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Aenima

Tool's second full-length album released in 1996.

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Aenima: A fraudulent, boring, and juvenille album. 17%

  • Jul 11, 2012
Rating:
-1
If you went back into the late 90's/early 00's and asked me what my favorite bands were, I would have gladly answered Tool and Rage Against the Machine. Back then, I thought both bands were such musically-brilliant, insightful bands because of the fact that they were marketed as bands that were heavy metal yet were insightful and thought-provoking, and being the gullable kid I was due to my lack of knowledge of underground music at the time, I ate them both up like hotcakes. For the last seven years or so, I've been neck-deep in underground metal and industrial bands, and to say that I've burned my bridges to Tool and RATM would be an understatement. Rather, it would be more appropriate to say that I hijacked a TOS-1 Buratino flamethrower tank and not only decimated said bridges with the tank's massive thermobaric rocket payload, but also decimated any nearby engineering firms that could have rebuilt those bridges to said alt-metal bands. Okay, enough of my rambling, on to reviewing Tool's “Aenima.”


Listening to this album as an adult, I can't help but get infuriated by it. This album infuriates me because aside from sounding so drab for being a “heavy” rock band, it totally reeks of dishonesty for the fact that it's marketed as an intelligent slab of music yet it tightly-clings to such juvenille aesthetics that don't gel at all with aesthetics that are supposed to be “higher class.” Even if the juvenille lyrics in some songs are supposed to be ironic humor, it didn't work because I'm not laughing.

MUSICIANS/MUSICIANSHIP

While many of the musicians here have some instrumental talent by themselves, they don't win much points from me because they don't craft much music on this album that I actually like.

Maynard James Keenan is an extremely overrated singer. His vocalwork is one of the main reasons why I hate this album, since his vocals usually are either really bad “anguished” singing or pseudo-aggressive yelling, in which both styles would be right at home with your run-of-the-mill 90's nu-metal (or alternative metal for those who demand euphamisms) or Nine Inch Nails album (yuck).

His songwriting isn't impressive at all, either. So much of his lyrics on this album are like what you'd read from an angry high schooler's notebook who's in an introductory philosophy class, so it's like a mix of bad, angsty poetry and pseudo-intellectual ramblings. Some songs like “Fourty Six and Two” and “Third Eye” exemplify the pseudo-intellectual lyrics, while songs like “Hooker With a Penis” (brilliant song title) have lyrics as if they were yanked straight out of an angry 15 year-old's mouth.

Adam Jones is a guitarist that has skill (though is inferior to the likes of Chuck Schuldiner and Ron Jarzombek), but a lot of what he's made on this album is really flat and uninspired. The only song where any of his riffs and solos sound like there's some energy in them are in “Third Eye,” while it seems like the rest are just grunge/nu-metal riffs played in an “artsy” manner or flat, simplified progressive rock riffs with an occasional polyrhythm. Most of the solos aren't that good, either, since so many of them sound like half-baked, goofy “feedback” solos you'd hear from Tom Morello (another painfully overrated guitarist).

Justin Chancellor's bass is interesting in areas, though nothing that really grabbed my attention. If it counts for anything, at least his bass is more audible in this album than most rock albums out there.

Danny Carey is a drummer that's been showered with tons of praise. Now he is a skilled drummer, but skill with an instrument doesn't mean they automatically can make interesting songs. True, in a lot of the songs on this album, Carey does some neat, technical stuff with his skins, but they can't save the songs for the fact that so many of them are either boring or downright irritating.

SONGS

The only song on this album I'd say is promising is “Third Eye.” In fact, I'd say that for the most part, it shows that when pressed, Tool's rhythm section can come up with dynamic, interesting music (especially since this one clocks in at 14 minutes). However, it gets ruined with Maynard's lousy vocalwork, especially when he screams out “Prying open my third eye!!”.

The “hit” songs like “Stinkfist” and “Aenima” are examples of the grunge/nu-metal songs with an “artsy” glaze applied to them, and boy do they sound annoying. They honestly don't sound much different (or much better) than the typical grunge/nu-metal gunk infesting the mainstream at the time this album came out.

Other songs like “Pushit” and “Eulogy” are examples of trying-too-hard-yet-flat progressive-rock with the occasional “heavy” moments on this album, and when I'm not chuckling at Maynard's attempts to come off as a deep thinker, I'm usually wallowing in boredom over how bloodless most of them feel.

There's filler tracks like “Message to Harry Manback,” “Intermission,” and “Die Eeir Von Satan” that add next to nothing in terms of musical quality, in that they only pad out the running length of the album.

PRODUCTION

The production quality on this album isn't bad, since all the vocals, guitars, bass, and drums come in rather clear. However, like with all music, good sound quality can't save lousy music.

FINAL WORD

Despite all the heavy marketing and hype from the likes of MTV and Tool fans, this album is NOT a progressive metal masterpiece that will stretch your mind and change your life.

If you're looking for some actual metal albums that have brilliant musicianship, innovative ideas, creativity, or thoughtful lyrics (or a combination of any), I strongly suggest you invest your time and money on these albums instead (and yes, I've listened to and own all of these):

Death: “Human”
Cynic: “Focus”
Pestilence: “Spheres”
Phantasmagory: “Odd Sounds”
Atheist: “Piece of Time”
Spastic Ink: “Ink Complete”
Blotted Science: “The Machinations of Dementia”
Gordian Knot: “S/T”
Bunkur: “Bludgeon”
Neurosis: “Souls at Zero”
Godflesh: “Pure”
Blut Aus Nord: “MoRT”
Pan.Thy.Monium: “Khaooohs”
Meshuggah: “Destroy Erase Improve”

Don't be surprised that if you get engrossed in any of the above albums and own a copy of Tool's “Aenima,” that you find yourself getting rid of said Tool album.

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July 18, 2012
Keenan's outfit functions in adherence to a dynamic inverse to that of the post-punk bands (and their successors) who I grew to love during my teenage years: an exercise of great musicianship in service to insipid, mediocre songwriting. Though I agree that Keenan's no singer or personality of especial note, Tool's rhythm section and Adam Jones are tremendously talented. However, dexterity and keen tonal perception do not songwriters make: Tool could best all save a few of my favorite rock bands in competition of instrumental prowess, but they know very nearly nothing of melody, mellifluence, stylistic variety, semiotics or subtext; subsequently, they've recorded nothing that I find especially memorable.

MJK surveys some interesting subjects in and applies metrical arrangements uncommon in popular music to his lyrics, but they're no more profound for his innovations. Even his humor is subject to a wearisome angst, and very little that he's addressed wasn't earlier, more cleverly exploited by Franks Zappa or Black.
 
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More Tool: Ænima reviews
review by . July 31, 2001
posted in Music Matters
Tool is one of the few bands that can indulge in artistic excesses and still retain tremendous commercial success, which I think is kind of strange. And while I say "excesses," a term usually chained to denigrating interpretations, I must emphasize that Tool's artistic nature is perhaps their most striking quality. Combining an alterna-metal aesthetic with more progressive, explorative tendencies, they are decidedly unique. And they aren't just being esoteric and weird. For music fans who like a …
About the reviewer
David Kozak ()
I'm a morbid cynic who thinks very, very differently from most other people. Chances are, if the majority says X is the greatest in its category, I'll disagree with that notion, because I tend … more
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Wiki

With its heavy-duty distortion, weighty rhythms, and cynical lyrics, Tool is a heavy metal band for the '90s. Rather like Metallica circa...And Justice for All, the sound is focused heavily on texture, with vocals and guitars layered one atop the other, and heart-pounding drums underlying everything. There's not a whole lot of variety on Tool's second full-length album--most of the songs start off fairly low-key, kicking into high gear for the chorus, and repeat--but Maynard James Keenan's distinctive voice, the prog-rock stylings over a heavy metal base, and a supremely unhealthy dose of vitriol make this the perfect album to bang your head to.--Genevieve Williams
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Details

Label: Volcano, Zoo Entertainment, Tool Dissectional
Artist: Tool
Genre: Hard Rock & Metal
Release Date: October 1, 1996
First to Review

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