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Tool - Ænima CD (album) cover

ÆNIMA

Tool

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.10 | 898 ratings

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mental_hygiene
4 stars Aenima is the 3rd studio release by Tool, and is really the first release by the band that falls into progressive territory. My perspective on Tool comes from growing up just after their heyday in the early 2000s. I was never exposed to them except for the hits (Sober and Schism), and I honestly didn't think much of them before I gave them a serious listen. I always thought they had way more in common with grunge and metal than progressive rock.

What Aenima does best is it takes those basic elements of the metal that Tool came from (eg, drop tuned riffs, heavy vocals, slamming drums) and displays them progressively. Adam Jones isn't a virtuoso at all. I could learn most of this album in a few days because it's so darn musically simple. Half of the songs are in the key of D, just like the album before and all the albums after. Rhythmically, it's complex, and that's because Tool's one virtuosic member is Danny Carey. If you're sick of hearing his name, just remember that it's dropped constantly for good reason. Adam Jones is almost exclusively a rhythm player on Aenima, and when he plays a solo, it's short and sloppy. What he does best on this album is develop his riffs and modulate them with great attention to detail.

Aenima opens with the lead single, Stinkfist. I'm not a fan of MJK's humor most of the time, but at least when it shows up in Tool it's not overbearing because it is a team effort. It's way worse in his solo career, but I don't see many people putting that to acclaim. Point is, Stinkfist isn't subtle about at least 1 form of anal penetration. But it works for Tool, not many other bands could get away with it to such results. Whatever you believe, I think this song is a great expression of desperation, sensation seeking, and hopelessness. It also slaps.

The first extended length song is Eulogy, which runs at about 8 minutes. It has a floaty percussive intro for the first 2 minutes and 30 seconds, which I think develops well and sets up the chorus perfectly. This reminds me (to some extent) of Larks Tongues in Aspic Part One. When Eulogy hits, we learn two things: first, Tool is finally using dynamics to make the heavy parts contrast, and second, that MJK is finally using his voice melodically as well as texturally. I've heard some wild interpretations of this song, but again I think it distills well to say goodbye to someone who is self righteous and vain. This is definitely a highlight of Aenima, an 8 minute song that doesn't overstay itself, a first for Tool if all you've listened to was Opiate and Undertow. I think this song also marks the first time I was certain that Adam Jones was moving beyond power chords.

H. is probably one of the weaker tracks off of Aenima, which is saying something because it's a great song. I think this is the first time we get any genuine moments with MJK. My guitar teacher once told me that he believed that all music is an expression of vulnerability, and I agree. This might not be the best song musically, but in terms of maturity it's a very great development. The title of this song refers to MJK's son, which leaves the impression that this was written about his fatherhood and reconciling this new phase of his life with his past.

Useful Idiot is the sound of vinyl if you're too lazy to pick up the needle and flip sides, and also if David Lynch is directing your life.

Forty Six & 2' what a bass intro. Aenima is the debut of Justin Chancellor in place of Paul D'Amour. Chancellor's riff demonstrates that he's not some fill in bassist, but he's commanding a fourth of the band. I love how this song builds up, it shows how Tool has reconciled the alt-grunge-metal song form with a progressive terminally climactic form. And the interplay with the polymeter, that's some juicy stuff. It almost reminds me of King Crimson's Frame by Frame at the midpoint where everybody's working a different time signature. As has been set on this album, Adam Jones really gets the most out of the possible fills and developments that work for this. 46&2 continues MJK's lyrical maturity as it explores themes of human evolution and personal introspection.

Message to Harry Manback is a comedic interlude with a threatening voicemail message from a disgruntled italian.

Hooker With a Penis might seem like a step back to Undertow, but it's warranted. Tool is great at being angry, and what more to be angry at than being called a sell-out. I think this song is a well put non-rebuttal of 'selling out' while being a scathing anti-consumer anthem. If there's one thing I agree with on this whole album's subject material, it's that selling out is something that's just a fact of life. It's not a comfortable fact of life, but it's what you do with it that matters. Tool, and every other person who has ever sold an album, has sold out. I think this is a very clearly put song. Even when compared to the heaviest and fastest songs on Undertow, HWaP is miles ahead of them in terms of throwing everything it's got at you for entire runtime without losing a second.

Following this is a groovy organ interlude called Intermission. So far the interlude tracks have been mainly relief from each song and not necessarily strong statements of their own.There's nothing wrong with that and I would argue it is very different from filler.

Continuing the deeply personal themes explored in H. is Jimmy, which is written by MJK as a sort of requiem for himself at age 11. I try to separate art from artist especially when you have something that's well documented by fans like this song. For those unfamiliar, when MJK was 11, his mother had an aneurysm. This song has a great vocal delivery as well as a rewarding teminally climactic form. The last yell is one of highlights of Aenima. After this, we get our first substantial interlude, Die Eier von Satan. The irony is that while this track is delivered in angry german to an industrial sounding backing track, the lyrics to this track are a recipe for cookies with a good amount of turkish hashish and NO eggs.

So now we have our second epic track, Pus**t, running at 10 minutes. I think this shows the best examples of Tool's progressiveness at this point in time. The opening riff modulates slowly over time, allowing for multiple passes of different harmony and rhythmic variations to occur. By the way, for all the songs on this album, the most interesting thing to listen for is anything Danny Carey does. I love the descending part starting at 3:30, it might be one of the most powerful moments on this entire album. There's something about the dread within each of these songs that captivates me as much as it's supposed to disturb and disgust. The riffing around 7-8 minutes on this is just so interesting, and it sets up one of the coolest vocal moments in tool at 8:30. This is a journey of a song and I think it's clearly the best on the album.

I've already written about 1000 words and I'm not explaining what cesaro summability is, but the interlude track itself starts with the cry of a baby and some more spacey noises. I like the explanation that the birth of a human being is the beginning of a non-convergent infinite series, which is what this mathematical topic is about.

The title track is an ode to hating everything about Los Angeles. I think everyone has a place in their heart that they want to see absolutely obliterated by a biblical flood. Tool sure think that way about LA. If I were to pick one song to represent this entire album, it's Aenima. It's so fitting in that it's angsty but refined. My favorite part has to be the section at 3:30 when MJK sings 'Mom's coming round to put it all back the way it ought to be' and we get a beautiful chorused guitar fill. Speaking of great moments, the calm part starting at 5:00 is also heavenly and epic.

(-) Ions is the coolest interlude track, running at 4 minutes. With an electric zap moving across the stereo plane serving as a drone, it's something I legitimately haven't heard anything like before. It also is a great interlude in that it shifts from the straight-ahead Aenima to the brooding psychedelic masterpiece of Third Eye.

Third Eye is roughly 15 minutes long, the longest track off of Aenima. It begins with a heartbeat-like pulse and a few Bill Hicks clips. It continues the same spacey noisemaking as was just heard on Ions, and builds it into the foundations of a song. Third Eye wanders through many places with a dreamlike pace. There's really great attention to detail on this track that keeps it from dragging or in any way feeling less immediate. I think at one moment the song refers to the source of it all as a peyote trip. This doesn't beautify psychedelics, but presents it as a rather terrifying introspective experience. Third Eye shows the band at their greatest dynamic ranges, from soft deliveries to the pounding of "prying open my third eye".

I've given a lot of time and thought to Aenima because it's such an acclaimed album that I haven't listened to. I think this is a solid 4.5 stars out of 5. Aenima is still closer to 4 stars, and I recommend any seasoned prog listener to give it a shot, but I wouldn't pull it out as a prime example of progressive metal. It is a phenomenal listening experience, packed with exhilirating moments. At its worst, it's still well beyond anything that I'd describe as mediocre. Pus**t and Third Eye are two Tool masterpieces. Tool still had room to grow. While I like how the musicianship shines without being complex, I still think that Adam Jones' solos are sloppy in a way that seems awkward considering the attention to detail by all other members.That being said, this is a very intense and rewarding album

mental_hygiene | 4/5 |

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