Review Summary: Aenima is an adventure from start to finish, with energetic songs full of rage and spirituality, strange space-taking fillers and a conjuring of magnificence that will go down as one of the most inspiring and prodigious record of the 1990's.
Undertow spiked Tool to become a name in the media. With hits like "Sober" and "Prison Sex", Tool became a popular name in the music industry. Now it's been a few years and Tool is ready to get together for a new album. Halfway through the recording however, Paul D'Amour quits and Tool is left without a bassist. But they're in luck. Travelling from the UK from a band called "Peach", Mr. Justin Chancellor joins and vigorously renovates Tool's sound. Is the outcome great and full of invulnerable energy and anger, or does it ruin Tool's pre-established sound they broke out with in Undertow?
It's difficult to understand your emotions after hearing Aenima. It's a complicated album which is a huge leap from their past effort, Undertow. Aenima tackles themes about life, including anger, frustration, social issues and romantic schisms. This is a recurring theme in Tool's lyrics throughout all of their releases. The lyrics are powerful and use clever wording to instigate thought and lyrical analysis to engage the listeners to look inside what he's talking about, even when there's some humor involved. The album opens with 'Stinkfist', which is reminiscent of their past LP, with growling bass, basic but somber riff, intricate drumming and vibrant vocals. The diversity in their songs is incredible, which could be a tad bit difficult to digest at first, but when you finally take it in, it's spiritually powerful.
I do consider the fact that Tool's themes and musical instrumentation could be too convoluted and intricate to really enjoy for some people. It's true, Aenima is truly not a record for everyone. But for the people who chose to enjoy the inventive songs, they are taken into a spiral of emotions from anger, sadness, glee, with a kick of spirituality to get the carry the mind and soul into a whole different universe. It's inventive indeed. With the eerie intro to "Eulogy" is a bit strange for the average listener, but as it escalates into zenith, with melodic chorus, driving bass lines, droning percussion, rich riffs and breathtaking vocals. Maynard's vocals are twice what they were on both Undertow and Opiate. His voice goes to low and basic registers, to screaming at the top of his lungs, voice ringing and echoing as your emotions struggle to understand what is really going on here. Even "H." is an exciting song with heavy bass, guitar, and drumming. It really reaches it's climax with Maynard screaming the vicious lyric "I don't mind" as the band pounds their way with aggressiveness and fury to the end of the song. The majority of the songs are exactly like this. Powerful and intricate, they are true works of art.
Now, near half of the album are not songs. They are bizarre and anomalous filler tracks that mostly convey interesting and riveting noises. "Useful Idiot" spills repeated hisses, "Message to Harry Manback" where a serene piano track plays under the speaking of a man communicating a distasteful message to the government of America. "Intermission" is a silly synth track that plays the melody to "Jimmy", and in my opinion is the separation of the album, as it is titled 'Intermission'. There's the horrific noises of babies crying and strange noises of "Cesaro Summability". Then there's the very peculiar "Die Eier Von Satan" ,which translates into "The Eggs of Satan", which is a almost Satanic sounding rhythm played under a man repeating the recipe of eggs. These could confuse and scare listeners, but is in fact showing the immense artistic and creativity the band possesses.
Aside from the fillers, there are still some intoxicating songs here. "Hooker with a Penis" is a wicked-sounding and very heavy tune that is full of rage and hate. The song is about a man who claimed to Maynard they were selling out, and his anger and distaste to said comment comes out in his voice, but also in the instrumentation with evil sounding guitar and bass, and heavy percussion. Then there's my favorite song "Jimmy" which is simply breathtaking. The beautiful riff, dense bass and heavy and complex drumming with truly emotion-filled vocals brings the track together in protection. "Forty-Six & 2" is also a beautiful song in every way, with a truly astonishing bass line, stirring guitars and impressive drumming. Danny is truly an inventive and about perfect drummer.
"Pu***" is another track that is mystical and also frightening. The song details a rupture in a relationship that cannot seem to be solved. The song is nearly 10-minutes long and dwells into a heavy and driving song, with the horrifying lyric "Remember I'll always love you, as I claw your ***ing throat away," which has always given me goosebumps. The title track "Aenema", which won a Grammy award, is a killer song with dense guitars, snarling bass, and awe-inspiring drums. It harbors vexed vocals and lyrics that relate to social problems. The album cuts into a track with blowing wind and electric noises "(-) Ions" which fades into the final 13-minute epic "Third Eye" full of all the themes explored on this truly-conjuring album.
The instrumentation has truly improved and become much more ornate and inventive, and has strayed far away from the basic-grunge feel of Undertow and Opiate as well. Adam's riffs have become much more driving and dense, and have strayed far from the basic chord-progressions that took place on Undertow and Opiate. Justin is a fantastic bassist, who's sound has impacted the band for the better. His growling and ingenious bass lines give an electric and driving motion to each song. Danny's drum-work is at highest level here (besides in Lateralus) with truly excellent rhythms and creative styles. Maynard's vocals have doubled. His voice is at a high point here, in which he can dwell in the deep pits of the shaky low register, and climb back up with high screams and echoing relays, and growls and screeches full of rage. He switches his style throughout each song on the record, which makes him truly an innovative vocalist. They work extremely well together, and conjure spirituality and anger at the same time.
In the end, Aenima is truly a trip through a spiral of different emotions. Some songs convey deep and though-provoking messages with the feel of the vocals and instrumentation working together to convey those emotions. They are at their zenith here, with chaotic instrumentals and powerful vocals. Aenima is a monster that she be opened at your own risk. They released a beast that have impacted genres and people forever. While Aenima is a record that is not for everyone, it is still truly an intoxicating monster unleashed from the minds of musical geniuses.
Favorite Track: Jimmy
Least Favorite Track: Hooker With A Penis