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Tool - Undertow CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.20 | 526 ratings

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3 stars TOOL have rightly become one of the most notorious bands in the whole rock pantheon, occupying a similar (but lesser, I hasten to add) position than LED ZEPPELIN, and for similar reasons. A vocalist who oozes something hard-edged but honey-wrapped, a superb rhythm section, searing guitar, original and consistent compositions and a certain mystique. They bring something extra to the table, a passion that out-enthuses almost any other band. As exemplified by their throat-ripping vocalist, they always give everything to their task, and it is this last quality more than anything else that has won me over.

'Undertow' is their debut full-length album. As many reviewers have pointed out, this is far simpler and less proggy than they would become, but on its own terms 'Undertow' works very well indeed. Its outstanding moments include standard heavy rocker 'Intolerance', the hit 'Sober', the sludgy 'Bottom', 'Crawl Away' and the more complex 'Flood.'

What do I hear when I listen to this album? A band pulling itself out of the swamp of early '90s grunge, owing a debt to NIRVANA and JANE'S ADDICTION but determined to find its own voice. A lyricist with a determination to expose the darkness within himself and others, with no subject too sacred to stir - 'Prison Sex' being the obvious example. Brutality leavened with gentleness, anger with compassion, lyrics matched with music that hammers home the message. But I also hear a band not yet confident enough to let go and beggar the consequences: that will come on the next, earth-shattering album.

After 'Undertow' TOOL was already being heralded as being great. Not quite, in my opinion, but that was soon to come.

russellk | 3/5 |


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