It is refreshing to have a band that is playing the game by their own rules; albeit a frustrating set that they never share with anyone else. Tool is a band which has divided the opinions of the ATTIWLTMOWOS people for many years. There is one side who basically worship the ground that they walk on and there is the other side which saying things like 'But their songs are over 4 minutes long, how do you stay away'. I will admit to being on the side that loves this band (but I can get annoyed by some of their antics as well - Maynard, stop selling wine and Puscifer; we want a new album!!! This is their second studio album which was released in 1996. They have never been the most prolific of bands, but they do spend their sweet time making music. This was an international hit when it was first released, spawning 6 singles, videos on MTV and winning a Grammy award for best Metal performance of the title track. But they don't like playing the game, they will perform under their own rules, their gigs are strange and wonderful events to behold, if they do festivals you better be prepared to be mocked and they are just strange in every way it can be possible. So why is it that I love this band so much? Well that is what I want to look into, which I will be doing starting here.
Starting with the hit "Stinkfist" you are thrown into a world of mystery from the beginning. To this day I have not heard an opening that I can honestly say is one of the most powerful statements of intent to ever be laid down in a studio. I can perhaps pick on one hand a few other tracks which have had as much impact in my life (it is not many, less than 4), it is just that good a song. The work of Messrs Keenan, Carey, Jones & Chancellor (this is the bass player's first release with the band) is really strong from the beginning. An epic piece of music to be followed by the almost Arabic "Eulogy", another slice of progressive metal with would have weaker mortals looking to the heavens for the angels and devils who are obviously fighting somewhere nearby. Over eight minutes in length and over far too soon (I could listen to this song all day), you have the strongest opening duo of tracks that was to open an album in the 90's - this is not something to be debated, it is a fact. Following on from this is "H." which to this day still sends shivers down my spine as much as the first moment that I heard those opening chords. It does not take long for the passion of the song to flow and my deity it is wonderful, then middle bridge towards the end is especially amazing.
"Useful Idiot" is a brief interlude before "Forty Six & 2" - the album does have these break tracks which is needed from the intensity that is their full songs. "Forty Six & 2" starts with a hypnotic bass line and simple guitar which is probably one of the most complex things going, having watched these men live I still cannot figure out how they do some of their songs; this is one of them. It is softer (in a given degree of soft) then the opening trio, Keenan is sounding like a wounded saint bemoaning his lot against his creator and it is all chaos from the second minute onwards. Sometimes you have to strain to hear the vocal which somehow adds to the beauty within; also it has an ending like an avalanche of cluster bombs raining from heaven. After this is "Message To Harry Manback" is a strange voice mail interlude which leads onto "Hooker With A Penis" which is the band's response to a fan who accused the band of selling out after their first EP. To say they are not being subtle here is an understatement. Full of vile and venom with a riff hook that will have the soul snared in moments, it is one of the strongest moments in this album; this is a big praise for this song as the record is towering. "Intermission" comes and goes like it should and we flow into the number called "Jimmy". The main riff to "Jimmy" is used as the riff to "Intermission"; the song is about dealing with abuse and the band have been quoted as saying that it is a direct sequel to the song "Prison Sex" from their first album 'Undertow'. It is a slow and disturbing number that is a little shorter than it should be, but it is very harrowing to say the least.
Next is "Die Eier Von Satan" which have a strange industrial beginning, it is a song that was released as a single; this is a really strange choice but it is interesting to say the least. It is actually just a song in German for a recipe for hash cookies. More of an experience other than a song, it is one of those moment that always make this band interesting to me. They are not afraid to try something new, make it sort of light in nature and almost mocking in delivery. It is not all doom and gloom here; but normal service is resumed with "Pushit" and the sound of a world literally gone to hell. The mood takes a darker and sinister turn at this track and it is perfectly delivered. This is the sound of a band hitting their collective stride and knowing how to take on the world. "Cesaro Summability" comes next and it is another interlude with trippy effects and noise till we reach the end trilogy of noise from this monster of an album.
"Ænema" is just as perfect a song as you could have released in 1996. It is a moment of genius that quotes the late Bill Hicks and his sketch about the destruction of Los Angeles and the possible creation of Arizona Bay if it ever sinks into the ocean after an earthquake. I can see why they named the album after this track; it is a pulsing statement about the band's feelings mixed in with Mr Hick's statement as well. It works on so many levels that I am running out of ways to praise this album. "(-) Ions" is strange, it sounds like a storm going backwards with an electronic pulse. I think that the band uses it to rest the audience and to also take the piss; sort of weird again but this what you come to expect with them. Ending the album is "Third Eye" which does start with a sample of Bill Hicks talking about drugs, the song (and the album itself) is trying to open the audience open to experience and to get into position that the third eye is there to be experienced by everyone. Whilst it is not the greatest ever ending to an album ever, it is still an amazing song.
This album is just amazing from beginning to finish, there is not one moment of this album that does not feel wasted, it all feels so natural and as if the album has been around since the dawn of music. Yes it is very pretentious in places; yes it can be up its own arse further than David Cameron is up the arse of Satan himself. This album is one of the most important records of the 90's; this is not open for discussion. It is truly awe inspiring and if you do not have it already, you should get a copy of the album now.
10 out of ten - This is proof that there is a God
Top track - Eulogy
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Tool website here
Tool is not available on Spotify, Deezer or iTunes - basically, you have to purchase the albums as a whole: this is one of those times where that makes total sense.....