Some bands have a kind of snowball effect on the listener. At first, you won't like it. You don't care for it. It's dumb. But then something, some little thing, brings you back. Soon you'll think the music is kinda okay. Then you want to listen to a few songs. A few albums...
CONSUME THEIR DISCOGRAPHY.
for instance. I listened to Vicarious
, loved it. Went out and bought 10,000 Days without thinking. I didn't like any songs except The Pot and Vicarious
, and I kinda liked Jambi. Sold it... and a year later... for SOME reason, I wanted to hear it again.
Now I'm kicking myself for selling it, and I can't really seem to stop liking Tool
. They're just a great, great band. After giving 10,000 Days that second chance, I moved tentatively to Undertow
, only to rip through the other two albums as well. I find every Tool
album the same, in the respect that initally, I can't quite grasp the songs in a way that makes me really enjoy them. Slowly, bit by bit, every song starts to grow on me.
Here I am after listening to every Tool
song, planning on reviewing all four. I've done a 10,000 Days review already, so I'll continue with the debut: Undertow
Unlike the other three Tool
albums, I find Undertow
to be a more 'accessible' album. It has a great classic metal tone to it, and while it isn't overly flashy it manages to keep interest throughout.
The songs aren't quite the masterpieces that Tool
would be writing later, but they're still well-written and highly enjoyable. From the bouncy and energetic 'Prison Sex
' to the melancholy and dramatic 'Sober
', there's enough ranges of emotion to satisfy most people. The instrumentation on this album is great. Just frigging awesome.
The vocals on this album, done by Maynard James Keenan, are just.... wow. Perfect. How did the band find him? He's perfect. Agressive, yet disciplined. Angry
, yet melancholy. Lots of range, lots of energy, lots of enthusiasm. He really showcases his range right from the opening track, 'Intolerance
'. You'd think a song with the line 'You LIE, CHEAT and steal, LIE, cheat and steal,' used about 15 times at least would get boring, but the way he builds up his energy from note one to a clencher of a climax makes this song not only interesting, but one of the highlights. His whisper-singing at the beginning of 'Sober
' really grabs me, and brings me in emotionally. He complements the whole album.
The drums and guitars are above average too. While there are no solos anywhere on here (a little dissapointing, admittedly), its made up for with great riffs on every song. There are filler riffs, but the really memorable riffs are paced in such a way that it doesn't matter. The fact that not all of the attention is placed on the guitars is another thing that makes this little problem insignificant. The drums are tight, technical, and downright awesome. They keep great beats without losing pace, they keep everything really moving. The drummer has a lot of style too-- he keeps to his deeper drums, adding to the muddy feel of the album.
Right, time to talk about the bassist. The bassist gets his own paragrapH.
Now, a lot of bands out there tend to have this outlook on the bassist:
"Fuck him. Hey, if he wants to get up during the recording of the song to take a dump, no one cares. We can't hear that guy anyway. What's his name again? I don't think he has one. Let's just call him 'The 63rd Session Bassist we've had in a montH." Not Tool
. As with every instrument, Paul D'Amour is absolutely involved in the music, and I feel that without him and his bass there would be an extremely noticeable difference. It adds a lot of sludge and muddiness to the album, bringing the grit out, and defining the album's atmosphere. It's just fricking fantastic bass work. And
at no point is it consuming, but it shows up at the perfect time, and you can hear it almost as much as the guitar. Yup, Tool
sure makes up for its lack of two guitarists with this bassist.
The album has eight standard songs, with your chorus, your range of emotions, your rock n roll attitude... and then it ends with Flood, which is about 3-4 minutes of wicked drumming with a simple guitar riff and underlining bass, followed by 2-3 minutes of lyrics. It's a really good song, thick with atmosphere, and it stands out well. And
then... Disgustipated. Now, other reviews I've seen for this album have just skimmed over this last 15-minute monster of a track, but I'm not going to. I wanna talk about this one. Many would call this weird... but I think I understand it. Opens up with a drum beat. Ominous
, eerie. A voice, distorted, comes in, preaching the word of God
to a congregation of baahing sheep. (Anyone getting it?) It's followed by chanting from the singer ('LIFE ...feeds on... LIFE ...feeds on...') and it gets more and more intense, and then it breaks out into six minutes of crickets chirping. Now, I wouldn't complain, because there's a song I like called Obolus
that has an off-the-charts run-time of 45 minutes. The last 34 minutes of that one is crickets chirping. BUT. But. Disgustipated has something that follows the crickets chirping. A story narrated in the second-person, overly ominous. Listen to the words the narrator is saying; they're fucking freaky. But I think this song could've drastically improved had the crickets been put AFTER the story. Would've given the listener time to reflect on what they just heard. The story interrupts whatever trance the crickets may have brought about (if you even let the song play that far) and sorta pulls you out, and then ends, without anything to keep you there. If it had ended with crickets and eventually tapered off... I dunno, I guess I'm sorta rambling. Another point to make before I stop talking about this song is that it just doesn't fit. It doesn't really feel all that right after hearing the heavy metal in your face songs of Undertow
. But maybe that's the point of the song. If you don't like this song, or think it's too wierd, listen to this in the dark. ...Or better yet, in the dark, with the TV switched to a channel where all the channel shows is fuzz and static. The effect is amazing.
is a good album. The instrumentation on this album is just phenomenal. It's very tight, full of good riffs, wicked drumming, AUDIBLE bass, enthusiastic singing. A good way to get into Tool
, I think.
The only thing that I don't like about this album, the thing that brings it below the standards of the next Tool
albums, is the fact that this isn't overly unique. Sure, every instrument and Maynard blend perfectly. Sure, every band member pulls more than his own weight. But I feel Tool
could have been doing more with interludes, solo sections, instrumentals, and the like. There isn't way too much that sticks out with me. Some of the songs kind of take the same tone, or similar tones, and on the first few listens some of them seem to blend, particualrly from tracks 4-6. Also, not much fun deciphering these songs... but I wouldn't be able to make that comment without hearing other Tool
songs first. I guess no one expected amazingly cryptic songs choc-full of highly cryptic and intelligent lyrics, so I can't really complain. There is Disgustipated, which I had fun pulling meaning out of. Anyway
, saying that this is my least favorite Tool
album isn't saying mucH. Every Tool
album is great in its own way, and there's no wrong way to get into them... you just need to give them time to grow on you. It took me over a year to start to like them, but I think maybe if I had started with this album, a more accessible Tool
album, I wouldn've gotten into them quicker. I don't know. I will say this though: don't let this album pass you by. It's great.
Songs I would recommend to get you into the album would be Prison Sex
(highly catchy, energetic) and Sober
(melancholy, slightly unsettling, very passionate).