Ænima, by Tool

02-aenima

Released September 17, 1996

77 min, 18 sec

It’s been 18 years since Tool released Ænima, and it still stands as one of the greatest metal albums of all time.

I discovered Tool through my father. He was a really big rock and metal fan when I was a child, and he had a great collection of CDs with him, which included every Tool album up through Lateralus. When his tastes shifted more towards country and bluegrass in the mid-2000s, I took a bunch of those CDs, since he said he didn’t have any need for them any more. Ænima was one of them.

The first thing I noticed about Ænima (besides the title being frustrating to type) is that it is long. 77 minutes, 18 seconds – that leaves just two minutes and 42 seconds open on traditional CDs. Even with 15 tracks, most of the songs push past the 5-minute mark, topped out at “Third Eye” and its ridiculous 13:47 running time. And even with these long songs, there’s six interludes. Again, this album is long.

I don’t want to sit here and spout out useless trivia for an album like this, because the chances are most of you know that trivia. (“Useful Idiot” is the sound of a record skipping, “Intermission” adapts the opening riff of “jimmy,” etc.) So what do we talk about?

Maybe that Ænima acts as a predecessor to the weirdness of Lateralus, with unusual time signatures designed to make listeners uncomfortable, obtuse lyrics that are hard to decipher, and lengthy shows of technical mastery for guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor, and drummer Danny Carey. In a lot of ways, Ænima is more easily digestible by the casual music listener, as it doesn’t have the utter insanity that Lateralus delves into, like a song whose lyrical cadence and time signatures relate directly to the Fibonacci sequence (thanks, “Lateralus”).

Or, maybe my favorite tracks. “Pushit” is definitely right near the top, though I prefer the incarnation on Salival as opposed to the standard studio version. “Ænema” is the obvious classic, with its lyrics tearing down everything Tool perceives to be wrong with America. My personal list-topper, though, is “Intermission,” with its weird organ riff that ends up being the opening riff for the next track. It’s just such a weird diversion from the album’s primary sound – I was caught way off guard the first time I heard it, but in a good way, if that makes sense.

Overall, Ænima was the realization of Tool’s mainstream stardom, following up on the push that Undertow gave them three years prior. Legal issues delayed follow-up Lateralus, resulting in a five year gap between the two albums, while side projects created a similar gap between Lateralus and most recent album 10,000 Days, released in 2006. A follow-up to 10,000 Days has yet to materalize; the band noted a new wave of legal issues as the main reason for the gap, eight years and counting. Hopefully, those problems will be resolved soon – but has Tool’s time already passed? We’ll have to wait and see.

A couple of miscellaneous thoughts:

– iTunes’s weird default sorting rears its head here – though I suppose this actually makes sense, since the Æ in Ænima is intended to be a combined A and E, which I think is what it’s used as in Latin and most modern languages.

– This post took hours to write. I’ll get the hang of it, I’m sure, but for now it’s a bit rough.

– Maynard James Keenan has released like eight albums with Puscifer since Tool’s last album. Please, please get it together, guys.

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