Tool Ænima- 1996
RMR Album Rating- 9
Tool’s second full-length album, Ænima, marks their transition from an alternative/ grunge metal band to a progressive/ art metal band.
Personally, I think art metal is a better description of Tool’s sound than progressive metal. Tool is certainly a progressive band, but the term progressive metal draws comparisons to bands like Dream Theater, Symphony X, and Shadow Gallery, with which Tool has nothing in common.
Ænima is not a story style concept album, but there is a central theme that runs through the whole record and ties all the songs together. The theme is about seeing the world from a new perspective, which Maynard refers to as seeing the world through his third eye. “Third Eye” is also the last and most epic track on the album.
In addition to “Third Eye,” there are 8 other traditional songs, and then 6 musical interludes that connect some of the songs, allowing the album to function as one long piece of music.
Initially, the short musical interludes might sound out of place, but I have come to view them as a critical part of the album, as the running time of the album is just shy of 80-minutes, and without these short musical interludes, I think the album would all run together. The other 8 traditional songs are excellent, and I have a hard time picking favorites because they all have music and lyrics that are both powerful and artful at the same time, and each song has its own unique vocal and instrumental hook.
“Stinkfist,” the opening track, sets Tool’s signature sound for the album right away. On the surface, its lyrical content presents some pretty intense sexual ideas, but in my opinion, the true meaning of the song is about becoming complacent with anything in life, to which one is overexposed. I also really like “Eulogy,” which starts out slow but then builds up and explodes with an onslaught of furious vocals and instrumentation. Lyrically the song is about evangelical religion, and the closing verse of “Come down/ Get off your fucking cross/ We need the fucking space to nail the next fool martyr” is extremely powerful.
The title track is also a real highlight. Lyrically, it is about an apocalyptic time where California breaks away from the country and sinks into the ocean, and— like “Eulogy,” it also has an outstanding lyrical climax: “Because I’m praying for mayhem/ And I’m praying for tidal waves/ I want to see the ground give way/ I want to watch it all go down/ Mom, please flush it all away/ I want to see it go right in and down/ I want to watch it go right in/ Watch you flush it all away.”
In closing, it is rare that an 80-minute album can keep my attention, but Ænima easily does, and it actually flies by once you get a feel for it. Lastly, I will circle back to the album’s theme. I owned and enjoyed Ænima for years before I really looked into the song meanings, but once I explored the album on a deeper level, it absolutely enhanced my overall listening experience.
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