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Tool - Undertow CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.19 | 535 ratings

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I tried, not once, but several times to enjoy this album. In spite my efforts of blaming only myself of being narrow minded or addicted to modern sounds I simply couldn't enjoy Undertow. And it's no wonder since the album is poor. After a total disaster, entitled Opiate, Tool came up with a wreck in 1993. Undertow is an ordinary grunge record that doesn't add anything new to the genre, that pays tribute to the big rock bands of the early '90s but managed, however, to receive many positive reviews and even went platinum.

As far as I'm concerned, I repeat, I don't like Undertow. Obviously, Tool did their best in bringing Alice in Chains' depressive and nihilistic atmosphere into their own sound but thought of not being just some followers with lack of identity. They tried to make a shift of orientation from the 80's heavy metal to the 90's funk rock. Up to this point everything is OK. What is to come isn't so bright: the guitarist's technique tries to imitate a sort of Tom Morello style but fails and in general, the dynamic, but no very fast rhythm accompanied by some bright (yes yes, Keenan's vocals are sometimes so euphoric that it makes you wander if they hadn't been taken from a child's play typical noise in the magical natural surroundings of a country side back yard with the honey sky shinning in the sky ocean and sending smiles to the little one through the vanilla clouds that carry the child's dream to Imaginationland ... pathetic) really contradict the general depressive atmosphere and results into a big KITSCH. You might say the album features eclectic music, and I'd certainly say you are wrong (hoping that when this happens I am in a good mood). In my opinion, eclectic music requires a well conceived plan of the song so that, in spite the numerous changes of style, the track continues to evolve, from an aesthetic point of view and therefore carries the listener from a mood to another. Generally, such music has a lyrical background that is a concept which implies harsh changes in the narrative line. Check Pain of Salvation's Be for instance. But in Tool's case, the lyrics have no narrative line and/or aren't of a avant-garde substance as in Mr. Bungle's case.

Probably one of the most important reasons that led to my disappointment regarding Undertow is the fact that the songs are diluted. Tool wanted to create a progressive metal album and so, they tried to give the songs a length that would argue the genre. Unfortunately, this didn't help at all. In stead of improving their music, the Americans did nothing but to decrease the velocity, the expressiveness and the value of their album. When you don't have the greatest riffs, or the best rhythm speed can fix these problems. Undertow would have sounded much better if it had been played by Dave Lombardo on drums or, let's say Kerry King on guitar although it's not the best example (darn it, I can't think of anyone else now but you got the idea)

In spite of everything just said, Undertow contains some good tracks. The highlights of this record are Intolerance and Sober. The first one is what the rest of the songs should have sounded like, but, as I see things, the rest of them got f**** up. As for Sober, it's a great song, the guitar creates a great atmosphere, it's also very depressive and the slow rhythm fits perfectly with the short length and the layouts.

On the other hand, the worst moments of Undertow can be found on the last two tracks. Flood is simply stupid. The monotonous intro is longer than the main part of the song which isn't at any point of higher quality than the other tracks. As for Disgustipated, please, some silly percussions and some synth effects on vocals is supposed to be what ... industrial music ??? And what's with the congregation's voice ? Doesn't it sound like sheep's bleating ? Oh, why of course, only that it's the same idea that Ministry used in their samples in the song Psalm 69 from the album with the same name to, I guess, only by coincidence, suggest the same idea, that Christianity is a religion of blind obedience. And (like the track wasn't already horrible enough) they added a unoriginal hidden track, the minutes between it and the song being filled by an irritating sound. I'm not against noise, I'm a fan of Skinny Puppy, but after 10 tracks out of which 8 are failures, trying to annoy the listener can really ruin a band's image.

Before ending this review, I would like to explain why Prison Sex isn't a great song at all. Due to all arguments presented above and the fact that it is LAME, I therefore declare Prison Sex a musical failure in spite of it's commercial success.

Two stars is a fair rating because the album sounds better than Opiate, the producer did take his time in mixing the record, it's the compositions I'm sorry about.

Zarec | 2/5 |


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