Taking LSD and listening to Tool’s full-length debut Undertow is a bad idea. I’ve never done acid myself, but my inner voice has always held firm: “Don’t ever do that—and if you did ever do that, just be sure you’re not listening to that album when you do.” Released in 1993, Undertow practically rubs the listener’s nose in the most disturbing corners of the psyche. To listen to it, by definition, means having to confront ugly truths. Fans of heavy music tend to pride themselves on their tolerance for grim themes, but while Tool’s music seethed with anger and darkness, it tapped into a primal vulnerability that no amount of macho posturing could fend off. Back then, the band was genuinely scary.
We look back on the ‘90s through a nostalgic lens, so it’s tempting to regard the angst typical of the era as quaint. But it wouldn’t be fair to lump Tool in with, say, the self-immolating negativity of Nine Inch Nails’ 1994 landmark the Downward Spiral or even Korn’s blunt references to molestation and sexual pathology on their self-titled debut from the same year. You couldn’t just sum Tool up as rage draped around de-tuned guitar riffs. Yes, the riffs and the rage were both crucial, but the instruments all swayed within the tempo as if the entire band were playing underwater–a potently mesmerizing effect, especially when coupled with frontman Maynard James Keenan’s lyrics.
Even amidst the wave of transgression sweeping through the culture at the time, a song like “Prison Sex” stood out as especially provocative. Sung from the point of view of a childhood sexual abuse victim who in turn grows up to assault children, “Prison Sex” dares you to empathize with its protagonist, who ends up observing the “shit, blood, and cum on my hands” at the end of the song. As hard-hitting as that image is, you don’t have to take it literally to grasp its basic message: that we all, in some way, shape or form, perpetuate the patterns that have been inflicted upon us. Can you think of a song more brave in its willingness to go to such an ugly place?
I first heard Undertow in the drab, featureless dorm room of a college friend I used to smoke weed with. My friend was fond of taking hallucinogens and immersing himself in whole albums, and he had a particularly strong attraction to Tool. He insisted that if you watched Keenan perform, you would see that Keenan never blinked. Like my friend, I fell in love with the band’s music immediately, but found Undertow’s baleful intensity too gripping to handle even on weed. Now, to be fair, I once had an overly strong reaction watching a live Genesis DVD too. But I had good reason to be as wary of Tool as I was fascinated.
The grainy photos in the Undertow cd booklet oozed with a vibe that wasn’t quite body horror, but was still creepy and unsettling: Keenan’s teeth and gums enlarged through a magnifying glass, his mouth pried open; original bassist Paul D’Amour with acupuncture needles stuck in his face; drummer Danny Carey’s face rendered as a blur. (“That’s what people’s faces look like when you trip,” my friend explained.) And then there’s the centerfold picture of the band’s drum tech lying naked on top of a full-figured model, also nude. That should have been the first clue that Tool enjoyed pulling your leg just as much as pushing your buttons, but the line was too blurry to tell the difference.
As a total package, Undertow looked a hell of a lot like a gateway to other, likely dangerous, planes of perception. Clearly, Tool wanted you to think as much, from Carey’s use of sacred geometry on screens behind his drum kit to the band’s self-presentation as adherents of lachrymology, or “the science of crying.” In a 1993 piece that ran in Spin as a preview of that year’s Lollapalooza, Keenan described the practice as “an individual approach to delving into suffering.” Of course, we now know there’s no such thing as lachrymology, but speculating about it with my friend gave me a titillating thrill, as if we’d discovered a secret underground cult. It’s endearing to think than an entire generation of fans was sitting in bedrooms, imagining mysterious rituals just like we were.
In that same piece, Keenan was also quoted as saying “You’ll hear what you want to hear; you’ll hear what you need to hear” in the band’s music. My friend certainly did. Undertow closes with a miasmic aural collage titled “Disgustipated,” which begins with a gentle sound that resembles a wood block. I can still remember my friend, his voice grave, turning to me and saying, “You have to trust me on this. I listened while tripping and I know–I know–that’s the sound of a guy jerking off.” I had to fight back laughter, but who was I to tell him he was wrong? (Months later, when I saw the band live for the first time, I stared at Keenan and, to the best that I could tell, never once saw him blink.)
Tool struck gold with Undertow, propelled in part by heavy MTV rotation of the eye-popping claymation videos for songs like “Prison Sex” and “Sober,” both the brainchildren of guitarist Adam Jones. The band became a household name and a staple of corporate radio with the follow-up, 1996’s Aenima, the first indication that Tool’s outlook was shifting from bellicose self-reflection to something resembling new age mysticism. Then the gaps between albums started getting longer. Between Aenima and 2001’s Lateralus, the alternative rock paradigm essentially cratered, yet Tool re-emerged just as relevant as ever. The band took another five years to put out 10,000 Days,but went on to headline Bonnaroo alongside Wilco and the reunited Police.
Ten thousand days haven’t gone by since that album’s release—that would be a little over twenty-seven years—but it’s beginning to feel that long. The tenth anniversary of the release of Tool’s latest album came and went at this time last year. Even Kabir Akhtar, the one-time superfan who founded the fansite toolshed.down.net, started to lose hope ages ago. Launched when Akhtar was a sophomore undergrad—he’s now an Emmy-winning TV editor/director who’s worked on shows like Arrested Development and New Girl as well as the Academy Awards—the Toolshed, named by Keenan himself, actually pre-dates the band’s official site. It was once a go-to destination for insider info and a haven for fans to chat with one another, before the advent of social media and blogs. Needless to say, the geek-out quotient was quite high.
By any generous measure, eleven years is an interminably long wait. There’s still no official word about when we can expect new music, even though the band has issued sheepish, none-too-reassuring hints for years now. Somehow, though, Tool continues to maintain its hold on the public without so much as trying. All but a handful of the North American dates the band is scheduled to play this May and June have sold out without the benefit of a single, aggressive promotion, or even so much as a tease for a new release. Meanwhile, these days young children perform Tool songs on YouTube, in widely celebrated clips like this one (with over 14 million views) and this one (which features Carey himself).
Watching those two clips, the contrast between what this band represented 25 years ago and its current position looks deliciously preposterous. It’s strange to think that a band this uncompromising could burrow so deeply into our collective awareness. Not long after the release of 10,000 Days, the band’s official website served a parallel function as a kind of incubator for alien abduction narratives. Carey himself shrugged it off as goofy fun at the time, but it was clear that Tool had intentionally positioned the website to cater to a fringe community of UFO enthusiasts—another example of stoking a sense of mystique while also capitalizing on the habits of an audience that had come of age just as online interaction started driving music careers in the mid-’90s.
Sadly, the extraterrestrial-themed pages are no longer active on the site, which has now been molded into the generic industry standard. The tongue-in-cheek humor is gone, but if you Google terms like “Tool band alien abduction,” a delightfully strange rabbit hole of message board activity opens up. You might want to go down that rabbit hole, because once this run of shows wraps up this summer, who knows how much longer it’ll be for an album that more and more looks like it’s turning into a white whale for a following whose devotion apparently knows no bounds.
This article is about the Tool album. For the song from the album, see Ænema. For the Portuguese band, see Aenima (band).
|Studio album by Tool|
|Released||September 17, 1996|
|Recorded||September 1995 – March 1996|
|Genre||Alternative metal,progressive metal|
|Singles from Ænima|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Ænima|
Ænima ("AH-ni-ma") is the second studio album by American rock band Tool. It was released in vinyl format on September 17, 1996, and in compact disc format on October 1, 1996, through Zoo Entertainment. The album was recorded and cut at Ocean Way, Hollywood and The Hook, North Hollywood from 1995 to 1996. The album was produced by David Bottrill.
The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart upon its initial release, selling 148,000 copies in its first week. It was certified triple platinum by the RIAA on March 4, 2003. The album appeared on several lists of the best albums of 1996, including that of Kerrang! and Terrorizer. The title track won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1998. In 2003, Ænima was ranked the sixth most influential album of all time by Kerrang!Rolling Stone listed the album at No. 18 on its list of The 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time.
Ænima was Tool's first studio album with former Peach bassist Justin Chancellor.
The title Ænima is a combination of the words 'anima' (Latin for 'soul' associated with the ideas of "life force" and a term often used by psychologistCarl Jung) and 'enema', the medical procedure involving the injection of fluids into the rectum.
Promotional singles were issued, in order of release, for "Stinkfist", "H.", "Ænema" and "Forty-Six & 2" with just the first and third receiving music videos. Several of the songs are short segues or interludes that connect to longer songs, pushing the total duration of the CD towards the maximum of around 80 minutes. These segues are "Useful Idiot", "Message to Harry Manback", "Intermission", "Cesaro Summability", and "(-) Ions".
Themes of the album include Egyptian mythology in a seven-pointed star symbolizing Babalon, and sacred geometry in dividing the planet into grids related to chromosomes. The liner notes included references to ketamine producing dissociativeanesthesia as well as Timothy Leary, ritual magic, and religious fundamentalism. The band dedicated the album to Bill Hicks (a comedian who the band felt was going in the same direction as them) and said this album to be partly inspired by him. The inside cover displays art featuring a painting of a disabled patient that shows a resemblance to singer Maynard James Keenan and Bill Hicks depicted as a doctor or "healer" with the line, "Another Dead Hero". Lines from Bill Hicks' standup set, "One Good Drug Story" and "The War on Drugs" are sampled before the song "Third Eye".
Demo versions of the songs "Pushit", "Stinkfist", "Ænema", and "Eulogy" were recorded with Paul D'Amour on bass, before he left the band. These appeared online in early 2007. D'Amour also worked on "H.", as he is credited as a co-songwriter on ASCAP's website.
Danny Carey labeled L. Ron Hubbard as the subject of "Eulogy".
Speculation has surrounded the song "H." The "meaning" of this song has seldom been detailed by the band, as they do not regularly comment on such things. However, on several occasions, specifically on November 23, 1996 during a show at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, Maynard did grant some insight into the meaning of the song. Speaking to the audience, he said, "Any of you ever seen those old Warner Bros. cartoons? Sometimes there's that one where the guy is trying to make a decision, and he's got an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Seems pretty obvious, right? The angel is trying to give him good advice while the devil is trying to get him to do what's bad for him. It's not always that simple, though. A lot of times they're not really angels or devils, but friends giving you advice, looking out for your best interest but not really understanding what's going to be best for you. So it kind of comes down to you. You have to make the decision yourself. This song is called 'H.'" The song was discussed live during a few other shows around this time, one example being on February 23, 1997, when Maynard introduced this song by referring to the shoulder angel and devil, and also said it is about a hurtful yet dependent relationship. In an interview Keenan gave in December 1996, he commented, "My son's name is Devo H. That's all I'll say." It is also of note that the song's working title was "Half Empty", as it was introduced during a mini-tour of California by the band in December 1995. In the book Teachings of Don Juan, a Yaqui Way of Knowledge, Carlos Castaneda refers to a character named H. Keenan.
The track "Useful Idiot" features the sound of the needle skipping at the end of a gramophone record growing louder as the track progresses. The track was set at the end of side 1 of the vinyl versions of Ænima as a joke to fool those who owned the version. The song (on vinyl) not only ends in a locked groove, which requires manual lifting of the needle to end playback, but also continues on the run-in groove of side 2.
"Message to Harry Manback" features calming new-age piano music and the background noises of seagulls while a message from an answering machine plays. The person who leaves the message is reportedly an uninvited Italian houseguest of Keenan's; the guest consumed much of the available food supply and spent much time on the phone. Upon being forced to leave, the guest called "Harry Manback", a pseudonym for Keenan's friend, and launched into a diatribe against him, forming the basis of the message. There was a follow up message that the guest left on the answering machine which became "Message to Harry Manback II", found on Salival.
"Hooker with a Penis" refers to a fan who accused the band of selling out after their first EP. "OGT" is taken to stand for "Original Gangster Tool". Keenan whispers in the left channel throughout the song. At 1:41, "consume, be fruitful, and multiply" may be alluding to Genesis, which contains the phrase "be fruitful and multiply" six times. During Lollapalooza 1997, a version of "Hooker with a Penis" remixed by Billy Howerdel in the form of lounge music played over the public address system between sets.
During 1996 concerts, Maynard told audiences that the song "jimmy" is the sequel to "Prison Sex", and how it's about getting through the abuse. It is preceded by "Intermission", a short organ adaptation of the opening riff of "jimmy".
The fourth, and most controversial segue is the NDH style "Die Eier von Satan". It is introduced by a distorted bassline giving way to a heavy industrial guitar, starting at the :23 mark and lasting only ten seconds, playing a single chord in Drop C tuning over a reversed drum beat in compound triple meter or 9
8 time. The lyrical component of the song is spoken in German by Marko Fox, bass player for ZAUM and SexTapes. He is backed by a sound that resembles a hydraulic press, and crowd cheering and applause that increase in volume as the lyrics are read with increasing ferocity. These combined effects make the song sound like a militant German rant or Nazi rally. While the tone is aggressive, the speaker is merely reciting a recipe for a cannabis edible. The band tried working titles like "The Final Recipe" (playing on Final Solution) and "Holocaust in 9
8", an allusion to the 1972 Genesis epic "Supper's Ready" and its final sections "Apocalypse in 9
8" and "As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs". The song was originally translated by Gudrun Fox. According to Blair McKenzie Blake, the maintainer of the official Tool website, "Die Eier von Satan" originally were cookies that "Marko Fox's grandmother used to bake for him as a child, without using eggs as an ingredient. The substitution for eggs is a magical incantation from the worm-eaten pages of some moldering grimoire." This magical incantation ("sim salabim bamba sala do saladim") is taken from the German children's song "Auf einem Baum ein Kuckuck" and popularized by Harry August Jansen. According to the lyrics, the special ingredient besides this "incantation" is "a knife-tip of Turkishhashish". The title is a play on deviled eggs, translating to "The eggs of Satan" in English or "The balls of Satan", due to a German double entendre of "eier", which can either mean "eggs" or testicles. While there may not be eggs, "balls" do appear in the form of "ground nuts" (150 grams) while the dough itself is rolled into tiny balls before baking. So far the only time it has been performed live in its entirety was on December 19, 1996 at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. The track has been compared to the work of industrial and experimental artists such as Einstürzende Neubauten, Rammstein and Tom Waits.
"Pushit" was titled as a single word to emphasize the ambiguity of the pronunciation in regard to the "s" word (push it on me/push shit on me). An alternate version of "Pushit" was performed live, including an Aloke Duttatabla solo, and appears on Salival.
The song "Third Eye" contains samples of comedian Bill Hicks. The title may be a reference to Hicks' assertions that psilocybe mushrooms could be used to "squeegee [one's] third eye clean." A goal of the album as a whole was to "open people up in some way and help open their third eye and help them on a path."
"Ænema" makes lyrical references to Bill Hicks' set Arizona Bay, in which the San Andreas fault collapses, purging the continent of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula which would give Arizona its own oceanfront. This is further illustrated in the lenticular map under the CD tray. The alternate spelling for the song emphasizes the "enema" portion of the combined title also used for the album; in this way, it differentiates the meaning of the song (with California's collapse seen as a 'flushing out' for the country) from the meaning of the album (the "anima" emphasis indicating a spiritual, Jungian focus for the album in its entirety) while retaining the song's placement as the title track, though the differing spelling and pronunciation marks a different approach from other Tool albums that are named directly after songs (Opiate,Lateralus and Undertow) or sections of songs (10,000Days).
Many regional versions stated the track times for tracks 3 and 4 in reverse. This is noted on all pressings from Australia, UK, and Europe.
The packaging for Ænima was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Recording Package. North American pressings of the album were packaged in a custom lenticularjewel case (called a "Multi-Image CD case" in the liner notes) for the cover and interior disc tray. The cover art and other images in the liner notes can be set behind the lenticular "lens" to create an effect of sequential animation. European pressings of the CD featured a standard case, and the insert contained a catalog of sixteen humorously titled "other albums available by Tool".
The special images used for the lenticular effect are:
- Cam de Leon's painting Smoke Box, with animated smoke and encompassing eyes.
- A touched-up version of Cam de Leon's painting Ocular Orifice, with the pupil of the eye animated to rotate completely around.
- A photo of contortionist Alana Cain, legs wrapped behind head. Shown sitting on a couch to the right are Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor, Adam Jones and Maynard James Keenan while Danny and Maynard are both nude covering themselves. Maynard stands up whilst covering himself and is shown throwing a single rose to the ground in front of the contortionist. Another photo of the contortionist is also on the disc itself.
- An image of California before and after a major earthquake is shown in the tray behind where the disc lies – a reference to the song "Ænema" and the Arizona Bay sketch by Bill Hicks. The inlay image of the US incorrectly depicts the Oklahoma Panhandle with Cimarron County being in the state of Texas. It is unknown whether or not this was intentional.
Upon its release, the album was met with generally favorable reviews by mainstream music critics, citing the band's innovation and ambitions within the album's sound. Rob Theakston of AllMusic gave the album a positive review, stating that "Tool explore the progressive rock territory previously forged by such bands as King Crimson. However, Tool are conceptually innovative with every minute detail of their art, which sets them apart from most bands." Jon Wiederhorn of Entertainment Weekly said that Ænima was "one of 1996's strangest and strongest alt-metal records".David Fricke of Rolling Stone said that the band shoves "their iron-spike riffing and shock-therapy polemics right up the claustrophobic dead end of so-called alternative metal in the name of a greater metaphysical glory", calling it "very admirable" and "even a bit impressive", going on to say that "the best parts of Ænima come when Tool just let the music rip".USA Today's Edna Gundersen cited it as Tool's best release, adding that the combination of the band's sound combined with the vocal capabilities of frontman Maynard James Keenan creates an album that is "Pandora's toolbox".
Among negative reviews, The Rolling Stone Album Guide was extremely critical of the album, citing its weaknesses especially when compared to the likes of the band's later releases: "With Aenima, the band's ambitions nearly get the best of them. The increasing density of their relentlessly downcast music, augmented by occasional electronic noises, begins to feel ponderous. 'I've been wallowing in my own chaotic insecure delusions,' Maynard James Keenan mutters, and the music indulges him. The claustrophobic production doesn't help."
On March 4, 2003, the album was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and has been certified platinum by the ARIA and platinum by MC. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart upon its initial release, selling 148,000 copies in its first week of release. As of July 7, 2010, Ænima has sold 3,429,000 copies in the US.
The album appeared on several lists of the best albums of 1996, including that of Kerrang! and Terrorizer. The track "Ænema" won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1998. In 2003, Ænima was ranked the 6th most influential album of all time by Kerrang! In 2006, it placed 14th on a Guitar World readers poll that attempted to find the best 100 guitar albums. In 2014, readers of Rhythm voted it the third greatest drumming album in the history of progressive rock.
All lyrics written by Maynard James Keenan. Music composed by Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor, Adam Jones and Maynard James Keenan unless otherwise noted.A demo tape containing early versions of Stinkfist, Eulogy, Pushit and Ænema can be found online listing Paul D'Amour on bass. This clashes with the official ASCAP registration of Ænema where Chancellor is credited as the composer in place of D'Amour. However, there is no proof that the bass player on that demo tape isn't Chancellor.
|1.||"Stinkfist"||Carey, D'Amour, Jones, Keenan||5:11|
|2.||"Eulogy"||Carey, D'Amour, Jones, Keenan||8:28|
|3.||"H."||Carey, D'Amour, Jones, Keenan||6:07|
|5.||"Forty Six & 2"||6:04|
|6.||"Message to Harry Manback"||1:53|
|7.||"Hooker with a Penis"||4:33|
|10.||"Die Eier von Satan"||2:17|
|11.||"Pushit"||Carey, D'Amour, Jones, Keenan||9:55|
- David Bottrill – keyboards, producer, engineer, mixing
- Alana Cain – model (contortionist)
- Cam de Leon – artwork, computer illustration
- Fabrico DiSanto – photography, photo assistance
- Gudrun Fox – translation of "Die Eier von Satan"
- Adam Jones – production, artwork direction
- Jeremy Glasgow – assistant percussionist
- Concetta Halstead – producer, design
- Bill Hicks – audio sampled on "Third Eye"
- Billy Howerdel – guitar tech, 'Pro Tools' technician
- Joel Larson
- Karen Mason
- Jeff Novack – photography
- Mark Rappaport – effects consultant
- Keith Willis – artwork
- Kevin Willis – producer, art direction, paintings
|1996||"Stinkfist"||Mainstream Rock Tracks (U.S.)||17|
|Modern Rock Tracks (U.S.)||19|
|1997||"H."||Mainstream Rock Tracks (U.S.)||23|
|"Ænema"||Mainstream Rock Tracks (U.S.)||25|
|"Forty-Six & 2"||Mainstream Rock Tracks (U.S.)||22|
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