TOOL is one of the most popular, influencing, and groundbreaking bands of all time. Through combining unique lyrical content, progressive metal, and a very recognizable sound, they have become a landmark band in rock and roll history. With their long-awaited fifth album, “Fear Inoculum,” TOOL still seems to be creating these innovative metal masterpieces to this day. For a 30-year-old band, this is incredibly impressive.
However, TOOL peaked, in my opinion, with their near-masterpiece of a sophomore album: “Ænima.” However, it is unfortunate that this amazing album is bogged down with some unnecessarily bloated tracks, and some really out of place ambient and musical interludes.
On a positive note, this album might have one of the greatest opening tracks of all time, and that is the band’s moderate hit: “Stinkfist.” This song not only sets the crushing tone of the rest of the album, but it is also an incredible standalone single for the band. With lead singer Maynard James Keenan’s emotionally devastating lyrics, complex time signature work, and bass and guitar tones that just explode the eardrums, this is a song that encapsulates everything that makes TOOL the influential band they are.
Riding off the fire from the opening track, comes the nine-minute epic known as “Eulogy.” Starting off this song comes a hypnotic, almost three-minute intro that keeps the listener guessing when the song will explode into a barrage of heaviness. The suspense pays off, as when the song does come down hard for the first time after the first verse, it feels like a tidal wave of sound. Keenan also maintains his incredible vocal range from the previous track, providing that incredible TOOL experience once again.
Skipping down a few tracks, listeners will run into one of the band’s larger hits: “Forty Six & Two.” With lyrics that go into depth on human evolution, this song is another example of Keenan’s excellent and insightful lyrical content. However, where this song truly shines is the hypnotic bassline invented by the band’s second bassist: Justin Chancellor. Equal parts hypnotic, equal parts hard-hitting, this bass line has implemented itself as one of the best in recent memory.
To close the album, the title track and “Third-Eye” also provide some of TOOL’s finest work to date. There is not much to say about these songs without repeating myself, as they accomplish the same things that make the other previously mentioned songs great.
With this overbearing amount of great songs, this album seems to be an unstoppable force of great music that has no way of slowing down. However, this isn’t the case at all.
This album contains some of the most questionable placements of musical interludes. By questionable, I mean between each song past “Eulogy,” which can get super annoying. These interludes do nothing but interrupt the flow of the album which is at its best when the actual songs are playing.
The only interlude in the whole album that really works in the album’s favor is “(-) Ions.” What makes this ambient piece work so well is that it builds suspense to the highest degree, and is a great lead up to the devastating “Third-Eye.” Weird vocal samples, ear-piercing electronic whooshing, and a great follow up song make this one of the better moments on the album. If only the other interludes held the same purpose and impact.
Another cripple to this album’s mastery are a few boring and dragging songs that don’t keep interest too high. These would include songs like “Pushit” and “H.” which have amazing instrumentation and lyrical content but don’t seem to hold me in like the rest of the amazing tracks on the album. These songs are too long, too boring, and slow down the flow of the album just as much as the interludes I despise so dearly.
With TOOL’s one in a million sound and their crushing energy, it is easy to get sucked into anything they do and regard it as a masterpiece. However, “Ænima,” which is widely regarded as the band’s masterpiece, is far from being a perfect album.
However, when it comes to the skill of the players, Kennan’s amazing singing and songwriting, and some of the best songs in the metal genre to this day, the merit this album holds is too strong to ignore. Although bloated and sometimes frustrating to get through, the pros outweigh the cons, and by God, the pros of this album are just awe-inspiring.
I just hope this review will pry open a new TOOL fan’s “third-eye” to this incredible, albeit flawed, listening experience.