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  • Precise, complex, and richly textured, the songs on Aenima move rock-n-roll to places it’s never been before. This is some of the best music I’ve ever heard. The lyrics on this CD will make you think as well as feel: The vocals, guitar, base, and percussive elements combine effectively to emphasize a contrast between intricate melody and distorted screams of raw energy and emotion. Williams’ copy-and-paste editorial review above misses the true content of Aenima by universes: To say “There’s not a whole lot of variety” and “high gear for the chorus, and repeat” in the same breath as “Tool” post Aenima (or Undertow for that matter) is incomprehensible nonsense. It’s tempting to fill up the rest of the space with a diatribe on the distilled inaccuracies in Williams’ short review … but only because the review’s inaccuracies, by contrast to reality, illuminate key elements in the music.One word Williams got right was “texture”. Perhaps “vitriol” too, to be fair, although MJK’s lyrics seem to indicate his meaning is something beyond that: Near the end of the arguably (delightfully!) vitriolic song “Aenema”, he urges the listener “don’t just call me a pessimist … try and read between the lines”. But texture is certainly a key element that makes the music of Tool the rare animal it is: The very antithesis of repetitive, it turns out. The song “H.” is a good example: Even when a refrain is repeated in the lyrics (and then only once in a 6:07 long song), it has mutated into something different from what was heard the first time though. If you listen to what’s happening underneath the lyrics, the guitar, base and percussion are modulating the rhythm, note emphasis, and the notes themselves throughout the song. In a more insightful review by J. Ivey, Ivey observes: “Eschewing the time-honored tradition of repeating a hook until it’s beaten into the listeners head, Tool creates a striking guitar line and then casually abandons it. This in turn is then replaced with a new hook , only to be replaced again, all with fluid ease.”I’ve had to listen to some songs dozens of times to catch even half of what’s going on. Many of the song had a raw feel at first, but this is deceptive: Listening more attentively, I can’t help but think they are actually very precisely mapped out and must have taken many, many hours in the studio to produce.Tool’s lyrics often lay open and explore unpleasant, under-examined aspects of human nature: “Gee, what’s under here Wally? Uhg. Oh…yak.”. Sort of like a Francis Bacon retrospective.I think the heart of Tool’s appeal (for me, at least) lies in what I perceive to be a Rejection of commercialism, “pop culture”, the recording industry itself, and the insipid inanities we’ve become largely desensitized to that wash over us in waves via television newscasters, sit-coms with laugh tracks, radio talk-shows, newspapers, and the internet, as enterprises compete for our almighty advertising dollar.The form of the music follows the function of great art: An alarm clock ringing, a wake up call. Or, perhaps, like a small stake in the heart of a very large vampire, Maynard is trying to set us free from a self created, soulless existence. Then again, maybe I’ve just been listening to too much Tool lately. :-)

    Posted on February 8, 2010