When you hear the word Tool, metal might not be the first thing to come to mind. We all know that Tool started out as a hard rock band, but their 1992 was more than that. Opiate is still a hard rock album, but it comes surprisingly close to metal, especially for Toolís standards.
First of all, this album is not that difficult to obtain. I have seen it in just about all the major cd shops, and is a hell of a lot easier to get than Salival. The first thing to grab your attention is the front cover. As you can see, there is a horribly demonic priest, holding six hands up in prayer. One can infer that the cover art is making a statement about religion. It is common sense to Tool fans that Maynard is not a fan of organized religion, but itís important to note that it was the initial message that the band wanted to convey. The very title of the album, Opiate, refers to Karl Marxís stance on religion. The rest of the art in the sleeve reminds me of what can be found in Kornís 1994 self titled. Of course, Opiate came out two years before Korn. There is an assortment of shells, clips, wires, dolls, coins, etc. In the four corners are four photographs of Maynard James Keenan, Danny Carey, Adam Jones, and Paul DíAmour when they were children. I may seem like Iím going into extensive detail about the art production, but Iím trying express a very ominous feeling created the ornamentation around the music. Before I ever popped Opiate in, I expected it to be quite dark and haunting.
Right from the beginning of Sweat, I also had an idea that Opiate would be quite a heavy album. True, Opiate is the hardest material Tool has ever put out. Itís not like Slipknot or anything, but it could still be considered metal by some, especially in songs like Part Of Me
and Cold And Ugly
As for Maynardís lyrics, I think itís fair to say that he had lots of improving to do. Iím not saying that he wasnít a capable lyricist, but he just hadnít quite found his niche in song-writing. I am not suggesting that they are painfully aimless as Jonathan Davisí from Korn are, but they are sometimes overly aggressive and directionless. Donít get me wrong, the songs Opiate
have some excellent lyrics. Opiate is obviously the central song to the album, in terms of lyrical content. While catchy, the lyrics are also quite thoughtful and profound.
Choices always were a problem for you. What you need is someone strong to guide you, like me. If you want to get your soul to heaven, trust in me now, donít you judge or question. You are broken now but faith can heal you. Just do everything I tell you to do.
You can imagine how surprising it was to hear back in April that Maynard had found Jesus, and would discontinue work with Tool. Luckily, it was only an April Foolsí Joke. Anyway, what Iím trying to say is Maynardís lyrics really do have their ups and downs. His use of figurative language isnít developed, and sometimes it can seem pointless. For example, Hush
actually has a song meaning; it is directed at censorship in the music industry (it was banned from MTV). Maynard establishes a poise in the song, but he doesnít articulate himself very well. As with most of the album, Hush is very repetitive, with Maynard repeating ďI canít say what I want to, even if Iím not serious.Ē
Basically, Maynard showed promise as a songwriter in Opiate. As I mentioned, the songs Sweat and Opiate have some of the best lyrics on the album. However, Maynard would move on from chants like ďGo *** yourself you piece of ***,Ē onto more articulate phrases like ďWear the grudge like a crown of negativity.Ē Aside from the lyrics, the music is generally very fun to listen to.
...which brings me to the instrumentation. Tools fans and haters alike know that Danny Carey is a technical proficient drummer; this is evident in songs like Lateralus, Third Eye, and many more. What makes him so great is his subtlety, as he blends serene and incredible fills without going over the top. He knows when not to go crazy on the drums, and how to if necessary. This subtlety is not so apparent on Opiate, but then again this is a hard rock/metal album for the most part. The double bass can be heard very loudly throughout the album, making it one of the driving forces. The ending of Opiate has some of the most awesome drumming from him I have ever heard. Obviously, he was still technically able back then, but he hadnít refined his style yet. I donít hold it against him of course. Opiate is Toolís first and heaviest cd, so soft drumming wouldnít be very compatible with most of the albumís material.
Adam Jones is a very skilled guitarist, yet one often noted for his simplicity in his signature sound. Opiate consists mostly of power chords, except it is not the same fuzzy, warm sound he has in the over albums. In my opinion, the guitar sounds somewhat dead or sterile. A great deal of time, especially in Part Of Me, it just follows alongside Maynardís vocals. Adam Jones is one of my favorite guitarists, along with Peter Lindgren and a few others, but his playing is possibly the least promising aspect of Opiate. Despite his seemingly indifferent playing, Opiate actually contains a few guitar solos. Now, you know I donít mean the screechy Pantera shreds, or the elaborate, operatic solos of other metal bands. The solos are melodic, and show small signs of Adam Jonesí talent.
The bass is decent in Opiate. Paul DíAmour, who left the band for musical reasons after the release of Undertow, plays with his signature sound. He delivers his metallic, fresh, and at times funky sound that for the most part contributes to Opiate above Adam Jonesí playing. Some of his most notable performances in Tool are Sober
and the song Opiate. Paul uses some beautiful harmonics that are an integral part of the song.
Snobs out there may complain that Opiate is too simple an album. It is a fairly basic rock album, but it is nonetheless a great album to listen to. As Scruples mentioned, it can easily be listened to multiple times. As it only contains 6 songs, it is less than half an hour (although 6 of their latter songs could easily add up to at least an hour). Itís a small amount of time, and Opiate is a fast-paced album. It just seems to run past you, and before you know it, youíve listened to it 4 times. It can be hard to grasp at times, but there isnít that much to grasp, to tell the truth. Opiate does not fall victim to the over-analyzer fan boys that Maynard discourages in the song Lateralus
. Yes, it is a good album to rock out to, but so are many others within the genre. After all, it is hard rock, right?
When rating this album, it is not fair to compare it to their other albums. Undertow was less hard and more melodic, Aenima maintained some of the rock elements but was more experimental and psychedelic, and Lateralus was marked by the evolution of Tool from hard rock to progressive. Tool was just starting out as a band in 1992, fresh out of the pretentious art scene in Los Angeles. Opiate showed that they were a hardcore band, that had some real statements to make. All fans of Tool should check out Opiate, because itís important to know what Tool evolved from. For fans of metal, you may want to give it a listen, but itís not a particularly special work of metal or anything, just kick-ass. I would be joking if I gave this album anything above a 3/5, or at least it would be quite a biased rating, given the fact that Tool is probably my favorite band. Therefore, for the reasons above mentioned, I personally give Opiate a 3/5.
Sweat - 3.5/5
Hush - 3/5
Part Of Me 2.5/5
Cold And Ugly (live) - 3/5
Jerk Off 3.5/5