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Tool - Undertow CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.18 | 512 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
2 stars "Undertow" is a raw edgey album showing the potential for Tool.

Tool's debut "Undertow" is little rough around the edges but still boasts some of the band's finest material. It is inconsistent in terms of quality but has some shining moments. The wonderful raucous 'Bottom' certainly contains the trademark pentatonic scale guitar playing of Adam Jones, in downtuned D distortion. The vocals on this are by guest Henry Rollins, but overall the vocals are well executed on the album by Maynard Keenan that range from screams to quiet low groans.

'Crawl Away' builds with some speedy riffs and some innovative time sig changes, as well as a pulsating bassline from Paul D'Amour. The percussion is sporadic and strong from Danny Carey, blending jazz fills to metal blastbeats in turn.

'Swamp Song' features a mesmirising riff with bass and guitar modulations. There are a lot of expletives and rage on the album that I tire of, but the musicianship is always a drawcard for Tool. 'Undertow' is a good example of the effective riffing and has an innovative structure. The way it slows at the end is inspiring for other upcoming metal artists; Tool show that time sigs can be manipulated with metal distortion.

'4' has that nice layered vocal that would permeate every Tool album that sings along with the repetitive polyrhythms of Jones' guitar. It is not as intricate and fascinating as the Tool to come but it is a good start in the right direction. 'Flood' has a cool slow riff that crawls menacingly along with cymbal splashes and an everpresent bass. As the vocals come in an angular riff locks in and it sounds very much like the more progressive Tool to come.

As with all Tool albums this ends with an oddity that is basically an attack on organised religion with a preacher lighting up the pulpit with a lengthy rant. This leads into the percussive rain chant from "Woodstock", or at least it sounds like it, before it runs out of steam. Worth hearing at least once, this ending is one of the worst dullest Tool album closers, at 15:47. It is easy to get excited seeing an epic on the album cover but this repetitive mumbo jumbo is a total waste, and even moves into an elongated silence with distant crickets chirping that goes on and on and on until after about 6 minutes of maddening crickets a voice spouts some nonsense. Tool missed the perfect opportunity to scare us witless with an ear piercing scream, anything would have been better than that effect. It signifies the more experimental side of Tool and thankfully they improved dramatically with "Aenima".

Overall a solid debut showing what Tool were capable of, featuring the angular polyrhythms and downtuned D pentatonic scale, the layered aggressive vocals and time sig changes are all here. As we all know now the best was yet to come with the next 3 albums, but this debut is worth checking out.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 2/5 |


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