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Tool - Undertow CD (album) cover

UNDERTOW

Tool

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.10 | 383 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

JJLehto
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Talk about a 180! Released just a year after their EP "Opiate" which was a very straightforward alternative metal work, "Undertow" is a pretty drastic change. While this album may always be compared, (unfavorably) to Tool's next 2 works...that is unfair since this came first. I won't review it in retrospect

While this work may not be prog metal, (alt metal? art rock? ...post metal? We're still not sure) it is not your standard metal album. The album is heavy, but minimal. Gone are the lavish riffs of the 80's instead replaced with mainly chords, simple palm muted picking, and strange noises. Do not be fooled though. The 90's saw the birth of nu metal with its drop A, simplistic heavy riffs. That is not Tool. They are far too great musicians for that.

The guitar work is heavy, simple and sometimes minimalistic but it is atmospheric. That is what sets Tool apart. The bass work D'Amour is great. It has a heavy pick sound and really adds to the atmosphere, especially in quieter sections without guitar. Danny Carey is great as you'd expect. His drum work is not nearly as brilliant as his later works, but it is pretty good. He can still lay down some powerful metal drumming, (the second half of Crawl Away has a pretty intense part in it!).

This leaves us with Maynard. His vocals are wonderful. Melodic, hard edged, yelling, whatever fits the mood. His lyrics are brilliant, and this is of course one of the selling point of Tool. His vocals are not as diverse as we'll hear on later albums however.

Sober is my favorite song on the album. Dark, powerful stuff that runs the gambit from heavy, post-grunge to minimalist. Crawl Away and Undertow are other high point. Undertow is particularly gripping over the second half and especially towards to end.

Flood is a pretty minimalist song, but it picks up over the second half. The crescendo is amazing, as it seems so powerful when it gets there, (for a second I just thought of a John Cage metal song....) er, anyway there is some technical stuff over the second half with a great metal ending.

However, there are some low points. Disgustipated. An almost 16 minute song. To a newcomer of Tool, or prog-metal in general, you may expect a prog epic. Don't. The entire song is noise. Literally. Yup, one of those famous Tool songs. Part of the reason I like Tool, is also the reason I dislike them at times, their artsy tendencies. Their art for art sakes, if I may. Such as disgustipated or their segues on later albums of just noise. I believe the drummer more or less admitted to, (on a later album) using this filler to stretch the length of the album just to do so, (or to give the produces 2 seconds of breathing room). Anyway, if you're into cool, but I'm not!

None of the other songs are "bad" but often they can get dull, or at least slow, for parts. So, this albums has the heaviness of metal, but eschews most else. Perhaps not to levels we'll see later, but it's not later right now...is it? Decent album, good for a metal fan, prog metal fan, or progger who is more tolerable, (or any stoners that can just chill to it). Good stuff, not great.

Three Stars

JJLehto | 3/5 |

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