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Tool - Opiate (EP) CD (album) cover

OPIATE (EP)

Tool

 

Experimental/Post Metal

2.84 | 234 ratings

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mental_hygiene
3 stars Opiate is the first Tool release, and mirroring many other reviews, I'll start by saying that this is band before they're ripe. However, I wouldn't write this off. What this release lacks in progressive aspects, it makes up in energy, uniqueness, and tightness. Tightness being a part of the excecution. If you could ask this as a question, "how convincing is the end result?". While Opiate does not over-achieve, it excecutes what it does gracefully in the context of any band's first release. That's what separates it from many other early-mid 1990's alt-metal debuts. Opiate still lacks substance, and when I say this, I mean that it's caught in a weird complacency between the grunge era and the future nu metal era where its anger doesn't add anything new to the mix. It has this aura of angsty songwriting that's untamed but on its own unconvincing. That is, it works towards the heaviness of the songs but falls quite flat when you read along with the lyrics. I've heard comparisons of this release to many other bands of the era but what this reminds me of most is Alice in Chains. If I were in the business of writing witty one-liner reviews, I would say that I'd rather listen to AiC.

Sweat is the first song off of this E.P. and it sets the tone very well. It's driven mainly by the bass, with the guitar mirroring it in the riffing. Like many other songs on this release, it has a midsection part that uses tight 16th note patterns to keep the listener locked in. I do like this song the most out of the first 3 studio takes, mainly because I like the rising feel of the chorus. 16th note rolls aren't exactly progressive but they never fail to excite me. Still, this track is very balanced in ways the following two tracks aren't.

Hush follows Sweat with a funky bass riff intro. Again, Tool clearly had a formula for their instrumental parts, and these parts are the most progressive parts on this album. The lyrics are very straight-forward and angsty. Hush isn't pensive, it's a thrashy banger. MJK's yelling is... well, it's here, just as much as it's in every other song. To be honest, it feels like the simplicity of the lyrics drains it a bit. There'll be better uses for his voice later. Apparently this was their choice of a single and while it clearly fits with the grunge era, I think Sweat would have been a better choice.

Part of Me has the worst-conceived lyrics on this E.P. Instrumentally, it might be the better of the first 3 tracks but it's hard to get past the vocals. It reminds me of early Radiohead songs because the lyrics go on without truly building up on anything. This is a song without much to say, that's how it comes off to me. The riffing is a bit more technical and varied, that's all this has going for it.

The live tracks begin with Cold and Ugly. And let me say, I would love to have been at an early Tool show based on these recordings. I might be generalizing here, but it's easy for many metal bands to lose the aggression of their studio recordings when live. Cold and Ugly shows that Tool could command a live show better than their studio recordings at this early point in their career, and that's a sign of great things to come. The heaviness, the vocals, it all works to their advantage and is even rawer and heavier without studio production.

My favorite of all the tracks so far has to be Jerk-Off. Now, this has the same lyrical flaws as the songs before, the angst without much to show. But the thing is, it has everything else going for it. The dukaduka with the guitars, the pounding basslines, the incredibly tight drums, and even a sense of dynamics which is not nearly as present in the earlier songs, I love how all these elements from the other songs blend together within this track. This isn't progressive, but it's well excecuted and interesting. Of all the songs, this and the title track are the two bits I'm going to continue listening to in the future.

And now for that title track. I see that it's 8 minutes long, and I automatically think "this is going to be the best song off this album". Now, it's actually two songs, one which still runs about 5 minutes and a psychedelic rambling studio take at the end. Opiate has the budding progressive elements which Tool are known for. It's not your standard verse chorus song, it has an overarching progressive structure. The riffing is more dynamic, and it uses quietness for once, and it's this dynamicism that makes it a standout from this E.P. It's angst is less agoraphobic and more societal. Specifically, it's a scathing rant at Christianity, and it has way more to say than any of the songs before. Whereas the studio tracks made me feel tired at 3 minutes, I keep coming back to this track.

For the ending part, it's just Tool screwing around in the studio. I really don't think much of it, it's just silly, maybe even a tad unneccessary. Some would consider it offensive, and there's a lot of questionable content on this that doesn't feel warranted. But it's psychedelic, that's the kind of stuff they explore later.

Now that I've gone through every track, it's time for my verdict. If you like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, I would check this out because there may be something for you here. For progressive metal listeners, if you prefer maturity and complexity then you'll probably be let down. There are 3 songs that I would continue to listen to off of this, Sweat, Jerk-Off, and Opiate. I think this has enough to warrant a 3 star rating. I think this has appeal beyond Tool fans, but it's still not a great match for prog metal and heavy prog listeners. This is a band in its infancy, but there's something here that puts Tool ahead of many other bands at this stage of their career. It's far from bad, but it's not excelling at anything. 2.8 stars.

mental_hygiene | 3/5 |

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