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Tool - Ænima CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.09 | 890 ratings

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3 stars Well, well! Proudly bring forth your resentment, spite and hardened hearts and get prepared for an onslaught of heavy riffs and powerful, rhythmic drumming when joining in on this angry, sweaty, grunge/alternative metal diatribe.

Taut, collected guitar riffs hammer or punch the unwary listener around in a harsh, but compositionally precise and uncluttered soundscape. Occasionally it almost overwhelms you in a stickier, sludgier way, coming down in thick slurs of viciously distorted power. It is supremely visceral. The drumming also helps with that, continuing the theme of gut-meets-precision via powerful, distinct rhythms (and near-tribal polyrhythms) that follow the shifting dynamics brilliantly. Adds a wonderful amount of body to the music. There is a tendency to alternate between tense, calmer and more deliberate bits and full-blown noisy catharsis, but without it ever really disintegrating into the looser, more whirling sounds that lurk in the shadows. Just a bit too disciplined for that. Menacingly, the bass rumbles on in the background, often in a sort of prowling repetition of a phrase or two. Sometimes it switches places with the guitar in filling the role as melodic lead, leaving room for a distinctly grittier melodic sound as well as percussive distortion from the guitars. I rather like that.

Under all this you find a nondescript collection of bits and bobs from the darker and more ominous parts of the industrial and psychedelic lost-and-found boxes. They sneak or slither in as metallic or electronic atonal or droning sound effects as well as wobbly, scratchy and eerie guitar overlays and Eastern-tinged percussive goodies. Especially prevalent in the short, mood-setting segues between the longer compositions, they also turn up as rare, twisted splashes of colour in between the guitar/bass/drum hegemony. Goes well with the overhanging sense of dread, isolation, urban grimness and angst-ridden, frothing frustration.

Keenan does a fine job marrying the vocal delivery with the music, elegantly following the dynamic back-and-forth between the sadder, mellower, slightly reflective and the venomous eruptions of hateful frustration and aggression.

It is a nice package and an album that makes me feel something. I love how visceral it is, I love how disciplined and hard-hitting it is. But the ideas are spread rather thin. After a while everything feels like the same song six times over, with the dynamic and compositional complexity never really reaching such heights or branching out into enough new and unexpected places that the initial interest in renewed. A bit of a one-trick pony, sadly. But if you are really into this stuff and find the time and energy to really dissect it - who am I to argue? It is possible I just do not appreciate the style enough to stay focused throughout.

So to sum it up, Ænima refuses to pay off as a long-term investment and slightly overstays its welcome each and every time. But you can still squeeze around twenty random minutes of great music from it every time you hear it. Not half bad.

3 stars.


LinusW | 3/5 |


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