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Tool - Ænima CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.10 | 896 ratings

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4 stars I don't think I could award any Tool album "essential" status, but this one comes closest. Lateralus, for whatever complicated twists and turns it may take, has always been totally emotionless to me; this one, however, evokes some powerful reactions.

Every song on this album is great. But not every track is a song. And it's those throwaway bits, like the baby crying, the ridiculous Satan's recipe, the spoken word bit - they all just serve as distractions and there is no reward whatever gained from listening to them. Only "Useful Idiot" seems to serve some practical purpose, but it's probably only agreeable because it's short and segues straight into one of the album's strongest numbers, "Forty Six & 2". These alone keep the album from reaching "Essential" status - whatever artistic motivation there was for their inclusion is completely lost to me.

But these hardly matter, because the actual songs are massive, powerful, moving, epic, incredible. This was actually one of the first albums I ever bought on my own dime, and I still spin it quite a bit. Since buying it the first time, I put it away for an extended period of time and became a huge fan of the late comedian Bill Hicks. I got this album back out and looked in the sleeve to discover one of my first-favorite CDs is actually a dedication to a man who later became my hero. So, this album has even MORE meaning for me the second time around.

And it's the meaning that captures my attention so much on this album. I've always found Tool's preachings and philosophy to be, if not meaningless, at best adolescent. But here, the preachiness is subdued. Maynard still rants as we would all expect him to do, but I don't smell so much self-righteous air. Rather, the album screams of a helpless feeling at the world's unpleasant situation.

The best song is, undoubtedly, the title track, and for my money it's the best thing Tool ever did. Once I found out it was actually inspired by a Hicks routine, in which Hicks fantasizes about California falling into the ocean "Leaving only the cool, beautiful serenity of Arizona Bay," it meant even more to me. There isn't pompous universalistic preaching here, just a bitter condemnation of the worthless drain of resources that is Hollywood.

Actually, if you eliminate the above-mentioned sound effects and experimental tracks and stick only to the actual songs, the album is remarkably even. "Third Eye" drags on a bit (by the way, that's Hicks at the beginning - he and Maynard apparently became friends when Hicks opened for the band at Lollapalooza or something, asking the huge audience for help in finding his lost contact and laughing when the thousands of them checked under their shoes and patted the ground). But otherwise, every other song is solid. "Hooker With a Penis" is their most menacing rocker, and another brutal attack on hipster culture. "Eulogy" seems to be about Hicks, except for the occasional unfavorable descriptions; whatever it is, it's probably the second best song on here. Being from Ohio myself, the "Under a dead Ohio sky" line in "jimmy" resonates.

If you're into the heavier side of prog, this probably is essential. The riffing is simple but effective, the drumming is, as usual, a highlight, the bass lines are complimentary but not the kind you'll be walking around humming, and the singing is great with relatively, by Tool standards, unpretentious lyrics. For me, since I hardly even consider Tool prog, Aenima is merely a great album, one of the best of the 90s alongside Ween's "The Mollusk" and Primus's "Sailing the Seas of Cheese".

KyleSchmidlin | 4/5 |


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