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4 stars Undertow is tool's first full length album after 1992's debut "Opiate" EP. The album shows a clear improvement in sound and production. The band started to settle for lengthier pieces and more epic soundscapes. Maynard James Keenan's vocals are excellent on this album and show sorrow and anger as he switched between agonising screams and beautiful melodies. Adam Jones is able to show off his excellent guitar skills and the drumming here is flawless.

The opening track is a good way of kicking things off and easily pulls you into the album. "Prisonsex" has a funky siberian khatru style intro that leads into revolting lyrics "sh!t, blood and cum on my hands", and shows a more energetic yet melodic side to the band. "Sober" is a masterpiece and the best song on the album, lyrics about Jesus are told by some of Maynards most powerful vocals and this is musically incredible.

"Bottom" features Henry Rollins to help out on vocals and is an interesting and lengthy song. The title track is a real wonder on this album along with "flood" and "four degrees". These tracks continue to show off the faultless musicianship that the band have built up. "Disgustipated" is a lengthy tag along which includes sounds of crickets and recitals from the bible and is a percular track. It doesn't drag down the album or make it better really. Undertow is more for tool fans but for those starting off to listen to them i would recommend "aenima" and "lateralus" first.

Report this review (#31747)
Posted Sunday, July 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This one has really aged well for me. It's been well over 10 years since my introduction to Maynard Keenan's unique vocal style, awesome guitar work by Adam Jones, and mindblowing interplay between bass and drums courtesy of Paul d'Amour (later replaced by Justin Chancellor) and Danny Carey.

This album was a discovery for me: everything I liked about complex, progressive music in a modern, angry, violent and disturbing form. The impact of this one hasn't diminished, but grown as the years pass. A highly recommended debut album (Opiate being an EP) by one of my favorite bands of all time (my only complaint of them being the lengthy off-period between albums).

Report this review (#31748)
Posted Monday, August 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
James Lee
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The early 90s were a time in music when the long-dismissed threads of punk and metal finally achieved a more accepted prominence in the popular music scene. From the Seattle bands to SMASHING PUMPKINS to NINE INCH NAILS, heavy and often angry songs could be seen at the top of the charts- a welcome relief for many who during the 80s had to settle for metal and/ or go underground for music with a little more bite. "Undertow" came to me when I was doing college radio, and I first played "Sober" in a heavy set that also featured PRIMUS, JANE'S ADDICTION, SOUNDGARDEN, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, and NOMEANSNO- pretty serious competition. Each band did different things with heavy guitars, tight and tricky rhythm sections, and immediately identifiable vocal qualities. "Sober" got my interest (and a lot of airplay), and the album became a minor sensation. A number of my hardcore punk friends liked the lyrics, which made sense- a lot of the punk bands survived solely on their shouted message rather than any distinctiveness of the music, and Maynard took his cue from the 'smartpunk' school (no coincidence that there's a Rollins connection). Many of my metal friends liked it too, which surprised me as they were generally suspicious of anything with the slightest hint of 'artsy-ness'. Personally, after listening to the album several times in its entirety, I felt a bit let down. It seemed quite similar from song to song, the vocals seemed lacking in variety, and the playing- while well beyond reproach- didn't really give me anything I hadn't heard other bands do with better results.

So then ten years passed, and the 'nu-metal' movement increasingly claimed the territory that the 'alternative' music had cleared. KORN and LIMP BIZKIT (and several hundred other bands) took the heaviness straight from METALLICA's unexpected MTV popularity and threw in a smattering of suburban white hip-hop. TOOL (along with fellow creepers RADIOHEAD) successfully rode the wake of this current, refining and exploring their more individual sound; new fans flocked to the sound while old fans almost never had cause to lose faith. Meanwhile, I was rediscovering my teenage love for progressive rock, and was surprised to discover that many prog fans considered TOOL to be, if not an official prog band, at least a decent modern simile. Being in a constant state of self-doubt, I decided to dust off ol' "Undertow" and see what the passage of a decade had done to my impression of the album.

Predictably, it sounds a little more dated than it did in '93 but also a lot more raw than I remembered. Nobody else really sounds like them, and they are not obviously derivative, which logically should result in a unique sound. Unfortunately (for me, if not for TOOL fans) that specific sound is really all there is to the band- it's an old cliche, but if you've heard one of their songs, you know exactly what to expect from every other song. I can discern more shades of expression now in Maynard's voice, but it is still mainly a one-trick pony, going from a flat almost-speaking tone to a ragged, swooping yell in a similar fashion on most songs. The often highly-regarded lyrics have a self- consumed, tortured poetic pose- peppered with some naughty words to prove that he's 'raw'- but little in the way of thought-provoking concepts or meaningful depth (hey kids, and critics: "deep" and "weird" are not always interchangeable). The individual tracks do have more distinctiveness than I once gave them credit for; however, I still believe that a lot of the sections could be swapped between songs with little appreciable difference. I still think that "Disgustipated" is more of a 'messing around in the studio' throw-away track than a bit of conceptual genius. I'll testify firsthand TOOL puts on a great live show, but somehow a significant amount of that energy isn't forthcoming when listening to their recordings.

Ultimately, I respect the band and wish them all the success they've earned, but "Undertow" is still not enough to get me excited. I can't really consider the album progressive rock (or even prog-metal) despite their occasional use of unusual rhythms, but they are undoubtedly 'progressive' for the modern heavy scene. A lukewarm but objective, aprreciative three stars from me; you don't have to go too far to hear them, and you'll know from the first few seconds whether TOOL is your kind of band or not. Maybe in another decade I'll pull the album out again.

Report this review (#31749)
Posted Tuesday, August 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have to agree with Bryan on this one; Undertow is really not a progessive album. Is this saying it is bad? By no means. Tool is my favorite band, and for this reason I will be a bit biased towards them. With this in mind, Undertow is a very good alternative / heavy rock album.

Starting with 'Intolerance,' a song harkening back to vocalist Maynard James Keenan's days at West Point, it is clear that this album is not going to be a Dream Theater-like, pretentious, psuedo-intellectual experience. This piece is followed by 'Prison Sex,' one of my favorite Tool songs. The lyrics to this song are genius, and the delightfully upbeat music is catchy. The extended live version adds to the disturbing picture painted. Then we have 'Sober.' We've heard it and know it well. A good hard rock song, but not progressive. Next is 'Bottom.' I find this song's inclusion of Henry Rollins to be annoying more than anything, and compared to the version Maynard sings live, there is no comparison. Then there is 'Crawl Away,' a great love song (hint of sarcasm on love, but not on song).

'Swamp Song' is one of the heaviest pieces on Undertow, advising to listen to reason before ignorance. Following that is the title track, which has an almost pop-like rhythm to it, complimented my Danny Carey's drumming, against rails against its subject manner of drug addiction in a similar fashion to 'Prison Sex.' 'Four Degrees,' the eigth track, which revolves around a statement made by the band involving one orifice being the said amount warmer than another. Following that is 'Flood,' probably the most progressive song on the album, but is not one of my top rankers. Finally we have 'Disgustipated,' a long piece that includes the Reverend Maynard's mockery of organized religion, then the repetitive and frightening main portion of the song backed by animal noise and a butcherknife. This is similar to A Perfect Circle's 'Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums' with its strange sounds. Then there is a host of minutes of cricket noise, followed by a bewildering call from the vocalist's landlord. Though I have not really addressed Adam Jones and Paul Di'Armour, they are both very proficient at their intruments but, the former at least, has yet to even approach the point at which they are now.

I have to say that although Tool is my favorite band, Undertow is worth getting only if you like a little hard rock mixed with your prog. If you like Aenima or Lateralus, go for it. If you prefer a softer side of prog, then steer clear. Thi is why I am awarding my them a three despite their greatness. To address what Mr. More Tacos said, this album is by no means horrible. I too am a fan of Dream Theater, though I do tire of their self- indulgent, pompous presence attitude. If you want a real comparision, try Lateralus. That album stacks up to Dream Theater any day, and is a more cerebral, intellectual, and spiritual experience than Dream Theater can deliver (in my opinion).

Report this review (#31754)
Posted Saturday, February 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars I like Tool but I have to say that this CD doesnt reach the level of the next albums, Aenima and Lateralus. This CD is more of a plain and simple rock/alternative music album. A good thing about this CD is that it doesnt have the stupid fillers that Tool uses in Aenima or Lateralus. A dark album but this CD doesnt have electronic soundscapes Tool uses and partly because of that I dont think this one has the emotional/spiritual experience the later albums provides. Love the bonus track 69.
Report this review (#31757)
Posted Tuesday, May 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the first Tool album that excites me (Opiate is just Metal with only one good track). This album creates a very dark album of pain, anguish, and hate. The lyrics are really good, and you should pay attention to them. For example, Prison Sex tells a story about abuse. This album is not progressive rock! It is a mixture of Alt.Rock, Heavy Metal, and a new dark sound.

Intolerance begins the album as a solid alternative rock/metal song with good guitar riffing. Prison Sex is an early classic from the band. It contains good guitar riffing, nice bass playing, and a very dark tone. Sober is another solid alt. rock track that anyone can like. Bottom is a longer song, and has a mellow section which of course is amazing (Tool never fails in making interesting mellow sections). This song has a similar style and structure as the better 'Push It'. Crawl Away is not very good unfortunately, and fails to make interesting riffs/melodies. Swamp Song is a typical angry Tool song and it is good. The Title Track is worth of being the song with the name of the album, and in my opinion is the strongest song of the album. The one and only reason is because of that led-zeppelin-like soaring guitar riff. 4 Degrees has brilliant musicianship, and shows hints of mastery on musical compositions. Flood is a long and slightly progressive heavy track, but unfortunately is not very impressive. Disgustipated is interesting but incredibly flawed! It starts promising with the political attack (or religious attack), the mesmerizing drumming, and the repetitive whispering of 'this is necessary' 'life feeds on life ... feeds on life ... feeds on life ... feeds on' 'this is necessary' and so on. I really love that section, but when it finishes, there is about 8 minutes of silence until you hear a recorded message.

1. Intolerance (6/10) 2. Prison Sex (7/10) 3. Sober (6.5/10) 4. Bottom - Henry Rollins (7/10) 5. Crawl Away (3.5/10) 6. Swamp Song (6/10) 7. Undertow (7.5/10) 8. 4° (7/10) 9. Flood (5/10) 10. Disgustipated (8.5/10) 8-minute silence (0/10)

My score : C

Report this review (#45088)
Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars When I went to a cd store this week I really wondered about the alternative rock section. Why are bands like "Die Happy", "Green Day" or "NOFX" alternative? They belong in the normal rock zone.

But what is alternative then?

Bands like The Mars Volta, I fortunately saw there and Tool! With their strong, diverse and complex rhythm section, their artistic arrangements and the impressive, progressive vocals by Maynard James Keenan, they can be doubtlessly counted as alternative and as progressive as well. Danny Carey's drum work is simply amazing and definitely a reason why Tool is so addictive and interesting. In tracks like "Prison Sex", the rhythm creates a fantastic feeling, while tracks like "Sober" create a fantastic atmosphere. Those 2 tracks are my favourite tracks on this album and also belong to my favourite tracks of Tool's discography.

But how to describe Tool's music?

A heavy guitar (still rock, but on the edge to metal), great vocals and complex drums. The only track which is really disappointing. Nice drum work, very loud and heavy, some guitar tones in the background and some whispered vocals and afterwards, the last 10 minutes, there is simply a sough. While I respect the first part and the sense behind the lyrics this last part is totally brazen. Another point I have to criticize is the partly monotony in the album. I found it really interesting after hearing it the first times, but afterwards, I noticed that the tracks are kind of similar and the excitement decreased. I don't know if there is another phase where you really discover the album or if that is all. After all my prog experience, my ears are quite trained now and I think that was it. Maybe I'm too greedy and hard to content, better make your own experience, this is a really nice album and a fantastic piece of art. But it is really nothing compared to "Aenima" and "Laterlaus". Better start with those 2 albums, if you have those, get this one. You shouldn't miss tracks like "Prison Sex" and "Sober"!


Report this review (#65732)
Posted Friday, January 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars I bought this album during my alternative rock period back in 1993 after viewing the awesome video for "Sober". A big disappointement, as one good song doesn't make a good album...

Of course, "Sober" is an amazing song... it's dark, it's heavy, it has great lyrics and the constant mood change creates a strong atmosphere. "Prison Sex" is another great song, but the rest of the songs are just average (missing a bit of variety too). The pointless "Disgustipated" (15+ minutes of mantra and white noise) doesn't help increasing the quality of the album - but it should be considered as a bonus track.

Rating: 51/100

Report this review (#67506)
Posted Monday, January 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Tool is the band that defines growing up, in a musical sense of course. Undertow was the first step in the process of the band that made Opiate growing into the band that created Lateralus. Undertow is no masterpiece; it contains many riffs that are uninteresting or mediocre at best. There are a lot of vocal parts that just do not captivate. The incredible talents of Danny Carey and Paul d'Amour were sparsely showcased on this album. The album has a raunchy, somewhat aggressive feel to it and it sounds like the band is putting forth about 65% of their efforts. Regardless, Undertow is essentially a collection of nine good songs; "Flood" being the best and "4 degrees" being the worst. I don't know what "Disgustipated" is. It's really just noise. None of Undertow's songs are connected to give that flowing album, one solid piece of work feel that Lateralus and Aenima have. Undertow is just nine good songs. They aren't great songs, save for "Flood" and "Intolerance". They aren't weak songs, save for "4 degrees". They are mostly good songs that come together to make a good album, and the songs are good because of solid and heavy riffage, well placed screaming, and a dark, ugly vibe that only Tool can create.
Report this review (#69307)
Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I was 17 when this album first surfaced on a largely unsuspecting world. The music industry had all but put the breaks on heavy metal with the sudden thrust of Seattle bands into the limelight. However, somehow Tool with their strange poetry and dark sentiments managed to break through the demise of heavy music. The reason this album stood out for so many is because it fits the definition of progressive without fault.

The evidence? Name one other band that ever sounded Tool before Tool. Tool were playing with peculiar rhythms and odd time signatures combined with space rock and guttaral, rusty metal sound. Maynard's voice again was like nobody before him. Much of the emotions and themes are nowhere to be found by any band prior to Tool. Thus, I don't understand why this album isn't recognized as the most progressive of Tool's work. Every album after it was simply adding to what this album started; though the production improved greatly. Not to detract from the later albums because they are excellent in their own right, but Tool has never really strayed from the formula they set down with Undertow...which inherently makes their later albums less progressive than their first.

Intolerance, Swamp Song, 4 Degrees, Flood, and Undertow show the rhythmic creativity of this band quite plainly. The only song rivaling the rhythms set down in these tracks is likely Lateralus with the fibonachi sequence. Disgustipated is an extremely well-executed experiment in avant garde recording. Tool does a brilliant job of recording percussion for this track, no doubt the the genius of Daney Carey at work. This track is more ambient art than prog rock, but again, there's nothing like it. Sober is all out amazing rocker that pretty much sums up everything Tool is about.

The fact that this album alone is likely responsible for the emergence of nu-metal is cause for concern, but where credit is due is a clear fork of diversion for the direction of the music scene.

Report this review (#75904)
Posted Saturday, April 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Undertow is an improvement over Opiate and yet, not. I agree with most of the above reviews on the main points:

- Not overly proggy - First nine are fairly to very good, finale is crap - near a three star rating

The only real difference I have is that I believe Prison Sex is the best track on here. They would make major improvements after dropping D'Amour and waiting a few years. I'll give this guy a two. Normally I'd give it a three, but the "lack of prog" factor knocks it down one.

Report this review (#77363)
Posted Saturday, May 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A difficult album to review for me, cause there are some days when I think it is excellent, and others a subpar piece of work. Right now I feel it falls short of a masterpiece. Its definitely not on the Level of AEnima or Lateralus, and certainly a vast improvement over the Opiate EP. The whole thing flows very well thematically, moreso than Tool's latest outing, 10,000 Days, but it isn't as tight musically.

Intolerance - 3/5 - It has a feel reminiscent of the Opiate material, but feels more polished. Good, but nothing about it really stands out.

Prison Sex - 5/5 - This wouldn't have sounded out of place on AEnima. What a beautiful, emotional piece of work, even if it still sounds a bit messy compared to Tool's newer, polished stuff.

Sober - 5/5 - My favorite thing about this song is Maynard's performance. He is SO into it. He sounds so cathartic, you can really feel he means it as he screams "why can't we not be sober?" The song is perfectly dynamic, playing on a very spacious, minimalist vibe. Tool came out of this album with at least a few masterpieces.

Bottom - 2/5 - Ok, I'm not a fan of the guitar work on this song, and I don't feel the long slow build-up works very well. I prefer the live version with Zach de la Rocha on additional vocals to this one with Henry Rollins.

Crawl Away - 3/5 - This is somewhere between the emotional vehicle that is Pu[&*!#] from AEnima and the more amateur sound that prevails on this album. Not a bad piece, just not a great one.

Swamp Song - 4/5 - I'm a pretty big fan of this blend of alternative rock, but don't come to this song looking for progressive elements.

Undertow - 3/5 - The vocals are beautifully cathartic, but somewhat unappealing as well. I don't feel like the guitar and bass playing on this song are at their peak maturity.

4 Degrees - 5/5 - Really, just a very good, catchy, alternative metal song. Its absolutely groovy, and I see no reason that it deserves any less than 5 stars unless you are reviewing its progressive elements.

Flood - 4/5 - The band is really trying something progressive here, but I'm not a big fan of the very minimalist first half of the song. The second half is very well done alternative metal.

Disgustipated - 3/5 - Nothing more than a fun sound effect exploration. Not to be taken too seriously.

Really, this album is woth picking up if you like Tool at all just for the standout tracks like Sober.

Report this review (#80910)
Posted Sunday, June 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am completely sickened that 'Undertow' got the review it recieved. The ONLY other 15 year old album in my stereo played consistantly is the original 'RATM' album. Tool can't be classified as metal,grunge,alternative or pop. Undertow was as new and original as 'Badmotorfinger' or ooohhh aahhh "Ten'. Nirvana's Nevermind is long gone. Yet still I hear songs from 'undertow' from passing cars, bars and parties. This is a timeless album, up there with 'Dark side of the Moon'. Never out of date, and always making new fans.

I AM a Tool fan, and I prefer other albums....but Damn. None of us would be listening to Tool mainstream if not for Sober. Prison Sex or, 4', not to mention the ledgendary track 69...if you didn't eject the disc. Beats the living hell out of 'smelles like teen spirit'. And it is still selling like mad. One of the best rock/....records from the 90's. Hands down, and still being played by kids not old enough to remember the video. Very influential record. Along the lines of early Skinny Puppy, Frontline Assembly or Front 242 - before thier time.

Report this review (#82631)
Posted Tuesday, July 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Tool's more or less "breakthrough" album. This got them on the board and made them a recognizeable band. That being said, this album is very unpolished and not the masterpiece that Aenima and Lateralus are.

The sounds here are very heavy, and there are a lot of very dark sounds. This is more or less an album with a depressing sound to it. That being said, the album is very dull to me. Sober is one of the most overrated and uninteresting songs in the metal genre, right up there with Enter Sandman as down right dull. This album helped Tool gain an audience for what was to be their magnum opus, Aenima.

This album has a few strong points, but overall it lacks the "it" factor of a good prog album and later Tool albums.

Report this review (#84213)
Posted Wednesday, July 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Tool's first proper album starts out with three awesome tracks, the aggressive "Intolerence" which has a catchy refrain, "Prison Sex" which grooves and the monster hit "Sober" which showcases Maynard's vocal range. The middle section of the album reminds me of Pantera, a kind of swampy, southern style metal. Maynard's voice has a twang to it if you listen hard, and on this album his voice is more upfront as compared to the following three. Things pick up with "4 Degrees" and especially "Flood" with hints of the sounds we'll hear on the next albums. The album ends with a 15 minute track that bores the heck out of me, it's more of an experiment of spoken word, noise and a bit of chest- beating pontificating, not the greatest way to end it but at least they dare to try something different. I enjoy this disc, but compared to the following two album, it pales. It's more grunge/metal with a bit of progginess splashed willie-nillie. 3 stars for effort though.
Report this review (#95863)
Posted Thursday, October 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Undertow is Tool's first full-length album, and the band wasted no time setting themselves apart from every other band on the planet. "Intolerance" opens the album recalling Keenan's experiences at Westpoint. "Prison Sex" is distilled genius and the catchy music belies the disturbing imagery. "Sober" is probably Tool's most recognizable song, and it's catchy chorus and riff make this their most accessible track. "Bottom" features renaissance punk Henry Rollins. "Crawl Away" is a bit emotional, though not as much as on later efforts. "Swamp Song"is incfedibly heavy, and the title track deals with addiction. "4 Degrees" is rather funny, describing how one orifice is warmer than the other. "Flood" is the most progreesive piece on the album, but it's mainly good alt. metal. After this, we get to listen to a massive number of seconds-long tracks of near-silence simply to bump up the number of tracks to 69. "Disgustipated" closes the album with an attack on oraganized religion.

Tool is ever bit as socially aware as their alternative metal contemporaries Rage Against the Machine, but they bring a level of experimentation to the mix. The band sounds like King Crimson meets Black Sabbath, and the similarities to existing bands end there. Aenima is the place to start for Tool, but fans must own this release.

Grade: C+

Report this review (#112521)
Posted Saturday, February 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Tool's first studio album presents a very serious sounding collection of riff-based songs, polished up with pristine production, and a tight focus on textural and rhythmic development that hints at a generation of Nu-Metal bands that were to follow in their wake. Lyrically, Tool show a social awareness of the darker side with

"Intolerance" - somewhere between Black Sabbath and Placebo, there is a definite air of progression about the riffing, which is broken down and built up through the verse chorus structure, with a new AC/DC inspired idea kicking off a return to the main riff for an interesting bridge that features a repeated chant and Barrett-esque plectrum slides up and down the guitar neck. The concentration on a single riff idea with interesting jammed ideas arising from it gives it the feel of psychedelic rock.

A sound effect starts "Prison Sex", which then launches into a funked-up Sabbath style riff. The repetition in this song cements its metal roots - and again, Tool use the trick of breaking down the riff for the bridge.

"Sober" kicks off with a fullsome bass, and Radiohead-esque guitar work - but all centers around a rythmic idea on a single chord.

We get to "Bottom", and, as expected, it's more of the same - the main "problem" I have is that every song is in the same tonal area, so that once you've heard one song, you've pretty much heard everything they have to offer.

"Flood" is where things start to get more interesting - but a song it remains.

"Disgustipated", the closest thing to Prog on the entire album, begins with some very interesting rhythmic and ambient ideas that accompany an apparently comical preacher. Once the preacher has finished, the next section of the piece seems to be based on the crowd rain chant from "Woodstock". A rhythmic bridge leads to a texturally enhanced re- iteration of the chant before the crickets start up, preceeding a spoken section - the words to which don't really grab me, but that's a personal thing.

However, from a progressive point of view, there are no "exotic" instrumentations, (even counting the quasi-Sitar sound at the beginning of, and the Tabla and other somewhat vaguely Eastern sounds in 4 Degrees - the only really different song on here), no big surprises, and no development of musical form, especially compared to more adventurous bands like, say, Radiohead. There is, in fact, closer comparison to grunge bands, particularly Kurt Cobain's Nirvana - especially in the 5 minutes of crickets chirping included in "Disgustipated", which reminds me of the silence before the "hidden track" on "Nevermind" - and Rage Against the Machine.

Hence my marking is, as ever, based on the Prog Rock quotient - as a work of Progressive anything, this offers little interest. This might well be your bag - and the riffs that Tool write rock very hard, and the breakdowns and use of plectrum sliding and feedback creates nice effects that accentuate tempo changes. This is [i]a[/i] way that metal developed, with easily traceable roots, not a sea-change in the genre.

Any fan of post 1990s metal should find something to like in here, but fans of Prog Rock may wonder what the fuss is about. "Disgustipated" shows potential for later albums, however.

Report this review (#116444)
Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is the last album that I purchased from TOOL and in fact this is the band's debut album. Luckily, I listened to other albums prior to having this one. My favorite albums from TOOL are "10000 Days" and "Lateralus". This debut album is not as strong as the follow-up albums but it still show 80% of the band's identity. Even, I would say that TOOL is the band that never changed much on the music style they produce. I can see clear similarity of this album with what came out later with "Aenima", "Lateralus" and "10,000 Days". The main characteristics of TOOL are: music with heavy grooves and beats, screaming vocal with heavy rhythms showcasting a tight combination of bass guitar and drum.

In terms of composition, it's good to know that the band has strong songwriting with musical approach that put emphasize on heavy groove, distorted guitar and heavy rhythm section through dynamic bass lines and dazzling drum work. Take example of track 3 "Sober" where the band tries to craft the ambient of spacey music overlaid with distorted guitar effects, screaming vocal and variation of tone ups and downs that stir your emotions. The guitar solo in the ending part of the track is quite interesting especially when it is followed with excellent music riffs demonstrating bass guitar work. Even when the next track "Bottom" where Henry Rollins takes vocal job, the ambient is being continued with further guitar solo that sounds a bit like U2 guitar style. I think in this track Rollins doing his job quite well even though I prefer Maynard James Keenan's voice. Again, through this track the bass lines are quite dominant.

Overall, this is a good album with good composition especially in songwriting. The key for this album is not on melody but it's much more to do with groove and textures. As the band has progressed, this album seems like the strong foundation for them to move forward because the music composed here is what the band use as reference for their follow-up albums. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#121058)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Tools debut album and its more alt metal then prog then thiere later albums, and yeah its good but not great for me i liked the album very much when i first got it but it grow old pretty fast for me and i hardly lisen to it now days while thiere other album still sounds fresh. It got some realy good songs tough, Prison sex, Sober and Bottom are all high class, but the album loses steam at the end and the ending song is good for some lisens but get tiersome when you heard it to many times. Well its a good 3 star album but noting great, start with Aenima is my recomendation and if you wana hear how tool started you might wana hear this but its not very prog.
Report this review (#146131)
Posted Saturday, October 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Tool's first album Undertow is not really prog but the band shows some signs of what is to come in future Tool albums. I pretty much like this album from start to finish. A very metal grungy feel to this album. Maynard's lyrics are very dark and angry most of the time and guitarist Adam Jones displays his eerie sounds on guitar. Danny Carey doing what he does great on drums as usual. There are many standout tracks on the album like Sober, this song got Tool more recognized because of its radio play and creepy video. Some other great songs are Intolerance, Prison sex, Flood, Swamp song, and Bottom. A very strong debut from a very original band, I'm a big Tool fan so i gave this 4 stars, and this album is nothing like Lateralus which is a popular TOOL album reviewed many times on this site. This was the start of Tool, besides Opiate, if you want to hear Tool's more prog side this is not it.
Report this review (#150625)
Posted Wednesday, November 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars At least they got out of that grumbly metal undertow eventually.

Tool's first album is a far cry from what they would eventually become. It is, in fact, a fairly good metal album, but that's not what we prog heads are after. Here is a collection of fairly straightforward metal tunes, all quite basic and unremarkable. There are a couple longer songs, but apparently they haven't figured out how to master it yet. In the end this is a fairly forgettable album that's at it's best while it's not in your cd player.

While it would be fairly redundant to remark upon every song on this album, there are some high and some (especially) low points.

The album's highest points revolve around the sound that would eventually become the band's main sound. The title track UNDERTOW is a good example of this, but hey, Tool's title tracks are usually the best songs off the albums, as is INTOLERANCE (even if it is a very basic metal song). SOBER is a good example of Keenan's vocals as a leading force in the band, and shows a good range in his voice while proving that there's a lot of emotion to be had there. There's a couple other fairly okay songs, but these are the standouts.

Low points...

DISGUSTIPATED was expected to be the highpoint on this one, showing up at 15 minutes. This is a track which is actually just some chanting followed by minutes of silence. This is especiialy mean to do to prog fans who love to hear long stuff, especially from this band. Those of us who now have the ability of hindsight would look forward to this track with all kinds of anticipation after hearing songs like 10,000 Days and Third Eye. While it's not fair to attack a band for not producing the caliber of work that they would make a decade later this track is still a disappointment to prog fans. PRISON SEX, the single off this album is another song that's not especially great. Metal. Early 90s Metal at that. Nothing good or progressive there.

In the end this is an album that simply does not have much to offer. It's few good points are quite good, however, and that's what saves this album a bit and gives it 2 stars. However, as stated before, if you're not a huge Tool fan, just skip this one. Only recommended for metal-heads and Tool fans. This is definately (thank god) not a sign of things to come.

Report this review (#159785)
Posted Friday, January 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Tool is my favorite band. They have also made my favorite album of all time, but in order to truly enjoy the progressive masterpieces that their last three albums have been, one must admit that UNDERTOW is in no way, shape or form, a prog rock album. It is grunge. While the Tool guys would later produce some of the most original music since Pink Floyd, this era of their career was what got them recognized, nothing more. Maynard James Keenan has always been an amazing vocalist, and he displays some of his rawest, angriest work to date. These were the years when Tool's music was very garage in it's tone and production qualities (Which Dave Bottrill would remedy on the album following this), when the songs were shorter on the average, and the lyrics were very hatefull and bitter in subject matter, often eluding to potential bouts of abuse in Keenan's past, though it hasn't been confirmed.

Most of the songs on UNDERTOW are straightforward. A little too straightforward, quite honestly, as the lyrics have yet to become as intelligent and obscure as they are on the following albums. Yet, this is also a clear transitional period for the band, as we do get a taste of some ''proggy'' tracks on the record (Most notably the title track and the epic ''Disgustipated'', which features nearly seven minutes of nothing but distant cricket chirps), but not enough to really make this a progressive album as a whole.

So, is this album recommended? No, not really. I think any prog fan who wants to get into Tool should definately steer clear of this one, as well as the previous EP ''Opiate'', simply because it may confuse them as to why Tool is even on this website. If you want to experience Tool for the first time, I would suggest either of the following two albums, because what came to pass after UNDERTOW would change the lives of listeners (Including myself) forever. I am so glad that Tool changed their direction after this effort, as they are the reason I am a prog fan today. This album is good, but it isn't really a good prog album, so three stars should suffice.

Report this review (#161769)
Posted Thursday, February 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
2 stars I really do not like this album for a number of reasons really, but the main two reasons are because it's not melodic and it's definitely NOT prog. Intolerance is merely a metal song with pretentious vision; Prison Sex, despite the curiously disgusting lyrics, is an OK song, just listenable; Sober is the only song worth buying this album for, as it is very good; Bottom is too lengthy and not to my tastes; Crawl Away is aweful; Swamp is OK; Undertow is aweful; 4° I have no opinion on; Flood is the most interesting song, nevertheless, still not prog; Disgustipated is a waste o space and time. I cannot listen to this song at all, it boring and really really unmelodic and tasteless. The only thing promising about this album is the drumming, which demonstrates greater drumming to be expected. As mentioned above, the only real good song is Sober, as it's a very famous Tool song. 2stars for being not prog at all, but having a pinch of original and decent material.
Report this review (#163776)
Posted Wednesday, March 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Oh come on this is great!!! This is a bit of a retrospective. It's all there. What is there not to like about this album if you are into the genre? For the uninitiated we're in a Soundgarden ballpark (but way out on left field)

Intolerance introduces the listener to a sound which will become characteristic of this impressive outfit. The lyrics are still a bit unrefined and unsubtle but then we're hardly expecting Seamus Heaney here are we? After all Seamus

Prison Sex. A big one to captivate the audience. GROAN (sorry couldn't resist that one)

Sober: measured, forceful, liberally sprinkled with expletives. For me this is where Tool leave the oppo in their wake. Top notch music and thoughtful non-patronising lyrics:(I am just a worthless liar/I am just an imbecile/I will only complicate you/Trust in me and fall as well/I will find a centre in you/I will chew it up and leave/I will work to elevate you/just enough to bring you down)

Unfortunately Bottom is not quite in the same league (My piss and moans are fuel/I set my head on fire/And smell my soul is burning). And, to be honest musically it is a little bit more

I really like Crawl Away. Difficult break up? Get bit messed up, angry and p****d off. understandable, and a lot easier and cathartic than listening to Steve Wilson whining on for 5 albums.

Oh baby, for the bass players out there (and I don't mean the Hadrien Feraud types) the intro to Swamp Song is sweet. Simple, easy to play but it just oozes and drips sex. Nothing to do with the lyrics or the song but all you bass players will know exactly what I'm talking about. This line just has IT. Can't remember anything about the rest of the song except the rest of the band have to do some stops and a wee middle 8 type thing (turns into a bit of a middle 48) to prove they're still there, but we all know that everyone is just waiting for the line to come back. And like all good things it comes to those who wait. Gorgeous.

Undertow itself is a great Rollin track. Guitar more to the fore. Slightly edgier sound and vocal attack. Percussion is in there rolling crescendos. There's the obligatory chugging grunge guitar although amusingly there's a little play with timing that takes it out of the cliché.

4 degrees interesting nice rhythm. there's just that tad more going on here than the standard grunge to set it apart.

Flood ... sorry nah disappointingly heavy end to an otherwise excellent debut.

not quite the end because of the very weird Disgutipated. Yes, well pity the carrots I say. there's a several minute cricket song with a spoken vocal at the end: sort of the hidden track type thing. I can't really be bothered with that.

Report this review (#165499)
Posted Tuesday, April 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Tool´s debut album Undertow really started a lavine in the alternative rock/ metal circles. It´s a highly influential album and lots of bands cite Undertow as a big influence. For me it wasn´t that big of an experience at first. I listened to Undertow a couple of years after it´s release and discarded it as grunge without melody. The problem was that I was not very sensitive to rythm at the time and I didn´t understand that a big part of Tools´s appeal lies in their rythm section. A couple of years later I was curious and listened to Undertow again and this time everything fell into place. The complex rythms, the subdued melodies, and the overall depressive mood just made sense to me this time. Today I think this is one of Tool´s finest and most memorable moments and I think Undertow is an excellent album.

The music is grunge inspired but with a lot more emphazis on rythm. Tool is a very dynamic band and can go from almost silence to noisy escapades. This would develop more on subsequent releases but here on Undertow it is used most effectively. The songs are some of the most accessible in Tool´s discography and you can even sing along to some of them. The first three songs are all killer tracks that I enjoy very much. Bottom is one of those highly dynamic songs and Crawl Away and Swamp song are also great songs. It´s with the title track that you hear the grunge influence most clearly and I´m thinking Badmoterfinger by Soundgarden but don´t worry it´s only hints. The next song is also very good but with Flood I think they make an error when the intro to that song is drawn out and it becomes boring. The last song Disgustipated isn´t to my liking either and if you ask me they should have ended the album before Flood.

The musicianship is excellent and it´s great to hear that rock music can be played with such depth and compexity without losing it´s commercial appeal. In that respect Tool is pretty unique.

The production is not as heavy as on their later albums but I really enjoy this sound.

I´m one of those Tool fans that thinks their two first album were the best and that they became a bit too experimental on Lateralus so after Ænima this is my favorite Tool album. There are so many emotions at play and with a singer like Maynard James Keenan both anger and despair is released upon the world in healthy doses. Undertow is a unique album and even though it has flaws it´s still excellent and deserves 4 stars.

Report this review (#168275)
Posted Monday, April 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
The Crow
3 stars The first real Tool album, after the good Opiate EP... And this is an excellent metal album! But a prog one? Let's see...

The style is similar than this previous EP, but of course with a better production and sound... And with more memorable songs, of course. The tracks are short, and far from the experimentation of later albums. The music is very riff oriented, and the style of the riffs reminds me to some nu-metal band of the beginning of the 90's, like Rage Against the Machine. Of course, Maynard James Keenan's personal voice is not rap... But the style of Undertow, in my opinion, is closer than nu-metal than progressive or experimental metal.

This special way of making music Tool has, was not really developed in Undertow... Except from some parts of songs like 4 Degrees, Bottom and the beginning of Flood, there are not too many experimental moments, just this amount of heavy riffing mixed with the wonderful Keenan's voice. This personal way of playing Adam Jones has, the experimentation, the crazy sounds... Are almost imposible to hear in Undertow. Just his typical riffing and thick sound. All these imaginative facts would come later, in Aenima and of course in the great Lateralus. The Danny Carey drums are also not so spectacular like in these albums...

But Undertow is an excellent metal album anyway... All the songs are good, and every one of them has something special. The great riffing of Intolerance, the whole Prison Sex track, the brilliant chorus of Sober, the extreme metal influenced Crawl Away, the carchy lyrics of Swamp Song... A bunch of really enjoyable metal tracks. But maybe not too interesting from the progressive point of view.

Best tracks: really, except the weird Disgustipated, I find good all the songs included in Undertow!

Conclusion: if you like the nu-metal style, but without the typical rap singing, and with bit more experimentation... Then Undertow is your album. But this is not the genuine Tool's style yet. The true original and innovative ideas would come later. But Undertow is a great metal album anyway... But if you are searching for something truly progressive or experimental, you'll hardly find it here.

ProgArchives rating:***1/2

Report this review (#170620)
Posted Sunday, May 11, 2008 | Review Permalink

I tried, not once, but several times to enjoy this album. In spite my efforts of blaming only myself of being narrow minded or addicted to modern sounds I simply couldn't enjoy Undertow. And it's no wonder since the album is poor. After a total disaster, entitled Opiate, Tool came up with a wreck in 1993. Undertow is an ordinary grunge record that doesn't add anything new to the genre, that pays tribute to the big rock bands of the early '90s but managed, however, to receive many positive reviews and even went platinum.

As far as I'm concerned, I repeat, I don't like Undertow. Obviously, Tool did their best in bringing Alice in Chains' depressive and nihilistic atmosphere into their own sound but thought of not being just some followers with lack of identity. They tried to make a shift of orientation from the 80's heavy metal to the 90's funk rock. Up to this point everything is OK. What is to come isn't so bright: the guitarist's technique tries to imitate a sort of Tom Morello style but fails and in general, the dynamic, but no very fast rhythm accompanied by some bright (yes yes, Keenan's vocals are sometimes so euphoric that it makes you wander if they hadn't been taken from a child's play typical noise in the magical natural surroundings of a country side back yard with the honey sky shinning in the sky ocean and sending smiles to the little one through the vanilla clouds that carry the child's dream to Imaginationland ... pathetic) really contradict the general depressive atmosphere and results into a big KITSCH. You might say the album features eclectic music, and I'd certainly say you are wrong (hoping that when this happens I am in a good mood). In my opinion, eclectic music requires a well conceived plan of the song so that, in spite the numerous changes of style, the track continues to evolve, from an aesthetic point of view and therefore carries the listener from a mood to another. Generally, such music has a lyrical background that is a concept which implies harsh changes in the narrative line. Check Pain of Salvation's Be for instance. But in Tool's case, the lyrics have no narrative line and/or aren't of a avant-garde substance as in Mr. Bungle's case.

Probably one of the most important reasons that led to my disappointment regarding Undertow is the fact that the songs are diluted. Tool wanted to create a progressive metal album and so, they tried to give the songs a length that would argue the genre. Unfortunately, this didn't help at all. In stead of improving their music, the Americans did nothing but to decrease the velocity, the expressiveness and the value of their album. When you don't have the greatest riffs, or the best rhythm speed can fix these problems. Undertow would have sounded much better if it had been played by Dave Lombardo on drums or, let's say Kerry King on guitar although it's not the best example (darn it, I can't think of anyone else now but you got the idea)

In spite of everything just said, Undertow contains some good tracks. The highlights of this record are Intolerance and Sober. The first one is what the rest of the songs should have sounded like, but, as I see things, the rest of them got f**** up. As for Sober, it's a great song, the guitar creates a great atmosphere, it's also very depressive and the slow rhythm fits perfectly with the short length and the layouts.

On the other hand, the worst moments of Undertow can be found on the last two tracks. Flood is simply stupid. The monotonous intro is longer than the main part of the song which isn't at any point of higher quality than the other tracks. As for Disgustipated, please, some silly percussions and some synth effects on vocals is supposed to be what ... industrial music ??? And what's with the congregation's voice ? Doesn't it sound like sheep's bleating ? Oh, why of course, only that it's the same idea that Ministry used in their samples in the song Psalm 69 from the album with the same name to, I guess, only by coincidence, suggest the same idea, that Christianity is a religion of blind obedience. And (like the track wasn't already horrible enough) they added a unoriginal hidden track, the minutes between it and the song being filled by an irritating sound. I'm not against noise, I'm a fan of Skinny Puppy, but after 10 tracks out of which 8 are failures, trying to annoy the listener can really ruin a band's image.

Before ending this review, I would like to explain why Prison Sex isn't a great song at all. Due to all arguments presented above and the fact that it is LAME, I therefore declare Prison Sex a musical failure in spite of it's commercial success.

Two stars is a fair rating because the album sounds better than Opiate, the producer did take his time in mixing the record, it's the compositions I'm sorry about.

Report this review (#176269)
Posted Monday, July 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Tool - 'Undertow' 2 stars

Comparing this to Opiate is superfluous, but I must.

This is a serious step-down from the debut EP. There is more of a grunge sound to this album then an alternative metal one, alternative is a genre still going strong where as grunge was born and died so quickly like disco. Regardless, Adam Jones and Maynard, the more critically claimed musicians of this band, really take a step down.

Adam Jones struck me as a pretty decent guitarist in some Tool songs, but his creative path had the shortest light of almost any guitarist I know of. Unlike on 'Opiate', he doesn't throw down some nice guitar riffs, but instead now creates one for the verse, and change the rhythm and dynamics on the same exact chord for the verse.come on now, is that progressive at all?

Maynard once again shows how he has such a limited range in his *supposed* perfect voice and singing talents. I'm surprised the band didn't make Maynard redo certain parts on the album. The end of 'Sober', parts in 'Crawl Away' and various other spots on the album.

Overall this album is really weak. The band does not develop their ideas and songs well like the archetypical prog band. Even the songs start to begin sounding the same. The only thing worthy on this album to listen to is 'Sober' which even has a 'Kashmir' like rhythm to it.

'Disgustipated' is one song that would carry on with Tool for the rest of their careers. That is, a useless song that just takes up space. Guess I just don't understand the higher artistic vision behind it (sarcasm).

Since I really don't bother listening to this band besides 'Aenima' or 'Lateralus' I noticed in 'Swamp Song', that they have the same exact riff in my favorite song by Tool called 'Third Eye'. Just what is going on with this band anyway?

After 'Sober' became a hit, Tool just needed a good marketing scheme and a 'troubled' targeted audience.

Report this review (#179968)
Posted Monday, August 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I bought this album in Dunedin, New Zealand. I printed the lyrics. And you know I was so amazed. This is a great debut in my opinion. Songs like Sober, Prison sex and flood are just splendid. Maynard's voice in prison sex is brilliant. Although the album is not so progressive I recommend it for Tool fans and other metal fans. Maynard has such a strong voice I think that he is a great singer and also his lyrics are profound. Musically the best track IMO is Flood, the intro is fantastic. The hidden track is weird but it tells story of life feeds on life. Funny thing is let the rabbit wear glasses. Really strange words on the last song. So I gave it 4 stars.
Report this review (#189876)
Posted Wednesday, November 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars No One is Innocent!!!!!!

Very nice album, even not prog at all. Amazing songwriting, but the music is a bit dull and repeating. Nothing comparable to the rest of theiy career, of course. The musicians' skills are excellent, in particular about Maynard's voice, but I think that the album is too sorrowfull, with few epic moments. the hilights of the album are Sober (one of the mos famous Tool's songs), Prison Sex (with tasty rythm but disgusting lyrics) and Bottom (the proggest track on the album). I'm a Tool fan, so I could appreciate this album. But I think that if you will begin to listening to Tool from this album, you will get disappointed. Better start from Aenima or Lateralus.

Report this review (#209485)
Posted Wednesday, April 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars mmm... not even prog...

I buy this album on a discount in a cd store... I thought it would be interesting, so many people was talking about this mainsteam "prog" band., so I go and spin it like 3 times, then I get the picture why it was in discount... sure no one buy such a bad album... yes, this is not for a prog fan, mantain as far as you can of this album, please...

OK, I don't have any other experience with the rest of the productions of this band, but it's because of this album, that really let me down... I promise to never buy an album without check some songs before or something like that... so, what is wrong about it... let's see...

One, there's no sense at all in the music direction, you know, the songs are filled with little noises and post production efects that really do not bring nothing to the mix... The sound is horrible, seems a little low budget to me, but the problem is that it is intentional... you know, they seem to be too much under Grunge influential at that time, and I like Grunge, but this guys seem to not fit on that mood...

Two, there's no melody at all... the quality of the voice of this guy is horrible -at least in this album, because I like his work on A Perfect Circle-... and the band in general sound too much a "garage band"... Like they were just plugged in and record it below effects of a strange substance...

and last... because the atmosphere is so freaking though... everytime I tried to give the album a chance I always wanted to be out of all that low self estime, axious, dark moods that feel so dense and that don't take you to anywhere, just leave you there feeling pathetic about everything...

So, maybe I give them a shot sometime, but deffenitely not in this album... WARNING, stay away from it... maybe you can contaminain yourself if you stand near to it... one star...

Report this review (#246368)
Posted Monday, October 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Tool's first album is a good debut, but does not achive the same amount of greatness the latter albums have gotten. Undertow is not a prog album, there may be hints of prog here and there but it's mostly a alternative rock/ metal album. There are some great songs on this album like Sober, Prison Sex and Flood. There are also some let downs like Crawl Away and Disgustipated. The latter one is just noice that last 15 minutes. Its these few songs that bring down the album a little. In saying that most of the songs are executed well and sound good. Undertow is a good album and showed promise for what Tool would become. 3 Stars.
Report this review (#255804)
Posted Saturday, December 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
2 stars Back in the early 90's on a summer festival, I saw an amazing live show of a then unknown band named Tool. They started their show with the opening riff from Rush's Passage To Bangkok and obviously I've had a soft spot for them ever since.

Not really for this album though. After the festival, I systematically foraged record stores till this debut was finally available. I couldn't be more disappointed. None of the live energy of this band had been captured in the recording of this album. All songs sound like each others clone and the performance is so lifeless that things rarely get off the ground. Apart from the opener, only Sober and Swamp Song rise out above the unremarkable murk that surrounds them. Sober especially manages to build up quite a tension. Other material like Prison Sex may have become a hit but around the time of its release this had been done 100 times before by bands like Soundgarden and especially Mindfunk.

It always amazed me how Tool managed to become so popular. Not that they are not welcome to it, they are sincere musicians who always followed their heart. But I always thought them not really catchy enough for mainstream and not original and innovative enough for prog crowds. But as it turned out I'm very glad they introduced many youngsters to more challenging music and won many over to prog rock. But it would take Tool a few more years till they managed to record an album that sounded really convincing to me.

Report this review (#259207)
Posted Monday, January 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars The First Step

TOOL's first album is somewhat different from the typical TOOL album: it's still progressive metal, but with a great deal of weirdness. Undertow is their most ''straightforward'' album to date. There is more emphasis on a metal sound, (hey they got Henry Rollins of BLACK FLAG fame doing guest vocals on ''Bottom''), although the spirit of experimentalism is present in this album, in the form of the ultimately disappointing 15-minute epic ''Disgustipated''. Apparently the industrial sounds from this track are the result of the band using shotguns to destroy a couple of pianos in a parking garage. On the other hand, a couple of the band's best known songs ''Prison Sex'' and ''Sober'' are enjoyable to listen to, but are not on the same level as future releases.

Report this review (#260404)
Posted Monday, January 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars First album by this american band called Tool, in 1993 they made this good work, i was amazed by the great voice of james keenard and his dramatic style, giving one of the great forces on the band, and the tune presented in this album by tool consist in the bass line, we are talking about good musicians making some alternative rock with progressive music elemments, and that part of progressive style in tool is obviously with their riffs in the electric guitar, and the good changes in their music, with the bass kicking ass and the drums, as well. this is their debut album,and to be a debutant album is not so bad, with this album tool becomes a great promise for the future as demonstrated with their next great masterpieces, With this work Tool starts giving us a perspective of what the future will become being a good album without being fantastic, we can hear some amazing momments, heavy sounds with interesting changes, a truly alternative style, a lot of heroin addiction, and protest, an album of personal liberation in all the senses. the highlights on this album are:

swamp song: it starts with changing something heavy style, but soon came to megadeth-metallica style, I think somehow the music of tool is based on the sense of emotion that passes Keenan in his life, and transmits them in a certain way in each song.

Undertow: A little of move here, something noteworthy was the great work that Danny Carey make on this song, excellent drummer, and with a strange rhythm guitar, back again with addictive choruses in a style of Protest, Keenan's voice presents a state of himself making protest on his music.

"I think that in this album the voice of Keenan lacks in power" At times I felt hopeless in every song, it seems that every song has the same essence with each other is the case the beginning to Metallica style "Flood "really the beginning reminds me a bit to the era of "Red" by King Crimson, and is an obvious influence on the music of Tool, bombastic melodies, voices in the distance, this song is really psychedelic, but could say that is a good piece I appreciate the great job again on the drums by Mr. Carey, then comes the precious moment of this song 4:29, with a great progressive style and good voices with the rhythm of the drummer sounds really great after we brought in suspense all the music, then returned to the dramatic voices and a screaming Keenan, good ending.

Disgustipated: An interesting song with shades of progressive, dark, bizarre, actually the sound of Tool is grotesque, at times can disrupt, 5:46 is really amazing how keep pace, great, at times like these make you want to give more stars to the album, but we are discussing the album as a "whole" not as a piece. and then leave us speechless and astonished by the lack of respect in the music leave blank, that bad. for that reason I think this album deserves 3 stars at best as a maximum, include shining momments like Sober and Prison Sex the bests one's on the album with great videos too. For these 2 songs I give it 3 stars to this fine debut from a band that would be devoted then as one of the best bands in our time.

3 stars.

Report this review (#269201)
Posted Monday, March 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars It doesn't matter how "proggy" Undertow is...what makes it so good is it's sheer poetic darkness. It may be one of the darkest albums I've ever heard. It's not any typical "I was bullied in high school and I'm so damn metal" type of album, no, this is real despair here.

Every song is full of hatred and lack of hope, painting pictures of no place to hide and no where to run. Beginning with denial and regret, moving on to the cycle of pain and torture, to addictions, to loss of faith, to insanity, to madness, to death, to the flood. Each instrument adds an important factor to the distortion of the music, from the deadly riffs to the Nazi percussion.

It's powerful and dark, but never comes out as weak and annoying, which many other albums that copied ended up doing. If you're into really, really dark stuff, check this one out, I can guarantee you will love it no matter what type of music you're normally into. The only reason it's not essential is because this isn't everyone's music. You can live a life and die without hearing it, but I'd still highly recommend it.

Report this review (#278766)
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
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? 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 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

Report this review (#284883)
Posted Friday, June 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars TOOL's first full length album at least got them on the map and certainly their grungy style with lots of bottom end made a lot of bands and music fans take notice.You have to agree though don't you that this is just a step to what would gain them world wide attention in "Aenima" and "Lateralus".

"Intolerance" has a really good sound to it instrumentally, especially the bass and drums.This is one of my favourites and shows the direction and style the band would develope more in the future. "Prison Sex" is a fan favourite but for me the title and music is "meh". Whatever. "Sober" starts off great with the bass and especially the guitar that comes in quickly. Reserved vocals a minute in. It kicks in with some f-bombs as contrasts continue. "Bottom" again has some killer bass on it. A calm before 2 1/2 minutes with atmosphere. Great section. Henry Rollins comes in with spoken words during this passage. It kicks back in after 4 1/2 minutes. "Crawl Away" sounds so cool when it kicks in with guitar, bass and drums. Vocals as it settles 1 1/2 minutes in. Not for long though. Good song.

"Swamp Song" opens with bass as drums and guitar join in. Vocals too. Catchy tune. "Undertow" sounds great to open with that guitar. It kicks in quickly. Some excellent bottom end here and guitar. I like this one a lot. "4" opens with strummed guitar. It turns heavy with vocals. "Flood" is dark to start out, kind of haunting. It kicks in heavily but slowly before a minute. I like the drumming here. It's 4 1/2 minutes in before the tempo picks up and vocals follow. Nice. "Disgustipated" has lots of silence then some sounds come in and spoken words. A waste.

If not for the last song a solid 3 stars, but i'll give it the third star (barely). Never quite understood why they put disturbing pictures in the liner notes and why they use raunchy lyrics. I guess this impressed the teens back in the day. Gimmicks.

Report this review (#297464)
Posted Saturday, September 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars The band is not down to earth:

Undertow is once more another highly reflective album. The example in reference is for example to listen to your parents for a life long lived.

This group has done so much wrong--meaning drugs, divining, etc they reflect this unto their audience. And so the experience is to like the band members more than your parents where all sorts of reflections are present.

The group forms a not down to earth impression in my mind once listening and is very reflective towards your immediate thoughts.

This group is best to stay away from. They are not in common sense of things and are very good at disguising the obvious.

A performing based group with songs based on religious stances. In my listening experiences this is one of the only groups that thinks religion is a freely democratized idea-- The band TOOL are a bunch of fools waiting for someone to be penitent for their illegal actions. Please serve us for our actions were going under beneath the servants our light is on high we don't belong below--a bunch of bimbo's is their collective conjure in reflection. Placing the servant lineaged light in reference into a focus is a conjure and for their gain is called WICCA?, Streghoria?, Witchcraft.

The song sober is a very good example of a complex conjure saying they support? while going against. The song does not make any sense and this group is not to be tolerated in a private setting such as private purchasing to consumer. They are performance based group mocking privacy, saying the public stage is riddled with the opposite of their complex conjures is not a matter to blame the consumer with. Most public event allow alcohol to be sold at events since it is an event a spectacular--I don't need a lead vocalist serving my alcohol in public or pretending to serve me in the light as if the roles have been reversed--a corkscrew logic (in my opinion?) does not match the occasion.

The band is based on anti-mainland lineages--they are the number 1 conjuring island based group in the USA against mainland individuals. As mentioned in the review this group is performance focused.

The group is Mathematical Progressive--in other words they are most identical to fraternity brothers who can get rid of most problems as mentioned into the lyrics. On this album the example is in the commentaries at the end of the album, the hidden track.

Report this review (#305240)
Posted Monday, October 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
2 stars The first time I heard Tool was when I seen their first video. It was from the Opiate EP and I can't remember the song's name but it had the band members walking around naked with 'Parental Advisory' signs on their naughty parts. I didn't think much of the song itself. About a year later I seen the videos for "Sober" and "Prison Sex". Loved both songs and bought this album. "Prison Sex" is still my favourite Tool song. The lyrics are about child molestation and the claymation video for it is disturbing. But honestly I just like the music and the way Maynard sings; that's why it's my fave.

At the time these guys didn't have a completely unique sound but, nonetheless, didn't sound like most metal bands then. With 2010 ears this sounds to me like a mix of early 80s Crimson mixed with late 80s Voivod. At the time I just thought they were a cool sounding metal band. I think the press referred to bands who sounded like this as "sludge metal" back then. Even on this album you can tell Danny Carey is a great drummer. "Intolerance" is a pretty weak opener. Never really cared for the song. "Bottom" features Henry Rollins doing a spoken word section.

The title track is one of the better songs here. I cannot type the symbol for "degrees", so...."4 [degrees]" is interesting. It starts with electric sitar and in the middle has some tabla. Nice. "Flood" has a really boring start; it takes forever to get going. "Disgustipated" is the most interesting song on the whole album. It starts with what sounds like wood being chopped and Maynard imitating a preacher. He talks about the "cries of the carrots" and whatnot. Then you hear some guitar noises and a loud percussion section where you hear: "This is feeds on life" over and over. At the end you hear somebody talking on a telephone or something.

Tool would get proggier over the next two albums. I still have never heard all of Aenima yet. When it was released I was in my classic rock phase where I accidentally discovered prog. This album deserves 2.5, but compared to Lateralus I have to knock it down to 2 stars.

Report this review (#306516)
Posted Sunday, October 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#412562)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars After hearing and reading so much about this band, with all the people raving about their prog sound, I had to check them out. Luckily, I found this CD used, at a very favorable price.

What I hear on this album is mostly a blend of alternative rock and metal. Occasionally there are a few prog riffs thrown in, and some nonstandard time signatures, but nothing too complex. Although not terribly progressive, I find that the album does stand up as an excellent form of hard rock. I presume fans will tell me that I have to get their later albums to fully appreciate the band. And if I can find the albums at a good price, I probably will do that.

Report this review (#514718)
Posted Sunday, September 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Tool's first full album to showcase their fusion of prog metal and alternative metal leans a little harder on the alt-metal side of the equation and goes easy on the prog. At points the album reminds me a lot of the sound Kyuss attained on Blues For the Red Sun - a fusion of the best of current alternative metal and grunge with older metal traditions. It's a reasonably competently composed and performed album, but at the same time it feels rather bland compared to the more distinctive work the band would come out with later on, and to my ears it doesn't really stand out from other alternative metal pieces from the same era.
Report this review (#610274)
Posted Sunday, January 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#790808)
Posted Thursday, July 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars It must be human nature to draw lines of demarcation between decades because each generation seems to claim theirs as being distinct from the previous ones. Admit it, we all do it. The counter-culture kids of the 60s (I'm a charter member of that clan of rascals) alienated those who grew up in the 50s by gravitating first towards the rebellious, shaggy-haired British Invasion adherents and then towards progressive rock and psychedelia. The children of the 70s separated themselves by embracing a wild potpourri of musical styles along with the disco and punk movements. The youth of the 80s adopted the New Wave-tinted, MTV-led video phenomenon as their own while nurturing the rise in metal and techno pop in their cultural outlook. Then came the early 90s wherein the grunge and the alternative rock sensations became king of the realm, all but shutting down progressive metal and relegating it to the status of passé. From that stagnant atmosphere arose the band known as Tool.

Most of us got our first exposure to the group via their disturbing but fascinating stop-action videos that effectively set them apart from the glut of flannel-garbed sheep herders. Yet it was, of necessity, their music that really grabbed our collective attention. They had their own individual sound that disassociated their persona from the still-dominant Seattle scene altogether while lyrically they presented their scathing views on late 20th century civilization in a brutally honest and undisguised manner that fit right in with what was going on in music at the time. History has proven that nothing has more impact than originality and there's scarcely an artist or group of musicians that have made a lasting impression without that important characteristic being foremost. Tool was the huge yellow sunflower growing up amidst a field of same-colored daisies that grabbed your eye from the word go and made you take notice whether you wanted to or not. "Undertow" was definitely not your parents' rock & roll. A new spin had been spun.

The opener, "Intolerance," revealed that these guys had discovered a totally unique take on riff-driven heavy rock, one that was very dark and massively intense. The song has a tribal appeal rhythmically and avoids the stereotypical structure that was predominant in that era. "Prison Sex" has a more staccato edge to it yet it's not as unorthodox as the previous cut. What becomes apparent is that instead of relying on the tried-and-true hot guitar solo they depend more on melodic interludes to keep things interesting while never ignoring the essential ingredient of dynamics. On "Sober" guitarist Adam Jones uses distortion and dissonance to create gut-wrenching tension while vocalist Maynard James Keenan emphasizes emotion over unintelligible screaming to express his angst. "Bottom" follows and it's a tune built upon a tricky riff but one that drummer Danny Carey expertly tames enough to make it feel completely natural and unforced. I really like how they allow the middle movement of the song to contain open spaces that let the spoken lines create the desired impact. Keenan's armor-piercing, long-held high note will rattle your spine. "Crawl Away" is next. A gritty riff sets the stage for a strong dose of what I'd term more traditional hard rock fare that turns extremely metallic during the mid section.

A hypnotic 6/4 time signature identifies "Swamp Song" as being special and the band constructs a musty, mysterious air to surround it. Jones' enormous guitar tone fills up a large tract of territory all by itself. I especially admire how they always find intriguing alleys to go traipsing down without sacrificing one iota of momentum. "Undertow" is an example of how the group allows Paul D'Amour's bass guitar to play a major part in the presentation instead of just being relegated to the basic foundation. His contributions give all their compositions a cohesiveness that's rarely encountered. The abrupt changes in direction encountered during this number demonstrate their willingness to go outside of their own, self-imposed parameters. A more subtle intro for "4*" offers a nice respite from the weighty density of their music for a moment but, at the same time, I love how they maintain an other-worldly ambience and avoid falling into a restrictive rut of predictability. In particular Maynard makes his vocal be more of an essential instrument in their sound than just a prerequisite addition on top. The beginning strains of "Flood" sneak in covertly before the band explodes into a hellish soundscape so palpable that you can almost smell the burning pools of sulfur. Halfway through the piece another one of Adam's stringent guitar riffs appears, then Keenan jumps in to take the song hurtling over the brink into a red oblivion. This is one of the most ferocious tunes you'll ever hear. The final cut is way off the reservation, an almost 16-minute-long abstract, experimental collage of noises and beats layered over a salesman-slick tirade entitled "Disgustipated." Shy is not an adjective that should be used within several hundred miles of Tool.

Released in April of 1993, "Undertow" only rose to #50 on the album charts but its main significance was that it figuratively broke up the logjam that grunge had created in the stream of modern popular music. Metal, it turned out, wasn't dead in the water at all. It just needed a progressive attitude adjustment in order for it to resurface and make its presence known again. Tool was just beginning to make big ripples, it turned out, and they never wavered from their we'll-let-our-music-do-all-the-talking-thank-you-very-much stance that continues to grant them immense respect from proggers worldwide. 3.5 stars.

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Posted Saturday, September 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars 7.5/10

I know. I know. This here not remember the Tool that would later be hailed as a major force in metal today, but one has to say that Undertow is very different sound grunge / alternative from the early 90s. Although the band is listed as "alternative metal", I believe they are bold enough to escape any definition of genre that you can try to classify.

About the members, they manifest their skills without hesitation, even when dealing with a "debut" (put in quotes because the Opiate EP they had released the previous year). The only difference here is that the bassist is Justin Chancellor, but Paul D'Amour. I have nothing to complain about, after all he is a great bassist (see the introduction of Sober). Maynard James Keenan displays his vocal power and frightening. He's a guy whose singing style is beyond compare: more than that, is a chameleon, since each album his voice is changed (assuming they take three to seven years between an album and another is even understandable) . Adam Jones shows his techniques, and although he is not the kind of virtuosic guitarist, plays an important role in the band's sound, especially considering that they do not have a keyboardist. And Danny Carey, although touch more simply than in Lateralus - ie anything insane polyrhythms - already shows his qualities here.

My first listen of Undertow not impressed me much, but it grew in my heart as the most listened. Still, neither compares to Lateralus, and I would not be surprised if after hearing all four albums the band consider this the weakest. My favorite tracks here are Prison Fri, Sober, Bottom, the title track, 4 th and the first half of Desgustipated (yes, because the other half is a pointless waste descatrável annoys me deeply).

4 stars or so.

Report this review (#929865)
Posted Thursday, March 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tool's "Undertow" is the album that I've listened to more times than anything else. In fact, I probably spun this thing up every day for close to three years after I first heard it circa 1993. But it wasn't an immediate love affair.

There are albums that you hear once, and which you instantly fall in love with. For me, "Undertow" was not one of these. It was a creeper. I had it copied to tape and listened to it in my car on regular rotation, and it didn't strike me as being better or worse than the other things I was listening to, such as Primus or RATM. It was only after several months that I realised other artists would come and go every few weeks - but "Undertow" kept finding its way back into the tape deck, and still sounded great. Moreso, it was actually getting better with every listen.

I bought the CD and it included a special edition live disc as an extra bonus. Many more months went by and it was still the album I craved most. Strange things began happening that I hadn't experienced before. Every month I'd have a new favourite song on the album. First Intolerance. Then 4 Degrees. After about a year of listening it became Flood, a song that was probably their first foray into something proggy.

At that point I realised that, in a very unassuming and gradual way, Tool had become my favourite band. They still are today.

I'm not sure exactly what it is about this album that resonated with me to such a great extent. Most likely, it was an album that was in the right place at the right time. I was a kid still trying to find his place in the world, and many of the themes on the album revolving around anger and frustration certainly spoke to me. They had a cathartic effect and helped me through tough times. Undertow became a convenient pressure valve for me to turn on whenever I felt the need.

The film clips went hand in hand with the music and enhanced the experience further. I remember showing some friends the "Sober" clip and how they recoiled at the odd creatures and themes on display. And how I tried to explain my viewpoint: "Don't you see this guy has been lost and alone for so long, searching and finding nothing, and then when he finally does find something he's incapable of understanding what it means; it's just this ugly, strange creature to him because he has no frame of reference." Suffice to say they didn't share my wonderment at this particular piece of art.

While not really prog, "Undertow" is still an incredible rock/metal album. It's the early beginnings of a band just stretching its muscles, with even greater things in its future.

Report this review (#959260)
Posted Wednesday, May 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Undertow" is the debut album by the American progressive/alternative metal band, Tool.

The full - length debut album is said to have kept the life of all heavy metal in the mainstream media due to it's success. "Undertow" is also the cause of Tool's undeniable later success, being that their debut EP, "Opiate" was not as highly regarded, and did not get them critical reception. Although Tool's later albums, including "Ænima" and "Lateralus", Undertow still remains one of the most highly regarded progressive metal albums of all time.

1. Intolerance

Opening up the album is the first track, 'Intolerance'. The song starts with quiet swooshing synth noises, until the heavy guitar riffs come in to take the stage. The vocal value takes a slight decline in the beggining, ranging from too weak to way too over the top, but the chords and riffs remain excellent throughout. The track gets faster in the middle of the song, and a great heavy bridge leads to the end of the song. A More weak track from the album, but still great. (8/10)

2. Prison Sex

'Prison Sex' is the 2nd single from the album. Starting out with metallic noises, the song amps up with some fast and heavy guitar chords. The bass is getting more and more noticable as the album progresses, however the drums are getting less noticable. The vocals are slightly too loud over the other instruments, but are still great. The song is noticably more heavy, and gets more instrumental time. And the vocals are also in a good key. A nice track from the album. (9/10)

3. Sober

'Sober' is the first single from the album, and also the most highly regarded. The song starts out with an extremely heavy bass chords, and an amazing drum riff leads into the main song. As the song progresses, the drums, bass, and guitar all seem to work as one instrument, and shift into separate ones during the choruses until inevitably joining up again. The vocals are absolutely spectacular in this song, and very nice to the ears. Unlike other songs from the album, 'Sober' is able to be listened to at any time, in any mood, and in any place. Amazing song, and my favorite from the album. (10/10)

4. Bottom

A more subtle and heavy track then it's former songs, 'Bottom' takes the third track on the album. There is no slow moments in the song- in fact, every part of the song is nice and constant. Changes are done when they are needed, and the riffs remain heavy. The drumming is nice and catchy, however the bass is less noticable. A nice, catchy song. (9/10)

5. Crawl Away

Starting with the faint sound of a band playing, 'Crawl Away''s guitar quickly comes in at a fast pace. As the guitar continues, we are suddenly blasted with heavier riffs then we are used to. The guitar remains in the lead, until the bass ultimately takes over. The song is an awesome battle between bass and guitar, while the vocals and drums are taking over the backround noise. An amazing song, and definitely one of my favorites. (10/10)

6. Swamp Song

'Swamp Song' brings us an almost completely instrument ruled song. The lyrics seem to just blend in with the instruments so much it doesn't seem to be there, just adding to the noise. However, this does not make the song un-enjoyable. In fact, it makes the song have a certain flow, giving it a nice, catchy feel. Another great song from the album. (10/10)

7. Undertow

Unlike the other heavy songs on the album, 'Undertow' seems to just have a more dulled down version of the chords. In fact, the production they used seems to be the same they used in 'Sober'. Except in 'Sober', it fit in well. In this song it seems oddly misplaced. Besides that, the vocals are nice and vivid, the drumming and guitar are great also. The lack here is the base, it just seems to be alongside the drums and not playing it's own part. (8.5/10)

8. 4 Degrees

'4 Degrees' is another vocal dominated song, just like 'Undertow', and the other instruments seem to be backround sounds in some places. Unlike 'Undertow', the bridge is absolutely excellent, however the song starts to get quite repetitive. Not much else to say about it. Great, but not the best. (9/10)

9. Flood

A slower track, with more drum and guitar domination, 'Flood' comes in with nice echoey vocals, and nice heavy chords. Where the song has it's errors is that the bridge drags on too long. The bass is the only upside to keep you interested during it. The vocals are basic and sort of bland, until the chorus, which is an excellent piece of Tool vocal work. A nice, but slightly weak song. (8/10)

10. Disgustipated

I don't even know what to say about this finale. Should it even be considered music? I think it is a great work in experimenting with different sounds, but definitely not something to close out nice heavy album like "Undertow". It is an absolutely useless symphony of weird echoey sounds, sheep, radio voices, whistles, and hammers. Not to mention- this song drags on for (15:47). That is just to long for a song that is mostly dominated by annoying mind bending whistles. Other than the whistling, the song has less than a minute of nonsensical lyrics and random sound beats. An awful droning, repetitive ending to the album. In fact, it got so annoying that I couldn't even listen to it anymore. Definitely not worth listening to. (2/10)

Overall, Tool's debut album was definitely the cause of Tool's undeniable rise in popularity. And we can all agree, "Undertow" saved metal's asses when it was starting to fall in numbers of listeners. All later and greater albums have to give credit to "Undertow", for making it possible for Tool to continue on what they do best-make metal music. (Originally written for the Metal Music Archives on August 4th, 2014)

Report this review (#1261821)
Posted Wednesday, August 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tool-Undertow

'Undertow' is the debut studio album by progressive/alt metal band Tool. Tool made a great start with their debut EP 'Opiate', it was unique, heavy, and a bit experimental on the last track. A year later they released their debut studio album, and it expanded upon everything the EP had and more.

The album opens up with the strong 'Intolerance', where Keenan gives a great vocal performance as always. Halfway through, Adam Jones plays some awesome riffs. Next comes the catchy groove of 'Prison Sex', with a great bassline played by Paul D'Amour. One of my favorites on the album is the next track 'Sober', which was surprisingly sampled by electronic band Orbital on their song 'Tootled'. All of the instruments compliment each other amazingly, with a great menacing chorus. The bass is very strong in this song, being heard at the perfect times. My favorite on the album is probably 'Crawl Away', which is more reminiscent of 'Opiate' feeling much rawer. The bridge kicks ass, with awesome riffs and double bass coming after Keenan's screams of 'This is my love'.

The experimental side of the title track of the previous EP, is expanded in such songs on this album like 'Bottom' and 'Disgustipated'. 'Bottom' is another favorite of mine, which starts out with awesome guitar hooks and Keenan's raw vocals. However, about two minutes through the songs slows down to steady drum beats. Distorted guitar plays in the background during spoken word. 'Disgustipated' could be debated on weather it's a 'song'. It starts with slowly speeding up percussion. I really like this part with Keenan's powerful 'This is necessary'. After that comes back on and off a few times, the rest of the song is silent other then a continuing sound.

Overall, even though I wouldn't say it's as good as the albums that would come later, I still find it to be near flawless. After all, you can't go wrong with any Tool album.

(Originally written for

Report this review (#1354918)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars I first heard about Tool when I was in high school. I wasn't a fan then. They were very popular, and after listening to Undertow, it's easy to see why. The band is punchy, sonically and lyrically, with a nuanced metal vibe that supercharges the alt-rock approachability that permeated the mid-90's. Mostly though, Tool was popular because Maynard's passionate vocals and very, very angry lyrics. This is probably where the band lost me. I wasn't nearly so jaded back in those days! This album is a like ball of pent up rage, disgust, and spite just waiting to be let out; for most 15 year-olds trapped in high school, it's easy to see the appeal.

Fortunately for prog fans, Tool has a lot of musical appeal, too, even on this early album where the band is still working out their identity and sound. For an alt-rock album, it's amazingly ambitious and effective; for a prog-metal record, it's somewhat light-weight. The song writing isn't as creative or gripping as we'll hear on their later works, though still great when compared to the sort of standard FM fare we still hear on modern rock radio stations. For me the biggest attraction is the band's playing, which is undeniably great. Each member of Tool is like a dark magician, creating evil spells alone in a corner with their instruments. There's no member of the group that steals the spotlight, with solo moments, for example; instead, the band are consummately focused on the effect that each of their evil spells contributes to the experience. The rhythm section is one of the best in modern rock, and Adam Jones' guitar single-handily creates an astounding amount of noise and effects.

Of course, one can't talk about a Tool album without touching on Maynard Keenan. The guy's a master performer. His emotion and phrasing are well above his peers, though in this early album his lyrics are so focused on frustration and anger that they sort of lose me in the end. The songs have messages, but they're usually about how much the narrator wants the listener to die. Being the listener, I sort of have a problem with that! So for this early outing, Maynard's vocals get a pass.

The album as a whole should definitely be picked up by fans of the band, who on Prog Archives are probably coming from the group's more diverse, experimental, and enjoyable later albums. If you enjoy dark, fuzz-heavy, and menacing metal, Undertow could become a go-to release for you; for me, it's an every once and a while enjoyment.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Report this review (#1571149)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is not Tool's debut album but its their first studio album and also a big improvement from "Opiate" "Undertow" combines this raw sounding with very strong upbeat and heavy songs. For a first studio album it is superb, you can hear the sounding of the music turning more and more progressive with very progressive guitar riffs, amazing vocals and really strong lyrics. There is no single deviation on this album from the beginning to the end of it, all the songs are reasonably short and fast (except for the last track) but all of them are memorable. I actually consider this album to be Tool's real debut, since "Opiate" wasn't anything special for me, "Undertow" excites me in every way because it has a way bigger approach to progressive music and gives a taste of whats to come in the future for this band, this is the real start of Tool for me. For many fans, this is the only album they like from tool, however for other fans, they only like the other 3 and dislike this one and "Opiate". Can be quite understandable since Tool only started to have a big carreer since "Ænima" having very complex music, but I personally love them all, Tool is my favorite band, but you gotta consider that this album is still the beginning for tool, but don't ever think this is a weak or a less significant album, you'd be really wrong, this is a album I love to listen and Tool is in my opinion the strongest modern progressive band there is. Songs in this album like "Sober" , "Prison sex" , "Undertow" , "Swamp Song" and "Intolerance" are just completly unforgettable and remarkable.
Report this review (#1598088)
Posted Tuesday, August 16, 2016 | Review Permalink

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