Tool
Undertow


3.5
great

Review

by Acanthus USER (46 Reviews)
August 6th, 2011 | 64 replies | 4,756 views


Release Date: 1993 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Strikingly Tool, subtly different, and perhaps even more controversial than later albums.

12 of 12 thought this review was well written

When Undertow was released in 1993 the world must have been a strange place; grunge was in, pop was a far different carbon copy than the top 40 listeners hear today, and metal wasn't doing so great as far as the mainstream was concerned. Along came Tool, who having previously toured with Rage Against The Machine, Fishbone, and Rollins Band to help promote their Opiate E.P. were ready to make waves that are still being felt to this day. Undertow is easily readily recognizable as an Tool album, yet sets itself apart from the groups later efforts; the layering, Maynard James Keenan's slightly more subdued and less developed vocals, and the tinge of darkness found throughout Undertow are all unique to it and it alone.

Undertow is bass heavy, and while the same could be said for all of Tool's albums ex-bassist Paul D'Amour really left his mark on Undertow's sound. His not-so-subtle work on "Sober" and "Prison Sex" alone are now an iconic moment for longtime fans, and throughout the albums 68 minute run time the audience is continuously underneath the powerful spell of his bass. Front man Maynard James Keenan is also far more gritty, here his voice is layered deep within the interweaving lines of bass and guitar, the sharp sounds of the drum heads sounding almost as loud as his beautiful crooning. Guitarist Adam Jones is on top form here as well, though it's interesting to pick out the subtle differences between his early sound and skill set compared to that found on the bands latest release. As was mentioned before the album is layered quite well, Danny Carey's drumming is neither overpowering nor extremely technical providing the perfect backdrop for Maynards mad-scientist ideas.

"Sober" and "Prison Sex" were Undertow's two singles, and while both are fondly looked upon by fans and early-Tool purists "Prison Sex" is by far the more interesting of the two. Featuring lyrics about child abuse it was quickly taken off of MTV, rather than hurt the group it only strengthened the bands image. The passion in Maynards voice as the lines "....you look so precious, won't you come on up closer, close enough so I can smell you. I need you to feel this, I can't stand to burn too long. Release in sodomy, Oh, for one sweet moment I am whole" grabs the listener and refuses to let go. The bass line only add to this musically induced fantasy, and as the guitar starts to quietly soar it becomes rather clear that Tool really just might deserve all the ego-stroking longtime fans have laid upon them; even in the groups early career they were not afraid of upsetting people and making their opinions known.

Though the album is not necessarily fast paced none of the tracks are slow enough to cause REM sleep; "Swamp Song" certainly starts off slower, but the energy in "I hope is sucks you fucker... I hope it sucks you down" and the guitar lines break any semblance of slow that might have been creeping into the listeners mind. "4 Degrees" is by far the most laid back track to be found here, and yet if the track was any faster the impact it makes lyrically would be lessened; Tool know what they are about with Undertow, even none of the "filler" tracks that some say plague later releases are to be found here.

One of the strikingly Tool aspect of the album is that even with their debut the band really had a knack for strangely enticing songs. Hidden track "Disgustipated" is both thought provoking and lyrically gold; the plea of a field of carrots on harvest day being compared to genocide is something not many would think of, let alone telling their tale through a religious vision. The lines "They have a consciousness, they have a life, they have a soul! Damn you, let the rabbits wear glasses, save our brothers!" conjures up an image of a tent filled with sweating church goers, fans in hand, eagerly devouring a rather porky pastors every word. As the pastor asks "Can I get and amen, can I get a hallelujah?" not only do human voices respond, but so do the ba's of sheep; Maynard is reported to have spent almost an entire concert ba-ing at the audience due to the venue being owned by the Church of Scientology. The power "Disgustipated" builds to a striking crescendo as what seems to be a rabbit squeals, quickly leading up to Maynard's distorted "This is necessary, life feeds on life feeds on life." The line is set to the pumping and subsequent firing of a shotgun and is far more powerful than it should be. As the guitar fades and the endless chip of a lone cricket fills the remaining eight minutes of the track the listener realizes that they have just spent over an hour locked within one mad, vineyard growing, lyrical wizards brain.

Undertow broke Tool out into the public eye; the back-lash from the single "Prison Sex" and their subsequent lifelong fight against censorship are the beginnings of one of the most egotistical groups ever to receive occasional air time. With a lengthy release schedule and annoyingly rabid fans Tool staked their claim in whatever genre the listener felt like placing them in. While it is the groups first album there is not the normal identifier of a debut; Tool appear to have known what they were doing from the start. While subtle changes to the groups sound have been introduced over the years Undertow remains a solid release, and if the year is taken into account it could be argued that the album was groundbreaking.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Acanthus
August 6th 2011



9537 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I get annoyed at track by tracks or reviews that seem to dance around issues, so here's one to replace all those.

Thoughts? Relevance? Issues? Lay 'em on me.

Digging: The Cure - The Head on the Door

Parallels
August 6th 2011



6640 Comments


Cool, Tool.
Pos.
Good Review too.

Acanthus
August 6th 2011



9537 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks man, I appreciate it!

Parallels
August 6th 2011



6640 Comments


np man, tool is great, although half this album i pretty much do away with

Acanthus
August 6th 2011



9537 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Do you like their other ones or is it all rather hit/miss for you? I can't listen to them all the time, and some get high marks for the memories associated.

Parallels
August 6th 2011



6640 Comments


Aenima is a damn near perfect album but for some reason I don't find Lateralus as wonderful as people often claim it to be. I don't think of Tool as a truly all-around groundbreaking band (except for Aenima), they just have some really powerful grooves. I would probably get slapped by a Tool nerd for saying it, but Forty Six & Two is probably my favorite song.

eggsvonsatan
August 6th 2011



1087 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

46&2 is great. No shame in that.
Good review although it reads more like a 4.

kangaroopoo
August 6th 2011



3175 Comments


Nice review, album is awesome.

Firestarter
August 6th 2011



276 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Brilliant review, although it does read like more of a 4 than a 3.5

JizzInMyPants
August 6th 2011



2368 Comments


fuck you for saying sober is inferior to prison sex

@ Sonicspeed

listening to 46 & 2 is equivalent to watching a powerful being evolve into an even more powerful being

FearThyEvil
August 6th 2011



12286 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Is this similar to Lateralus? That's the only album by them I've heard.

Nah Aenima is more similar to it.

KronosRage
August 6th 2011



367 Comments


Album is ok

Maniac!
August 6th 2011



26246 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, but when you quote lyrics, italicize.

Wheelah
August 6th 2011



756 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Not bad. I don't really like it as much as I used to, but there are some great tracks. I love "Swamp Song". Pos.

Maniac!
August 6th 2011



26246 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Swamp Song is the best here

someguest
August 6th 2011



20344 Comments


also, do [size=2] [ / size] to get around the censorship.

Digging: Your Old Droog - Your Old Droog

pizzamachine
August 6th 2011



12571 Comments


Excellent review, I didn't know you listened to Tool.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
August 6th 2011



10585 Comments


Excellent review, love this album. Too bad it gets over shadowed by every other tool release.

Digging: United Nations - The Next Four Years

Wizard
August 6th 2011



19240 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Undertow is easily readily recognizable as a Tool album,

*is an

Though the album is not necessarily fast passed none

*paced

There were a few more mistakes throughout as well. Nice, informative review.

Digging: Cloak of Altering - Plague Beasts

Acanthus
August 6th 2011



9537 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks Wizard and Maniac, I'll get to fixing that.

Someguest - I'll keep that in mind, I have forgotten how to manipulate the size.

I realize it reads like a 4, might change it but I'm not sure I enjoy it enough for that to be honest.

Pizzamachine/Sonicspeed500 - yeah I love Anenima to death, and I've yet to hear Lateralus. I've been listening to them for a few years, turns out that when I was shanghaied to New York that Aenima was still receiving radio play up there.



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