [i]a[/i] way that metal developed, with easily traceable roots, not a sea-change in the genre.

Any fan of post 1990s metal should find something to like in here, but fans of Prog Rock may wonder what the fuss is about. "Disgustipated" shows potential for later albums, however.

Certif1ed | 2/5 |

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