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Tool - Ænima CD (album) cover

ÆNIMA

Tool

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.08 | 987 ratings

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Kempokid
3 stars When the topic of prog metal gets brought up in a discussion about music at any point, Tool is likely one of the bands that you'll hear being mentioned, with their mix of prog and alternative metal being able to appeal to quite a wide audience in a compelling, intelligent way. That is of course, when they're at their peak. While Aenima is undoubtedly a huge step up from the extremely one note Undertow, I personally still feel as if the band hadn't quite matured at this point to be able to make an album that was truly great. While the compositions became far more complex, refined and explorative, I believe that the album lacks a couple of extremely important things, the biggest being variety. This album mostly conveys a very limited range of emotions such as anger and hatred, without much positivity to go around, something that probably could have worked better if not for the other issue here, a lack of restraint. Most of these songs could probably be cut down by a couple of minutes without much hassle, and the interludes throughout also weaken the overall experience, especially when you take into account the length of this album, overall making it an impressive album in some regards, but one that fails to completely stick the landing.

With all that said, the album opener, Stinkfist is extremely strong, with an incredibly groovy riff that gives the song a really fun energy that carries on throughout the entire song, with the nice, mid-tempo feel being absolutely perfect. The other aspect of the song that really solidifies this being as good as it is is how smoothly, yet effectively the chorus escalates the aggression of the song. Eulogy continues this trend very nicely, starting off with a similar sort of minimalistic intro before the dense instrumentation bursts in. While I may have complained about the limited emotional range here, I cannot deny that when Maynard goes all out, this vitriol is so powerful, as it is here. The sarcasm that can be heard through the heavily distorted vocals of the verses is a prime example of this, even if the chorus may be a bit on the lacklustre side. The best moment of the song is easily the last couple of minutes where Maynard just starts shouting and the sarcasm becomes pure rage backed up by some amazing riffing. Similarly, the song Hooker With A Penis stands out for almost entirely ditching the slower prog sensibilities in favour of creating a hard hitting metal track that is absolutely full of aggression in an entertaining way, especially with how clearly pissed off Maynard is throughout, even compared to most of his other songs.

Usually on this album, when a song is good it's because of one of 2 reasons, either the riff is good, or the chorus is good, which is what makes the eerie, mysterious sounding Forty Six & Two such a beloved song amongst fans, beginning with one of their absolute greatest intros, with a slow, sinister buildup backed up by an incredible riff. The quieter nature of this first couple of minutes is easily one of the best cases of Maynard being more nuanced in his delivery as the band backs him up perfectly, with a much less dense instrumental section creating one of the only truly different sounding songs on the album. The 2 other songs that deserve a lot of praise are the title track and Third Eye. Aenima is an entertaining, fast paced song with a really fun chorus, and while it may not do anything too out there or unique, it definitely is one of the best realised tracks on the album. It's pretty clear why Third Eye is considered such a good track on the album as well, being 12 minutes in length and not wasting a single one, fully embracing their proggy side to create such an expansive track that demonstrates just how great prog jamming can truly be under the right circumstances, all leading up to the greatest moment on the album, where everything stops outside of Maynard screaming 'prying open my third eye' as the drum beat feels as if its thrashing you on the back of the head with a hammer, bringing the album to a close on an incredibly high note.

Of course, as previously mentioned, I don't think that this album is all good by any means. The biggest problem I hear is a combination of issues that ultimately result in a large issue, and that's the mixing combined with the lack of variety that can be found here. Despite some songs being able to make the best out of this, I often found the songs here to sound extremely muddy with a lot of the finer details feeling completely washed out, which when combined with a lot of the songs sounding very similar, leads to an album that I end up forgetting a number of the tracks outside of very specific moments within them. I also feel like they could have cut out a good 20 minutes of this without anything too major being lost, in terms of songs, this especially rings true to both Jimmy and especially Push-it, neither of which managing to leave much of an impression on me at all outside of it being cool that Jimmy's opening riff is a slowed down version of Intermission. The interludes are where the album really becomes less enjoyable than it needed to be, since it hits a point where after H., literally every second track is another pointless interlude, with the only one that's even marginally of value being the aforementioned Intermission, simply because I love the Monty Python and the Holy Grail vibes it gives off.

Overall, while I definitely believe that this is a much better constructed and written album than Undertow, I still don't believe that Aenima is truly where Tool displayed a lot of their potential, with a lot of the incredible stuff being balanced out to a degree by mediocrity and pointlessness. I definitely find this an album of merit, even if a lot of it comes down to some individual moments rather than a case of being consistently great, but I really think that this could have been a much better album if it were only 50 minutes and they cut out the pointless filler. At least Tool stopped having so many interludes after this album, at the very least.

Best tracks: Stinkfist, Forty Six & Two, Aenima, Third Eye, Hooker With a Penis

Weakest tracks: Literally every interlude, Jimmy, Push-it

Verdict: Better than mediocrity doesn't necessarily mean amazing, as Aenima proves. For as great as some of the songs here can be, the album is needlessly long and bears a similar problem to Undertow in terms of being at times painfully one note. Fortunately, despite saying that, I feel like there's a really great 50-minute album hidden in here, and many songs are just straight up incredible to the point where I can forgive it to an extent.

Kempokid | 3/5 |

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