A Pre-Review of Ænima

by "Your pal" Kabir Akhtar

Note (September 1996) -- Please be aware that I think this album shreds; some people have said that this review sounded negative. I didn't mean it to...

I recently got to hear the new album, and was able to take some notes while listening. (No, I can't get you a copy). So here's what I threw together from my crappy notes =)

Undertow was 9 songs and a fun piece, which was really 3 or 4 little pieces
all engineered / produced / glued together.

Aenima is 9 songs and 6 fun pieces; this time, they're scattered throughout
the album.  Honestly, I think I preferred them stuck together, but I
suppose I'll get used to this.  The 6 segues-type-songs range from
interesting to dull to good to "eh."  And reactions to them will be very
widespread.  Some people will like Die Eier von Satarn, sounding
industrial.  Some will prefer Intermission, sounding exactly like an
Intermission (though it ties in to the album, I'll leave it to you to
notice that.)

Useful Idiot is nothing but the sound of the end of an album on a record
player.  You'll let it go usually, since it lasts for 20 seconds and mixes
in well with the songs near it.  (-)ions will also do it for
industrial-type fans, but it's pretty innocuous as well.  Cesaro
Summability is also rather laid back.  Message for Harry Manback is going
to be the one that you love or hate, though.

Of the 9 Songs, I immediately loved 7 of them: Stinkfist, Eulogy, H,
Forty-Six & 2, jimmy, Pushit, Aenema.  Many of them included sections with
vocal overdubs; the harmonies sound really nice.  And there are long
passages without any words in several songs as well.  [They're gone into in
more detail below.]

That leaves 2 worth a mention.  Third Eye is sort of a half-Song and
half-Fun Piece.  It's gargantuan though, around 12 minutes long.  And it's
pretty good.  It's not the same type of piece as Bottom, Flood, or Opiate;
there are a few samples throughout, though it does have "movements" much as
Bottom and Flood did.  I do like it, it will take a little time to get into
and digest.

That leaves 1 song.  The only un-high point of the album for me.  Not
really a low point, though, the music is pretty good.  The lyrics of Hooker
with a Penis just don't do it for me at all.  It's not that they aren't
Toolish, it's more that they are very raw "fuck you" type lyrics.  You'll
hear it for yourself.  And I suppose that I'll get used to it; both Opiate
and Undertow had a song that I couldn't stand at first as well.  I'm over
them, so I'm not concerned.  (Note: three days later, I find myself humming
it over and over, so maybe it's not as bad as I had first thought).

Here ends the cursory look.  Everything below here is more indepth; you may
very well want to wait until we all have a copy of it before you read this.
But that's up to you.


There's a definite theme to the album, not the water theme of Undertow,
this seems to be more about getting in touch with the hidden layers (of
yourself and of others) and about getting rid of old beliefs / people /
cities / ideals.  All in all, about moving along.

Here's the notes I took, song by song.  They may suck or make no sense, 
but they may be fun to read.

        in your face
        what can i say, it just jumps right down your throat.  wow.
        it's amazing to hear a produced version =)
        his voice sounds a bit like it is coming through a phone...

        LONG intro, sounds almost Middle Eastern at times...
        early, vocal effects similar to helmet's "biscuits for smut".
        now it's through a megaphone / telephone.
        cool, vocal harmony.
        his voice is REALLY up front in your face, it's kinda creepy.
        that big long wail "to nail the next fool...." is gone.  sounds better.
             though if you've heard early versions, it throws you off a lot =)
        the last line is now "for our sins and our lies."
        the guitars get really crunchy...
        guitar line just stops for a halfsecond here and there, sounds kinda

        first slower song.  heavy layers at the beginning.
        feels a lot like prison sex, until it builds up
        guitar line stops again here and there.  staccato is neat =)
        there you go - that maynard scream (a la bottom + flood) is back!
        yeah.  really good =)

useful idiot
        ends with a sound like the end of a record... ought to surprise
             some vinyl owners into saying "it's over?!".  the vinyl sound
             gets louder and louder, then cuts into guitars.
        it's basically just that vinyl sound for a few seconds.

forty six and 2
        the main riff reminds me a lot of something, i can't place it.  sounds
                a lot like a tool song, or a helmet song.  (it's really good).
        a lot about "my shadow."
        sounds a lot like you would hope the next tool album would sound.
                this is not to say they sold out, this is to say they grew
                in the direction i hoped they would ;)
        more neat drums.
        mjk is going to do that mic-jab-stomach thing to this song =)

message for harry manback
        some guy left a message full of threats.
        very soothing piano line behind it, but after about 40 seconds of
             us being intimidated, it's just a lot of "fuck you"s.  it is
             reminiscent of disgustipated a LOT, but without as much of
             the subtlety.
        you'll either hate it for being so vacuous, or love it for being
             really funny.  personally, i dislike it, but i love it as
             well.  it's just kinda funny, piano vs. threats.

hooker w/a penis
        great intro, all the instruments full of energy.
        again, the vox like helmet.
        and here's the first sign of trouble.
        the music is really intense; the lyrics (i know, shoot me for saying
             it), are rather explicit.  "buy more records -- i sold out
             a long time ago -- i'm the man, he's the man -- point that
             finger up your ass -- fuck you buddy".  it's a rather hyper
             song, but i'm not so sure about this.  maybe with time.

        very loungy; clavichord and all.  imagine actually seeing up on
             the screen the cheesy little animated popcorn box and soda cup
             dancing around.
        you will probably listen to this a bunch, very nonoffensive, kinda
             relaxes you in preparation for the ride ahead...

        now we're back on track.  that magical dizzying quality behind 4
             degrees and flood is back.  you can feel yourself getting
             pulled down.
        the lyrics, though i can't hear most of them, are also back on
             the undertow track of seeming to have lots to read in.
        yep, it's official, i REALLY like it.

die eier von satarn
        it starts out industrialish, anyone who knows the song "ratblast"
             by Numb will see a connection.  (wouldn't surprise me if i'm
             the only one who knows that; the link is minimal anyway.)
        and it's in german.  it's so damn industrial ;)
        in terms of how often you'll listen to it, probably as often as you
             listen to the hidden track on Opiate.

        violins, scraping, not quite screeching.  and it slides in.  the
             strings continue behind it intensely.
        many of you have already heard it, thanks to the production, it now
	     also has the dizzying feel i mentioned before.
        whoa.  mjk's voice sounds totally different, buried under everything
             else for the first "i am somewhere i don't want to be."

cesaro summability
        baby crying into the mic.  it's really kinda trippy.
        some weird effects.  quiet talking in the background.

        it started out sounding like mjk saying "hey."  scared me.
        it's all about the bass ;)  justin proves himself here.
        it's produced so that the vox are faded in a bit, it's not as in
             your face as live shows were.  very smooth =)
        all those "hacking cough" sounds have turned into "hey"s, whispered.
        the melodies have smoothed out a lot.  rough edges gone.  now it sounds
             more like belonged on undertow, as opposed to before when it
             had a rawer, more opiate-like sound.
        the whole "learn to swim" part sounds really cool, like it's underneath
             everything else; the guitars sound almost like a train.
        it somehow no longer sounds like the same straight-ahead fuck-LA song.
             the production really has smoothed it out a lot overall.

        i should have guessed.
        this one's pretty good, this would feel right at home mixed into
             disgustipated somewhere.  i won't tell you what it is.  just
             look at the title.

third eye
        the fat lady sings.  (no, not really, i mean it's the last song).
        someone talking ... stand up comic, talking about drugs for 18 seconds.
        VERY light percussion mixed with light keyboard synth.
        faded out newscaster talking about acid.
        another voice, can't hear it too well.
        increased distortion and feedback.  like the intro to sober (live
             versions) without the rhythm.
        vox w/ effects over a 6-beat.  really good.
        goes for a while.  then you think it's over.  and it comes back quiet.
        after 13 mins, it comes to a pounding end.