Most albums that are made tend to be a collection of songs, and each one tells a specific story. Each song can be about loving, fighting, forgiving, forgetting, and more. However, what if the *entire album* shares a story, similarly to a novel or movie. This is the concept album: where each song is essentially a piece of the puzzle, and the whole album is the finished story. This is not to be confused with albums that is basically one song split up into multiple parts, like Crimson by Edge of Sanity, Catch Thirtythree by Meshuggah, or the second half of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence by Dream Theater. When a concept album is done right, the entire album can be an unforgettable music adventure (if the story is easy to follow). I always said that my three favorite concept albums are Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory by Dream Theater (1999), The Crimson Idol [The Crimson Idol] by W.A.S.P., and, the topic of this review, Still Life by Opeth.But first, let me share my thoughts about discovering a band that I now hold in a very special spot in my heart: Opeth. When I first started listening to metal, I was turned off by the roaring growls of the singers, but I often enjoyed the incredible instruments. In the next few years, I became more fascinated with loud vocals and long epics, so I immediately fell in love with Tool. Their albums blew me away, so I wanted to discover bands that had similar long lengths. After some searching, I found a band that had lots of heavy instruments while having great lyrics and a great progressive style, which was... Opeth (like I previously mentioned). This was the band that completely flipped my opinion on the growling, which this band does wonderfully, and the band also blends it with beautiful, clean singing moments. Being someone who rarely gives 5 star album ratings, I was very happy to give two of their albums the full honor, Blackwater Park (2001) and Still Life (1999). I am going to try and share my love for this album, and if you have read any other review I have written, they can get very long and have written equivalents of rambling. I am rusty to the aspect of reviewing, but here we go!
To me, Still Life is more than an album. Everything they attempted was nothing short of perfect, and this was far better than most albums released in the 1990s. With this being a concept album, this is even more impressive. This is not the first time that Opeth did a concept album, releasing My Arms, Your Hearse in 1998. This was another fantastic album, but the problem was that the story was hard to follow due to the extremely poetic lyrics. Still Life is easier to follow, and is a complete step up from the previous release. Looking back, Opeth's albums from 1996 to 2008 can be considered as one of the greatest streaks of all time. When I initially finished this album, I immediately considered it as the greatest death metal record of all time, and in the top 5 for greatest albums I have ever heard. Not only is the story interesting and easy to follow, but the instruments mix so well with the lyrics that are being sung. Just a pure masterpiece!
Briefly mentioning the story and tracks:
The Moor introduces us to an "outcast" (that will be the name I will be using for the rest of the review), and he returns to a castle that banished him for 15 years for being an atheist. When he came back, he wanted to find the love of his life that he had to leave behind, a woman named Melinda. This shows off the basic concept of the rest of the album: a quest for love! As a song, it is absolutely phenomenal. The first 2 minutes are a bit slower, but once it begins, it goes crazy. The growling and the instruments mixed with the lyrics show off the level of anger that the outcast has for the rest of the castle. I was shocked when I heard this song, and it was only the first track. The album got even better from here, and this was an incredible opening track!
In Godhead's Lament, the outcast has an internal debate on the consequences of going back. He has no other motive but to see Melinda, who somehow knows that he has returned. When he sees her from afar, he notices that she has become a nun in the castle, and he tries to stay in the village unnoticed. This is another unbelievable track that beautifully tells the story. The growling is present more often on this track, which was another fantastic addition, but when the clean moments are shown, it is just as powerful. The blending of screaming and singing are excellent, which is a pattern that Opeth has always done with their albums. The clean moments in the middle of the song are nothing short of excellent, and only being two tracks in, the album is slowly becoming a "how to" on making an absolutely phenomenal record.
When I first heard Benighted, I genuinely thought that it was the greatest ballad track I've ever heard. The pacing on this song, even with being the shortest song on the album (5:00), is fantastic. I believe that this was the second *entirely* acoustic song (not including interludes) that they have done (the first, I believe, was Credence, from My Arms, Your Hearse) and it set another blueprint for the other ballads that they would make, like the entire Damnation album from 2003 (if you want to get technical, To Bid You Farewell, off of Morningrise, can be considered that, as it was *mostly* acoustic. However, that had a heavy portion at around the 7 minute mark). For their first attempt, this was a record breaking home run. In contrast to most songs of the genre, this song is more "typical" than the other ones, meaning it has a true chorus that is repeated multiple times throughout. When the final lyrics are stated, it felt like an extra musical journey in itself, and that was, again, due to the pacing. In terms of the story, this is where the Outcast and Melinda finally meet in secret. He basically tells her that he is more in love with her than she can ever imagine, and tries to convince her to run away with him. He also tries to tell her that any positive opinion that she has for the castle is simply a result of being brainwashed, and should basically forget about anything involving the castle. It becomes even more clear that the outcast is willing to risk his own life to be with this woman, and she seems to have an element of confusion. The peaceful, ballad style really works with this moment of the story, as a secret meeting with a lover should not require heavy instruments and growling vocals. Again, this song is incredible.
Moonlapse Vertigo is another important addition to the story of the album. The outcast, knowing the risk of being killed on sight, decides to hide and camp out in the castle. Similarly to the second track on the album, Godhead's Lament, he has another internal debate with himself. He is aware that he is running out of time to make his grand move of getting Melinda and escaping. He also feels that the Council of the Cross knows that he is there, as it is directly stated in the lines: “The council of the cross / Must have sensed my coming”. All he wants is for her to be safe and to be together with her forever. As a song, this is yet another incredible track. The band attempts almost a 55/45 blend of clean singing and growling, and it is nothing short of beautiful. The melodic intro verses lead into a growling and epic second verse, and it works every time. Mikael Åkerfeldt, lead singer of the band, is one of the greatest of all time, and this song is one of many that show off his vocal range. He can hit fantastic clean singing moments, and can growl like some of the best death metal vocalists ever. The fluctuating volume of the instruments (whether it is playing softly or loudly) also adds a nice touch to make the listener even more invested in the story, as the outcast is going through a roller coaster of emotions at this point in the story. No matter how many times I listen to this song (which has been a lot), the ending 2 minutes really hit it out of the universe. The vocals are unbelievable, and the shear feeling that I got from listening to it can only be deemed as excellent. Just another perfect track from an already perfect album.
Face of Melinda beautifully describes Melinda as a quiet person, and also shows off another meeting between her and the outcast. When he originally learned that he had basically failed to win her over, she committed to a life as a nun, but the outcast never gave up on his quest for love. She, in a way, betrays her moral feelings by telling him that she loves him, which temporarily fills the emptiness left in the outcast’s heart. The song ends with possible foreshadowing of what is to come. It seems like the brightest spot in the story so far, as it seems like the outcast has gotten the news that he wanted: Melinda sharing the love! As a song, the first 4 minutes are some of the best ballad moments you will ever hear. The clean vocals make another appearance, and this time, it is for the whole song. This is amazing, as it perfectly describes the tone of the story at this point of time. The instrumentals make you feel like you want to get lost in the music, but also follow the story at the same time. As I continue to listen to this album, it gets harder and harder to pick a favorite song on the album… until…
Serenity Painted Death is absolutely unbelievable, fantastic, incredible, and perfect, and there are not enough positive adjectives to use in order to describe this masterpiece. Not only does the story climax with this track, but, looking back, is definitely my favorite song on the album (along with it being my favorite song of 1999), and one of the best that Opeth has ever done. In terms of the story, the outcast learns that Melinda was taken away, and she was later sentenced to be hung for being “unfaithful to the church.” This leads the outcast on an absolute rampage, killing all of the soldiers that are responsible, and later, killing every soldier that he sees before collapsing from exhaustion (similarly to when Kenny Omega collapsed from exhaustion to avoid Kazuchika Okada’s “rainmaker” finisher at NJPW Dominion 2017). By the end of the song, the outcast is taken away, and the Council of the Cross is deciding his fate. Words cannot describe how excellent this *sounds*. The attention to detail in this song is second to none, having a dominantly growling singing style to symbolize the rage that he has towards the castle. In typical melodic death metal fashion, the instrumentals sound like they are from another planet, and it truly shows how this is one of the most *complete* metal songs ever written. If you can only listen to one of these songs, choose this one. While it might be compared to jumping to chapter 15 in a 20 chapter book (or watching the third Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa match before the other 2), the listener gets enough information from the lyrics to *still* get fully invested in the song. That is storytelling at it’s finest! Music can be much more than simple lyrics and power strumming to a stock computer beat, and this is one of the finest examples that can be found.
This emotional roller coaster concludes with White Cluster, where the outcast is waking up from what happened in the previous track: his rampage that led him to collapse. The Council of the Cross is trying to make him show some remorse, but he is as stubborn as me when someone tells me to give modern pop music a chance. He shows no remorse, which angers the Council. Due to everything, he is sentenced to be hung, and he is led to where it will happen. Right before he is about to hang, he feels a touch on his shoulder, and he sees that it was Melinda standing there. They were together for the last time, as they both were hung, when the permission was granted by the council. They joined each other's death, and will be together in the afterlife…. forever. The only part that I do not like about this song is that it ends, and it also means that the album is ending. In all seriousness, this is about as good as you would expect, which means that it is an absolute masterpiece. The first half of the song has clean vocals, with instrumentals that are a bit heavier than acoustic, but not as heavy as a typical death metal track. It still blended well with the story, and was great. The second half is basically a verse, chorus, and a progressive- style instrumental break. It almost sounds like a completely different song, but is still equally perfect. The solos are unreal, the drumming is stellar, and the rhythms are so great that you *truly* want to get lost in the music; similarly to a Tool song. This was an all time classic song that closed out an all time classic album.
For an extra bonus for this album: read the lyrics as you go along. Some may say that reading can be boring, but the lyrics mixed in with the outstanding sound of the album, can legitimately be called one of the greatest musical experiences of all time.
Long story short: music should not be this good. As a concept album: it is the greatest of all time. In contrast to the other 2 that I consider classics, The Crimson Idol by Wasp and Scenes From a Memory by Dream Theater, this has a story that is *easy* to follow, along with having instrumentals that not only sound incredible, but perfectly blend with the story they are trying to tell. As a death metal album: it is also the greatest of all time. The only death metal album, in my opinion, that comes close to this is Blackwater Park, also by Opeth. I prefer this one over the 2001 album mainly because of how well the story was told, along with me preferring the sound a bit more. In general, this is among some of the greatest albums I have ever heard for many reasons, it is a complete life changer, and it should be not only listened to by everyone, but it should be CONSUMED by everyone.
Long live Opeth!
Genres: Progressive Metal
If this is the first time you are reading one of my reviews, let me tell you a fun fact about myself: I am a huge Tool fan! I've given Ænima, Lateralus, 10,000 Days, and Fear Inoculum the honor of being apart of my "5 Star Albums Club", and I consider the band as one of, if not THE greatest band of all time. When I see various reviews on their discography, I often see this album not given the love that it deserves, or even skipped over entirely. Live albums in general are tough to rate, given how it is the same songs that have already been released, or better on the studio version. There are also live acoustic albums, something that MTV ran with bands such as KISS, Staind, Nirvana, and my personal favorite acoustic show, the MTV Unplugged Alice in Chains concert from 1996. It is rare that a live album accomplishes a new level of innovation that creates a different environment compared to the original, but an example of this is the S&M live album by Metallica, which featured the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. (Kiss also used a Symphony Orchestra for Kiss Symphony: Alive IV in 2003, but I feel that Metallica nailed it better). That felt very unique, and almost felt like an entirely new musical experience that showed off Metallica classics in a way that people would have never expected. Tool's live album was a bit different. At this point, the band were not the biggest fans of having their music easily accessible, and this lasted until August 2nd, 2019, where their entire discography (minus this album, for some reason (probably because of the No Quarter cover)), was made available to stream on services like Spotify and Apple Music, just in time for the grand release of the phenomenal Fear Inoculum. Out of the eight songs that are on here, six are live performances, and the last two are previously unreleased studio recordings.
But what makes this live album better than most other ones, and even the unique ones? While one song in particular (spoiler: its Third Eye) sounds relatively untouched from the 1996 studio version to the 1999 Salival version, each other song is either brand new, or has a unique difference that makes it different. It is not quite a dramatic change like Metallica's S&M, but it still has that famous "Tool sound" that progressive metalheads like myself fell in love with.
It has a refreshing sound that makes the newer versions seem a bit different than the original, but enough difference that makes the live versions seem like a legitimate way to change the style, rather than use it as a cash grab. This is an all time great live album that further shows how talented the band is.
Briefly going over the tracks:
Like I said before, Third Eye is mostly the same in comparison to the original version, which was on their 1996 album, Ænima. The original version had wonderful pacing that led to the explosive climax, as "prying open my third eye" sounded more and more aggressive as it was repeated. This version is the same way: but also has more "raw" vocals and a longer intro. In terms of this version compared to the original, whichever one is better is up to personal preference. Personally, I like the ending sequences of the Salival version better, but that is just my opinion.
Part of Me sounds way better in this version compared to the other versions, which were featured on both 72826 (1991) and Opiate (1992). It has a greater feeling of a heavy rock/ metal sound, and Maynard sounds even better at vocals here. While a very short song, it packs a punch. It kind of gives the opposite effect of a cool-down, similarly to when wrestling promoters book a slow paced match after a wild and fast paced one. While Third Eye took time to progress into the loud ending, this song took no time at all to become fast and heavy, and was like that throughout the entire 3:34 runtime.
In a song that they completely re-worked, this version of Pushit is a masterpiece: even better than the already incredible studio version that blessed the 1996 record. This version is about three minutes longer compared to the original, and sounds way more progressive. In the beginning stages, there are only vocals and guitar, then builds to the rest of the instruments. I do not want to use the word "peaceful" to describe this version, but it sounds very similar to what was later used on their 2019 album Fear Inoculum, specifically the intros to the title track, Pneuma, and basically the entirety of Culling Voices. While not lasting as long as the original version, the heavier moments pack more of a punch due to the build it takes to get there, similarly to a five star match or fight with a year long build. For close to fourteen minutes, the time flies by, and even adds some innovative things not seen on a Tool song before, like the sounds of bongo drums and parts where bass is the only thing that would be heavily prioritized for a bit. This would become a regular thing on the future albums, like Disposition/Reflection/Triad from Lateralus, Intention from 10,000 Days, and parts of Invincible from Fear Inoculum. While the original version is fantastic in itself and fits perfectly with the rest of Ænema, the uniqueness of this version makes me like it a bit better. Go out of your way to hear this song, if you have not already.
Message to Harry Manback II is the highly anticipated second part to Message to Harry Manback, an interlude from Ænema, which had the sound of an answering machine playing a message (no, really). In the sequel, it is pretty much the same, except different lyrics. There are no pianos playing in this version, but still has a "creepy" style to it. The first one served as an interlude to the 1996 album, and the second one is still an interlude on here. Nothing much more to say about this one, as it served it's purpose of cooling down the listener from Pushit.
You Lied is a cover from Peach's 1994 album, Giving Birth to a Stone. Fun fact: the bass player from Peach is actually Justin Chancellor, the current bassist of Tool! Little bit of foreshadowing? The world may never know. Anyway, the original version is awesome, and has a great rock sound. Tool's version is about two minutes longer, however it is played at a slower pace compared to the original. This is another song that builds up to the climax of heavy instruments and the chilling words "you lied" being sung. Besides Maynard's vocals, the song sounds very similar, but the band did a great job at covering it.
Merkaba is basically an instrumental track that has some speaking moments throughout. It has also been played in various concerts around the time of the Ænema, like at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 23rd, 1996. As an instrumental, it is great. This song almost seems to be ahead of its time, as it would probably fit really well on the Lateralus album. There are parts of the song where I see drum fills or riffs that could have been reused on future Tool songs, like Triad (2001), Descending (2019), Chocolate Chip Trip (2019), and the outro of this song sounds a bit similar to the intro from the title track of Lateralus. Danny Carey shines on this song, as his drum fills make it seem like he has more than two arms and legs. While I was not expecting a song like this, it was a very welcome surprise.
Tool's cover of No Quarter by Led Zeppelin is an all time classic. The band found a way to turn a famous song and basically make it one of their own, and that is exactly what a cover is supposed to do. There is actually a very fascinating story about this song: According to some sources, the track was originally made in around 1995 for a Led Zepplin tribute album. In 1997, after the song was released, Howard Stern, famous radio talk show host on Sirius XM, wanted the cover to be on his movie that was coming out that year, Private Parts. He loved the original Zeppelin song, and since Tool was becoming huge, he felt that using the cover was a perfect opportunity The band's record label at the time, Zoo Entertainment, allowed Howard to use the song without the band members knowing. Once the band members found out, they were not thrilled. Before the band eventually pulled out of the agreement because the record label did not have the rights to share the music without permission, Howard was promoting the soundtrack, which included that song, all over his radio broadcasts. Once he got the news that the track will not be used, and that the band actually did not want their music being featured, Howard took it very personally. To this day, he holds a grudge about the event that took place over twenty years ago, and still seems angry at the band, mainly Maynard James Keenan, over the issue. In terms of the song itself, it is simply incredible. In my opinion, this destroys the original version of the song, and is probably the best version of the song out there. While the MSG 1973 performance is an all time classic, this might even be better than that, however people that are not fans of the "Tool sound" would most likely disagree. In the beginning, the vocals sound like they were under a megaphone, similarly to how live performances of Eulogy are performed. For Tool, it worked great. From seven minutes on, it could seriously rival most songs out there, because it is so fantastic. This is the climax, which has an explosive verse, along with the chorus being sung one last time. The drumming on this one is especially great, as Danny Carey is one of the greatest to ever pick up a pair of sticks. The last minute or so has this great instrumental intro that highlights all of the instruments, and sounds like a grand jam. Overall, while I do not know if this is the greatest cover *ever*, but this is worth going out of your way to see.
LAMC is a very tough song to describe. The instrumentals have a resemblance to Die Eier von Satan, an interlude off of Ænema . LAMC stands for Los Angeles Municipal Court, and the words in the song is an automated system that describes many buttons to press in order to get to various extensions. If you hate something like this when talking on the phone, then this would be an absolute nightmare. It relates to the people who have gotten outrageous traffic tickets, calling about it, and how the automated system can get VERY tedious. There is a point where numbers dial to reach somewhere, but the system does not understand, tells the caller to call back during normal hours, and hangs up. Once the caller talks again, the entire process starts back up, but quickly fades away.From start to finish, this was just *creepy*. While not a six star classic, this needs to be heard in order to fully grasp what I am talking about. Only Tool would be able to get away with this, and create some sort of memorable listening experience with a concept like this. If you like something strange, then this is an absolute home run. With four minutes left in the song, people can wonder what is next. It would actually be a hidden track at the end, called Maynard's Dick . This concept is not uncommon, as Staind had Excess Baggage be played long after Spleen finished, from the album Dysfunction. Another example is when Kid Rock put a remixed version of I Am The Bullgod after Black Chick, White Guy, from the album Devil Without a Cause. I have heard mixed feelings about this hidden track, but I think that it is actually quite good for what it is. It is a half acoustic/rock song that has Maynard describing his genitalia in the third person. It is extremely wacky, but if you know not to take it too seriously, you should get a positive listening experience out of it. I actually thought that this was a great closing track to the album. It perfectly describes the type of "fun" songs that Tool was putting out around this time. In a way, I can consider this song as an end of an era for the band. For example, in 2112 by Rush, the B-Side of that record served as a "farewell" to the shorter, less progressive side of the band that was seen on their first few albums. In future releases, they would either get more complex with their songs, or use synthesizers, like their albums from the 1980s. For Tool, this would be the last time where they would dedicate a song on such topics, as Lateralus was much more progressive, and some would say a more mature record. For some, 1996-2000 can be considered as the best era of the band due to their wild creativity and incredible live shows. No matter what era of Tool you pick, you will find something outstanding.
Long story short: What makes this "live album" better than most of the other ones out there? It adds a sense of uniqueness to the songs. It provides a new sound to our favorite Tool songs of that era, and also provides some great covers and a truly... different closing/hidden track. Some might say that this was the peak of the band, but I do not know if I would go far, as every album they made are on a scale from great to perfect; they have not made a bad album. As for some live albums out there, Salival does not ruin any of the original songs; it either sounds kind of similar (Third Eye)) or makes me like it over the original (Part of Me, Pushit). This is not just a great live album, but it is a fantastic record in its own right. This is an all time classic that should not only be listened to be every Tool fan, but for any fan of the progressive metal genre. Trust me, it is more than worth it.
Long Live Tool!
Genres: Alternative Metal Progressive Metal
I'll be honest, before this album, I have not heard of this band. I got familiar with them during their performance of Aleister Black's theme song at NXT Takeover New Orleans (2018), and thought it was a great performance. Along with the brilliant theme song of "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) television, I knew that I could support this band. Normally, I am not a fan of music with LOTS of screaming, however, this band can be an exception. While I can admit that I went into this album thinking that it was not going to be anything special, I can also admit that I got a lot out of this record. Given my expectations, this exceeded them in every way, and this record has tons of replay value.
Let's start with the three singles released beforehand: Underneath, Swallowing the Rabbit Hole, and Sulfur Surrounding.
I believe that Underneath was the first non-WWE song from them in which I heard, and it is great. It has a great blend of melodic and heavy vocals, and the instrumentals are fantastic (which, spoiler alert, is a pattern with this album). Out of every song on this record, I feel that this one would have the most commercial/ mainstream success, and that does not take anything away from this song. I compare it to the song Critical Darling, from Slipknot's 2019 record, We Are Not Your Kind.
Swallowing the Rabbit Hole, being the true opening track on the record, is fantastic. The positioning for this track is perfect, as the heavy nature gets the listener excited for the rest of the album. However, the only problem that I have with this album comes during this song. At around the 1:30 mark, the song suddenly stops twice, for a brief moment, almost like a buffer. Upon first listen, I thought that something happened to the device I was using, only to realize that the song is still playing fine. It may seem like a very small nitpick, but I hated that. I do not know why they put that "glitch" effect in when the song was so outstanding musically. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic song that is perfect for opening up an aggressive album.
Sulfur Surrounding is the most melodic track out of the singles, but not out of the whole album. It also blends elements of melody and heavy vocals without taking away elements of the band. On a controversial note, the first 1:15 of this song KIND OF sounds like something I would hear from A Perfect Circle, and that, again, takes nothing away from the song (Please save all destruction until the end). If the three singles proves anything, it is that this band, without even listening to the rest of the album yet, makes great music.
These songs gave me the interest to listen to the entire album, so I took the first opportunity to hear the record early. One thing I noticed upon first glance is the total runtime of the album, clocking in at 47:26, is kind of short, in my eyes. This is a debatable statistic, as my ability to judge runtime is inflated due to my experience in listening to progressive rock/metal. It felt weird listening to songs that average at around 2-4 minutes again, but the things that they did with that time were remarkable. They packed lots of music into the time used, and it is impressive. I compare it to Power Trip's 2019 single, When Things Go Wrong, which is a 1:56 TRACK that is absolute chaos.
Giving a basic rundown of the tracks that came out on release day:
In Fear is a blend of slow and fast instrumentals, but has consistent, aggressive vocals. Following up the opening track was tough, but I feel that they did a good job at that.
You and You Alone gives me signals of Nu Metal, as it would be a perfect metal track for the late 1990's. Once again, the instrumentals are fantastic, and the vocals still sound good. This is another great track from an album that is about 25% done.
Who Am I sounds more on the commercial end. The intro takes a bit to get going, but it transitions into a great song that I would classify more on the "hard rock" end.
Cold.Metal.Place has a killer intro that lets the listener know that this will be great. In this song, the vocals sounded similar to something that I would hear from Meshuggah. The instruments are great, and this is another great track.
At this point, I realized that this album has been very consistent, heading into the 7th track. I like the fact that each song has something that would help someone identity the band, but has enough variety so each song does not sound the same.
The Easy Way is another song that sounds very "hard rock". The vocals are slightly more melodic, but I learned that no matter what style the band does, it will be good. I will admit that the first 30 seconds are a bit "too electronic" for my taste, but immediately after, it becomes a song with instruments again.
Erasure Scan is an extremely heavy and fast thriller. Being 2:32, it is quite amazing how they were able to have lots of layers to a song with the time used. The vocals on this track work perfectly, and that tagged with the instruments are blended great. It also does a bit of that "glitch" effect that was seen on the opener, but this is not as bad.
Last Ones Left continues where the previous track left off. At this point, I was adjusted to the screaming vocals, and learned to appreciate it more, despite also enjoying the vocals that I am used to (variety is a good thing). This song has loose elements of thrash and heavy metal, and the vocals make it another great track. I love the way that the guitars were on the lower end for this one, and it provided a tone that would be seen on slower death metal tracks. It was great.
I do not know which song is the most melodic out of the album: Autumn and Carbine or A Silver. When mentioning the former, I cannot help to admit that I really enjoy this track. The vocals are very clean, and the heavy tone of the instruments makes this feel like a classic metal track (which I love). The vocals on this song sound KIND OF similar to something I would hear from Dream Theater. In this case, the vocals work.
I think that Back Inside the Glass is the most aggressive song on the album, and that is saying many things, given the rest of the album being the same way. The vocals are screaming with passion, and the other band members are playing their hearts out. Even though it has elements of electronic, something that I tend to avoid, this is absolutely brilliant. It slows down in the second half, but the heaviness is still alive and kicking.
A Silver has REALLY clean vocals, and amazing pacing for a 4:37 song. It starts off slower with soothing vocals. As the song progresses, the song gets heavier, and the singing gets more aggressive. This is a progressive metal skill that the band mastered, and it is fantastic.
Right after I finished the closing track, I was surprised about how short the listen felt, which is a marvelous thing when listening to a full album in one sitting.
Long story short, I approached this album with very minimal experience on the band, aside from a couple of performances on professional wrestling shows. I was pleasantly surprised with this album, as I felt that every song was consistent and good in their own way. When it comes to aggression, my favorite off of this album is Back Inside The Glass. If you like cleaner vocals, you would really enjoy Autumn and Carbine, along with the great pacing of A Silver. This is one heck of an album, and is indeed worth the listen
Genres: Industrial Metal Metalcore
When Ænima was released, I was blown away. The blend of heavy metal and progressive metal was done so perfectly that I had no choice but to give it 5 stars. This album focused on the progressive end, and while I feel the previous album is a bit better, this is yet another fantastic entry in the band's elite catalog. There are MANY positives that can be drawn with this album, including the INCREDIBLE first half of the album, which, in my opinion, can be argued as some of the best in which Tool has done. This album brings you into another world with its trippy sound, and The Grudge is the perfect opening track for this. If I could only pick one song on this album, this would probably be it. Right away, it is heavy, packs a punch, and has the length to make it feel complete. From that point on, you can tell Tool was trying to make another masterpiece, and that was accomplished. The Patient, while slower, is another song that has great pacing for the length. I do not think the first two songs packed as much of a punch like Stinkfist/Eulogy from the previous album, but very similar. One problem I found rather quickly is the addition of the dreaded "Interludes," or those "songs" that are under two minutes and either A) provide nothing to the album, or B) are used as a "prelude to the song", but there was no reason that it should be it's own separate track. Eon Blue Apocalypse should just be added to the beginning of The Patient, Parabol and Parabola should be together (after all, they are together in the music video), and I do not even know if Mantra should be included at all. The interludes on this are not nearly as bad as the ones on Issues by Korn, but I cannot help myself but to complain about these when I see them. In this case, the fantastic quality of music makes this not as big of a deal.
Being one of the most famous Tool songs to be released, Schism has an all time GREAT bass track. Similarly to how YYZ and La Villa Strangiato by Rush are considered as the elite dum tracks, this is the elite bass track. Once again, it is paced brilliantly, and provides a heavy sound that can be enjoyed by Tool fans of any era. Speaking of heavy, meet Ticks & Leeches, which is another FANTASTIC Tool song. The drumming on this is off the charts, and would not be seen again until Chocolate Chip Trip, on Fear Inoculum. In fact, this won the best drumming performance by The Rolling Stones for that year, and it is easy to see why. It seemed like Danny Carey had about eight arms to play those complicated fills, and it was fantastic. This is a HEAVY song, and has Maynard ANGRY. After that, it gets softer, providing a rest period for the listener, until it picks back up for a great outro. This reminded me a lot of Bottom, off of Undertow, which is a big compliment.
We all know about the story of Lateralus: the extremely complicated song writing strategy that used the fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio that turned into a very memorable song. The efforts of this song led to something that will be talked about until the end of time.
After this, it gets..... interesting
Disposition is the biggest reason why I say this, and it is because I do not know what to feel of it. I like the song, but was it needed? This was a slow song that repeats "Watch the weather change" along with other phrases. However, the song right after, Reflection, is also slow, but is also fantastic. I cannot see it put together with any track, so it is not necessarily an interlude, but I do not know with that track.
What I DO know is that while it is one of the slowest songs on the album, Reflection is worth a listen. The bass is strong in this, and that "trippy" sound is at an all time high. It works, and that is the important part. Triad is a fantastic instrumental. It sounds a bit like Parabola from earlier in the album, but has its own qualities. To me, this is the real closing track of the album, mainly because I do not understand why Faaip de Oiad was put here. It is not that it is BAD... just.... odd. If anything, this could have been added to the beginning of another track to have Triad as the true closer.
Long story short, this is yet another fantastic album that hit lots of popularity by the public. This has lots of variety, from the heavy styles of The Grudge and Ticks and Leeches, to the softer tracks, like The Patient and Reflection. While this is not my favorite Tool album, I cannot help but to give lots of respect to the band for going outside of their comfort zone for this record, as it was much different than most albums of this era. Even with a great music year like 2001, that had God Hates Us All by Slayer and Silver Side Up by Nickelback, this album would still win best of the year. This is absolutely worth a listen by any music fan.
Genres: Alternative Metal
This is a very tough album to explain to someone who is not experienced with the more "progressive" style of music. There is progressive rock, which was mainly specialized by bands such as Rush, and that style influenced many more to follow in their footsteps. However, alternative metal has not been branched out as much as the others. Tool was one of the few bands that hit it off with this style, and grew a cult following, starting with their first studio album, "Undertow", in 1993 (not including the Opiate EP from 1992). It proved to everyone that that style of music can work, and is not just a fad. Normally, it would be tough for a band to follow a great debut album, but they shattered the glass ceiling with their absolutely INCREDIBLE 1996 album, Ænima.
First thing's first: this is NOT an album where you can skip around and pick off certain tracks and call it a day. This is 77:46 of PERFECTION, from the beginning riffs of "Stinkfist" all the way to Maynard saying how his third eye was pried open for the last time. The track placement is great because all of the songs have a smooth transition from the end of one to the beginning of another (tough to type that one out). The previously mentioned "Stinkfist" is one of the best opening tracks I've ever heard, and the track right after, "Eulogy" is pure art. That is probably the best Tool song out there, which is saying many great things because of their elite discography from 1993-2006. Other notable highlights (without mentioning the entire album) include the famous "Forty-Six & 2" (which was the first Tool song I've ever heard and got me into the band), the brilliantly paced "Pushit," and the epic closing track, "Third Eye." All of these songs could be considered perfect, and it is the track placement that makes everything better
Now normally, I despise songs that go under 2 minutes. I don't even rate them on my imaginary star rating system. For example, let's use "Issues", an album released by Korn in 1999. That album is fantastic, but there are so many of those tracks that it threw me off from the rest of that great album. With Ænima, however, these little tracks don't come off to me as a lazy way to add a track, but rather a way to tell the album's story and show off how special it is (and you would not get that special feeling if you skipped around the album). The 40-second track "Useful Idiot" hooks me in to get excited for "Forty-Six & 2," which is something an album is supposed to do.
Ænima is one of those albums that can be used for any circumstance. Celebrating graduation? Use Tool for the party music. Dealing with other problems? Use the album to help get over everything. For whatever, listening to this album from start to finish with no interruptions would be one of the greatest decisions a human can make.
Long story short: This not a typical album where you can skip around and pick off certain tracks. This is perfection from start to finish, and it deserves the 5 star rating
Genres: Alternative Metal
Is it safe to say that this is the most anticipated album of the 2000's so far, maybe of all time?
In 2006, Tool released 10,000 Days, and while different than any other of their previous albums, it still served it's purpose as being a great collection of material. As years went by, fans were speculating whether a new album would come out at all. This changed in 2019, when two new songs were debuted live (they would be Invincible and Descending) and gave a release date for the new album. Along with the title track, Fear Inoculum, being released on August 7th, 2019, fans were more excited than ever to hear new Tool for the first time in thirteen years.
Thanks to the Great Fear Inoculum Vegas Heist that took place on Reddit in late August 2019, the world got to hear the CD version of the long-awaited album a bit early. The CD version has 7 tracks and the total runtime is 79:10, making it the longest Tool album they have made, beating Ænima by around two minutes. However, having a long runtime does not automatically make an album fantastic (look at Reload by Metallica, which came out in 1997.)
It takes a special kind of music to have an album be consistently good for the long time. Does Fear Inoculum hold up to the previous four Tool albums (five if you count Opiate from 1992, but that is more of an EP)?
The answer... is ABSOLUTELY
This album is a work of art, and an absolutely PERFECT collection of songs. Each song, minus the drum solo track named Chocolate Chip Trip, is over ten minutes, however it does not overstay it's welcome. To compare it to something, I will reference the 60 minute ironman match between Joey Janela and David Starr at Beyond Americanrana 2019, a professional wrestling show. They went crazy for an entire hour, with many revolutionary spots, and telling a fantastic story with it being the last match between them before Janela goes to All Elite Wrestling. This album is the music version of that match: nothing feels too long. It is like the phrase "Time Flies When You're Having Fun," but the fun is listening to one of the greatest albums ever made.
Talking about the songs some more, the top tracks (besides the whole album) are Pneuma, Culling Voices, and 7empest. Having to follow up the insane title track is one thing, but being able to actually top it is another. Pneuma keeps a consistent pace that is interesting. Culling Voices, for the first half, is very soft, similar to the ending tracks of Lateralus. This might be the best paced song since Leader of Men by Nickelback, from their 1998 album, The State. The second half picks up, and is a notable song off of the album, which is one of my favorites.
And then we get to 7empest, which is the second longest Tool song, only behind Disgustipated by four seconds. This is the angriest I've heard Maynard sing since Ticks and Leaches, and the best Tool song since The Grudge. I've never heard a song that can keep a CONSISTENT, HEAVY tone for over 15 minutes, that is absolutely fantastic. This album is music at its BEST
Long story short, this is one of the greatest albums in the history of Mankind. Go out of your way to listen to this album on release day. Long Live Tool!
EDIT NOVEMBER 8TH, 2019
For many great albums I listen to, the magic often wears off after a certain amount of time, and those once great songs felt regular again. In a less extreme measurement, that happened to me with Rush's Rush from 1974, however that is still a very solid album in it's own right. There are other albums that grew on me as I listened more, such as Load by Metallica, or The Sound of Perseverance by Death. With this album, the love I have has not gone anywhere. You can argue that I appreciate this album even MORE than I did before. I understand that not everyone likes an album filled with ten-plus minute songs (and I am not mentioning the interlude tracks found on the digital version of the album), however that style is right up my pathway. To me, if done right, longer songs can be the most complete form of music imaginable. Other bands have had fantastic long songs, such as Mercyful Fate by Metallica, from Garage Inc. (11:11); every part of Close to the Edge by Yes, from Close to the Edge (18:38); the title track of 2112 by Rush(20:33), and many more.
With Tool in general, and specifically in this album, all of my favorite qualities of a song were blended together to form "super songs," and then the whole album turned "super."
In my original review, I never gave track four on the CD version, Descending, the credit that it deserves. Just like the track right after, Culling Voices, in which I mentioned in my original review, masters the art of pacing, and at around the five-to-six minute mark, one of the brightest moments of the album blesses the listener's ears. The slow build of Maynard's vocals, specifically in those two tracks, have an explosive climax that makes the song like a roller coaster, or a wrestling match that is telling a fantastic story.
On a semi-final note, I do not feel that I put enough emphasis on how incredible 7empest is, just as a piece of art. In my eyes, this is probably the best song the band has ever created, and top three in the best songs I have ever heard (the other two are South of Heaven by Slayer, off of South of Heaven; and Mouth for War by Pantera, off of Vulgar Display of Power). Unlike almost every track on the album, that has a great build that leads to a fantastic climax, this song starts off white hot, and never lets up on the quality. For wrestling fans, I can compare this song to a match with nonstop action, and it receives five stars for the effort. Every band member shines on this song, however I feel that this was Adam Jones's moment to prove that he is an elite guitar player. Lots of complicated riffs were played during this 15:43 masterpiece, and every second of it was better than perfect. To me, this is a six star song that ends one of the greatest albums I have ever heard.
As an album in general, Danny Carey shined like no other, and had a drumming performance not seen in decades (not knocking the other members, as without them, this album would not be close to the caliber in which it is at now.) I have seen fantastic drumming on albums, like every 1980's Slayer album, or every other Tool album before this. With this album in particular, Danny Carey can make a legitimate claim that he is the best drummer in the world right now. The technique in every pattern he does is insane, and is one of the many reasons why I rank this album so highly. I do not know if I would say that he is the greatest drummer of all time, however I would say that I have not seen a performance like this in a very long time; maybe since 10,000 Days.
Long story short, I cannot stress how much I love this album. I honestly feel that it might be their greatest work, or at LEAST on the level of Ænima. The long length of the full songs just make it feel complete, and like a New Japan Pro Wrestling show, the songs build up to the fantastic, 7empest main event, which is one of the greatest songs ever made. The songs fly by, and every song is absolutely perfect. This is a once in a generation album, with the thirteen year buildup and the hype behind it; and I do not know if there will be an album at this caliber again. Long live Tool!
Genres: Progressive Metal