This album is huge in my life.
Apart from the great listening experience it also changed the way I played and wrote songs. After this album, I was okay with jamming on a groove instead of soloing.
This album joined albums like “Tribute”, “Powerslave”, “Somewhere In Time”, “Appetite For Destruction”, “Slave To The Grind”, “The Great Radio Controversy”, “And Justice For All”, “Metallica Black Album”, “5150”, “Hysteria”, “Wicked Sensation”, “No More Tears” and “Images And Words” as my “Bible” albums. These “Bible” albums are albums that I devoured, learning the riffs and the licks.
Tool is Maynard James Keenan on vocals, Adam Jones on guitar, Justin Chancellor on bass and Danny Carey on drums. Production is handled by David Bottrill.
The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. It went to No. 1 in Australia. In the U.S its certified as 3x Platinum and in Australia it’s also certified as Platinum. People were listening and unable to turn it off. Even on streaming services, the song “Schism” has only been on Spotify just under two years and it’s at 49.3 million streams, And it’s a 8 minute song.
The album is a product of the members being at the peak of their creativity and a four year label dispute.
At the time the band was critical of file sharing, so as part of the marketing for the album, they announced a different album title and a bogus 12 song track list, with stupid titles like “Encephatalis” and “Coeliacus”. Of course, the unregulated Wild West of file sharing sites, were flooded with bogus files bearing the titles’ names. It wasn’t until a month later that the band revealed the real album name and that the name “Systema Encéphale” and the track list had been a bunch of bullshit.
CD’s can pack 79 minutes of music and Tool gave em a few seconds back. Because at 78 minutes and 51 seconds long, it’s got every groove and landscape packed in across the 13 tracks. And to think that they kept editing the album at the mastering stage to get it under 79 minutes.
The whine of a machine starting up and it all comes crashing in, the toms are syncopated with the guitar riff and the bass is unique, taking the lead here to outline a different melody.
Once the vocals kick in with “Wear the grudge like a crown of negativity / Calculate what we will or will not tolerate”, they syncopate with the guitar riff. Maynard is telling ya, don’t let your grudges hold you back.
At 1.22, the song changes. It takes you into uncharted territory. The previous landscape is gone, in the rear-view mirror. And we are into the verse.
Clutch it like a cornerstone
Otherwise, it all comes down
Terrified of being wrong
Ultimatum prison cell
You can’t imagine your life without the grudge you might have against the person who wronged you, the scarlet letterman. And what if your grudge isn’t justified and you have been wrong the whole time. You don’t want to be in that position, so you keep holding onto the grudge.
The song changes again after the bridge, with the vocal melody of “Choose to let this go”. The riff is heavy, Sabbath like heavy.
Give away the stone
Let the waters kiss and transmutate
These leaden grudges into gold
Let the burden go, it’s okay. Don’t let your hate and prejudices define you anymore.
The song then percolates and builds from 6.25 as the intro riff returns. Then there is silence and just the bass. And then an explosion of music from the 7 minute mark as Maynard belts out a scream that he carries for 24 seconds.
Studio trickery. Maybe.
The last 30 seconds is how you end a song. Listen to it. You will not be disappointed.
A creeping guitar riff starts the song off. At the Sydney concert I watched, Maynard did say the song is about the vampires that you come across in your life, who try to get you down.
But I’m still right here
Giving blood, keeping faith
And I’m still right here
Wait it out
Gonna wait it out
Be patient (wait it out)
The vampires could be anything. The education system, society, the corporations, the government, a friend, a lover, a family member. Be patient. Everyone comes undone eventually.
8 power chords are played on the bass, then silence for a few seconds, before the iconic bass riff starts the song. Justin Chancellor announces himself as a bass hero.
I know the pieces fit cause I watched them tumble down
No fault, none to blame, it doesn’t mean I don’t desire
To point the finger, blame the other, watch the temple topple over
To bring the pieces back together, rediscover communication
This meaning from Songmeanings sums it all up.
Once upon a time, all religions were the right one, than, they fell apart. The pieces are now corrupt, moulded shadows of the once great temple. This song says if the pieces don’t communicate with each other than we are doomed.
They are two tracks on the album. But they exist as one as the last note of “Parabol” flows into “Parabola”
The three minutes of “Parabol” feels like I’m in the vast plains of the Middle East, looking at the night sky.
The Pre Chorus and Chorus of “Parabola” echo Maynard’s work with A Perfect Circle.
This body holding me, reminding me that I am not alone in
This body makes me feel eternal
All this pain is an illusion
Live in the now people. It’s easier said than done. I know people who can’t let go of the past. It consumes them to the stage of insanity. They feel wronged. But all this pain a person feels focusing on the past is an illusion. It’s not real, it manifests in the brain. The pain that you think you are experiencing will pass.
At 2.04 it changes from being a standard hard rock song into a typical Tool song.
At 3.58 the bass takes over for a brief moment before the band kicks in, setting up the finale, the last 2 minutes.
At 4.40, a Black Sabbath fuzzed out riff kicks in. it plays while the drums play like a ceremonial fill.
Ticks And Leeches
A drum pattern kicks off the song. The bass kicks in, with a riff that is played along with the bass drum. It’s weird and off putting. Then the guitars kick in with some repeating single notes, the bass gets busier and so do the drums. By the 50 second mark, the double kick is frantic.
And then it changes for the verses.
Maynard’s melody is bordering on the periphery like a chainsaw.
Hope this is what you wanted
Hope this is what you had in mind
Cause this is what you’re getting
I hope you’re choking
I hope you choke on this
How good is that that Pre Chorus and Chorus riff, when Maynard is singing the melody of “hope this is what you wanted” and “I hope your choking”.
At 3.24 it changes into a clean tone guitar riff that keeps repeating forever. It percolates up to the 5.58 minute mark, before it explodes for the final 2 minutes.
Got nothing left to give to you
Every person with a dream or a goal has ticks and leeches waiting to suck em dry. Even good old Mother Nature will have nothing left to give us except floods, droughts and fire, for the humans are parasites here, sucking the wealth of resources dry for profit.
Then the massive ending from 7.20. The double kick drums are relentless, that Pre Chorus/Chorus riff kicks in and Maynard starts with his “is this what you wanted” melody.
The epic title track at 9 minutes and 22 seconds long.
The clean guitar riff is basic and it keeps repeating. Then the bass comes in and the drums, an explosion of poly rhythms and exploration.
How good is the main riff from 1.15? It’s a metal tour de force.
At 4.50, it’s just the bass, playing a triplet of notes with a brief pause.
And the intro guitar kicks in again.
And it keeps building.
Then at 7.17, the best part of the song kicks in. The drums play a simple beat, while the guitar is staccato like and the bass is doing something different, highlighting the vocal melody with a choice selection of notes.
It needs to be heard to be understood.
Reaching out to embrace the random.
Reaching out to embrace whatever may come.
A song in which the “spirit” lives outside the norms but the person is still human and divine at the same time. They touch on these kind of themes with “Forty Six & 2” from the “Aenima” album.
Listen to it and read the lyrics. It’s like a complex novel coming to life.
Disposition/Reflection/Triad/Faaip De Oiad
The final tracks are part of a large suite but separate tracks on the album.
“Disposition” is like a tribal drum groove with a clean tone guitar riff. It only goes for about 3 minutes and 20 seconds.
It carries into “Reflection” which is the centrepiece at 11 minutes. It has a drum groove that evokes the Middle East, another iconic bass line, synths and an exotic guitar and vocal line.
So crucify the ego, before it’s far too late
To leave behind this place so negative and blind and cynical
And you will come to find that we are all one mind
Capable of all that’s imagined and all conceivable
Just let the light touch you
And let the words spill through
And let them pass right through
Bringing out our hope and reason
It’s an incredible Tool song.
How good is the line “capable of all that’s imagined and conceivable”?
It’s the same mantra put forward by the self-development industry. You know the one, the 10,000 hours, showing grit, emotional intelligence, a growth mindset, resilience and creating a culture in which people feel safe to express their thoughts and everything will turn out okay.
From 8.28 it really kicks into a groove. Watching it live, is a memorable experience.
A 6 minute conclusion as the vast plains of the Middle East are back.
“Faaip de Oiad” is Enochian for “The Voice of God”. Now if you’re wondering what Enochian is, I also had to look it up when I came across it years ago. It’s basically an occult language that two spiritualists from England came up with, who claim angels divined this language to them.
As for the song, it’s just abstract noise and nothing worth talking about.
I was introduced to Tool in 1998. My best man burnt me the “Aenima” CD. I immediately got it. It was exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t want the album to end.
This album has sustained 20 years. It’s not something you play a track from and then forget about, it’s something you go deeper into. It’s a journey.
They covered so much ground with this album and “Aenima”, that they next two albums that came after in “10,000 Days” and “Fear Inoculum” got stigmatised as sounding like “Aenima” and “Lateralus”.
And progressive rock/metal is meant to be dead. But Tool doesn’t fit into that category. It’s a little bit of metal, a little bit of rock, a little bit of progressive in its time changes and song structures and in its lyrics, they push different boundaries and messages. And Tool doesn’t care what the labels want or what the charts like. They push their own envelope, catering to their own needs first and taking their listeners with them.
Most of Tool’s songs since the “Aenima” album, are over seven minutes long. Their most recent album “Fear Inoculum” has every song over ten minutes. From a streaming point of view, this is a bad idea, as one Tool song from start to finish equates to three to four pop songs. And in an hour, you will hear a 15 minute Tool song 4 times whereas a 3 minute pop song will be heard 20 times.
So when you see a Tool song in the multi-millions, just think of the time invested listening to these songs.
If you hate Tool, then keep ignoring em. If you are into hip-hop only, ignore em. If you like your 3 to 4 minute pop fix, ignore em. But if you are a rocker and you liked how bands used to experiment with a song or two on an album, then you need to check out Tool.
And like Tool, I couldn’t edit this post any shorter. It is what it is, because it is.