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Tool - Ænima CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.09 | 927 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Tool's second official studio album (not counting the Opiate EP) was released in 1996 and ultimately would remain my favorite Tool album alongside their most recent album 10,000 Days (released 10 years later). 15 tracks with 5 of them short little interludes, Ænima would contain a few mammoth tracks in Pushit and Third Eye, as well as the exceedingly heavy Stinkfist and the magnificent hate piece Ænima to go along with it. The only thing that really hurts this albums overall score is the meaningless interludes, which vary from industrial cooking recipes to the sound of a record skipping, but other than that it is 77 minutes of dark and intense musical/lyrical bliss that I think no fan of prog metal should go without. Although the band hadn't really hit their peak yet (their real claim to fame would come from Lateralus, although I don't like that album as much as the albums bookended by it), this album is a testament that Tool were here and are here to stay.

Opening with the magnificent Stinkfist, from the get go you know you're in for a ride. Powerful and grungy guitar riffing combined with the distorted and clean vocals of Maynard Keenan all come together with the stellar drumming of Danny Carey and the punchy bass of Justin Chancellor. As the "hit" (if you can call it that) of the album, it opens the album with one of the better overall pieces. Eulogy opens with clicking percussion from Carey and the instrumental section (which is quite extensive) in the beginning really shows the atmospheric qualities of the group. Jones' psychedelic guitar phrases match up with the subtle dancing bass rhythms of Chancellor before they decide to kick in with a main rhythm (and Maynard's heavily compressed and distorted vocal performance). H. opens with a heavily echoed and distorted guitar hammering out chords while the bass plays the main melody until the guitars mellow and turn to a more psychedelic flavoring. It's probably the weakest of the lengthier songs, though, as it is a bit bland overall. Useful Idiot is a 38 second sound collage of a record skipping and adds no new dynamic to the album and fails to show any purpose as well. Forty Six & 2 begins with a great Chancellor bass performance, playing Tool's signature style of ascending and descending single note structures before becoming a grungy nightmare of powerful chord progressions. Fantastic rhythmic sections from Chancellor and Carey and when added with Jones' magnificent progressions as well as the spiteful and powerful vocals from Keenan becomes a fantastic piece in the end. Message to Harry Manback is another interlude piece that utilizes a phone message voice and an underlying piano motif. It's another essentially useless piece although the piano is pretty nice. Following that is the song Hooker With a Penis, a vulgar rocker with some very graphic lyrics from Keenan (who has a penchant for writing graphic lyrics) and a very bitter and angry vocal performance whilst the rest of the group carry on that sentiment with crushingly heavy riff after riff of pure power. Despite the gruesome subject matter it's a nice piece musically. Intermission has a bit of a circus feel with the organ motif essentially being the theme for the following song Jimmy. I think it's another meaningless interlude piece that could have easily been edited to the beginning of Jimmy. It's fun, though, as it shows that Tool could have light hearted pieces amidst the dreary and depressing material.

Jimmy begins with heavy riffing from the bass and guitar and some precision work from Carey before mellowing out for the verses. It's another simplistic piece in the vein of H. but comes off a bit more effectively than that piece in my opinion. Die Eier Von Satan is the closest thing to industrial the band got. With powerful percussion (and guitars) and a consistent 9/8 motif, the song essentially is a recipe for some kind of food chanted in German. It may be mindless filler but I like it. Pushit is the first massive piece, clocking in at close to 10 minutes. Powerful riffing and bitter vocals comprise the majority of the song but the instrumental middle section utilizes some clicking percussion and some subtle percussion from Carey to heighten the atmosphere along with an underlying (and later on a lead) guitar break from Jones. It's one of the first truly progressive songs and one of the best. Cesaro Summability is another pointless interlude that's essentially a baby shrieking and it being put through an echo device before becoming meaningless feedback and voices. Ænima comes next, and is one of the angriest songs they've ever written. Its brutal lyrics and its vastly opinionated subject matter are heightened by a great backing performance on all fronts (especially the riff from Jones in the beginning). It's a superb track with a great chorus and middle section (courtesy of the fantastic drumming of Danny Carey) to go along with it. (-) Ions is the longest of the filler tracks, and it's also one of the most pointless ones. It's essentially 4 minutes of mixed storm noises. The album ends with the behemoth Third Eye, a near 14 minute track that has incredibly heavy riffs and some extremely well written lyrics and some extremely well performed vocals from Keenan. Beginning with a Bill Hicks monologue and Danny Carey imitating a heartbeat, it broods slowly before the vocals come in near the third minute. Keenan's screams and cries mold well with the guitar maelstrom and the consistent rhythm unit work. Throughout the rest of the piece, there are a number of slower and heavy sections and everyone plays wonderfully throughout (especially Jones who solos throughout most of the interludes). The best part though, comes towards the end, when the entire band play a start stop riff while Keenan screams, "Prying open my third eye!". Masterpiece of a song and the perfect album closer.

In the end, a progressive metal fan can't go wrong with this album. It's got a bitter and spiteful feel and the music is relentlessly heavy at times. If you're like me, though, you'll find the interlude tracks pointless at best. Highly recommended and if you're starting with Tool get this album first. 4.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |


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