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  • Tool is a band whose music is pretty hard to label. They’ve been called everything from metal, to numetal, to alternative and progressive rock/metal. While they exhibit attributes to all of the aforementioned genres, it’s pretty safe to say that they’ve created a kind of music that’s timeless, transcendent, deep, mysterious, forbidding and intriguing – all at once. To me, their name sums up the music they make perfectly – a “tool” for exploring the mysterious depths of the human psyche. The music usually explores darker themes like pain, anger, frustration and guilt, then regurgitates them into a volatile, yet beautiful and alluring catharsis. How do I describe Tool’s music? I’d say they have the dark aura and minimalist experimentalism of King Crimson, the philosophical bent of Rush and the hypnotic, alluring quality of Pink Floyd – without really sounding like either of those bands. They possess their own distinctive sound. On _Ænima_, Tool creates a 77-minute gargantuan slice of thought-provoking art-metal, which mainly encourages people to look deeper and think for themselves – whether it be looking beyond the surface of cliched beliefs (examples: what people are taught to believe in church, or what’s seen and absorbed from television and more). When the mind is open to ‘too’ much outer influence, the mind is ‘dead’ – therefore, you lack your own thoughts and “you” no longer belong to “you”. Musically, the album is dark and given to adventurous, elaborate and spatial instrumentation – along with eerie and mysterious interludes. The opening track “Stinkfist” is a heavy and fairly straightforward rocker. Maynard James Keenan has one of the most distinctive and ethereal voices in rock today — displaying the innocent, sad, poignant and reflective quality of Joni Mitchell one minute, then exploding into a frighteningly explosive scream the next, which can evoke Chucky, the doll (see the horror film “Child’s Play”, voiced by actor Brad Dourif). “Eulogy” begins with some spoon-like percussion and eerie guitar lines (which evoke King Crimson). It then turns into an explosive rocker. Maynard’s vocals are particularly beautiful and impressive here. (Note: if you’re new to this, don’t make the mistake of thinking the percussive opening lasts forever – it doesn’t). “H” showcases guitar ambience, tribal-like rhythms (from drummer Danny Carey) and explosive sections. “Useful Idiot” is the short interlude (which sounds like an ending of a scratched record) that segues into “Forty Six & Two”, which is probably the most popular Tool track on this album. “Message To Harry Manback” is an interlude of an angry immigrant badmouthing the American nationality (which I find quite hilarious). “Hooker With A Penis” is pure confrontational metal at it’s best. I think lyrically, this has to do with the music business (and the whole “selling-out” thing). It may have had something to do with a fan accusing Tool of doing just that. “Intermission” is a short keyboard piece (evoking that of a sports/arena anthem). It’s actually a short ‘keyboard’ version (or opening) for the next track “Jimmy”. This along with the rest of the tracks are the most “elaborate” on the disc. “Die Eier Von Satan” (German for “The Eggs Of Satan”) is a recipe spoken in German. The backing music sounds almost industrial/death metal-like, containing shrieks and sadistic “slaps”. “Pushit” is a heavy rocker, which shows off Danny Carey’s complex, precise and intricate rhythms on the drum kit. Some of Maynard’s vocals here reach ranges that weren’t heard anywhere else (on this disc, or on any other Tool album). His Gaelic-ish vocals near the end (backed by a guitar/bass progression of 5th’s) are truly poignant. “Cesaro Summability” sounds like guitar/amplifier feedback – fronted by baby screams. “Ænema” is a profane, dissonant heavy rocker, with snaky rhythms galore. Maynard James Keenan describes the city of Los Angeles – and says that it should receive an “enema” — flushing it all away. “(-)Ions” is an eerie, dissonant and whirry interlude. I personally find this ethereal. “Third Eye” probably sums up what this album and Tool’s music stands for in general — thinking for yourself. The beginning dialogue features a sample taken from one of comedian Bill Hicks’ standup routines. He says that many people denounce drugs – yet drugs have done something powerful for us – they’ve helped ’some’ musicians provide us diehard music fans with what many of us consider “the best music of all-time” (examples: The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who – these are only a handful of ‘revered’ bands that have had certain members of each use drugs before). The ‘third eye’ is referred to as the human brain. Like the actual human ‘eye’, it absorbes and processes things (for benefit or detriment). When to ‘open’ (take in, absorb, believe) and ‘close’ (neglect, reject, refuse) the organ is our choice. The music on here features many instrumental and experimental twists and turns throughout it’s 13-minute playing time. _Ænima_ is an album that can take weeks, months and years to decipher. The lyrical and musical complexity is nearly infinite – to an almost unfathomable degree. It’s an album you can listen to for years and still find new things to discover — lyrically, musically and thematically. Tool has created music that can only be called timeless, transcendent, infinite and futuristic. _Ænima_ is a timeless masterpiece. Highly recommended.

    Posted on February 8, 2010