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Tool's greatest breakthrough was to introduce dark, vaguely underground metal to the preening pretentiousness of art rock. Or maybe it was introducing the self-absorbed pretension of art rock to the wearing grind of post-thrash metal -- the order really doesn't matter. Though Metallica wrote their multi-sectioned, layered songs as if they were composers, they kept their musical attack ferociously at street level. Tool didn't -- they embraced the artsy, faux-bohemian preoccupations of Jane's Addiction while they simultaneously paid musical homage to the dark, relentlessly bleak visions of grindcore, death metal, and thrash. Even with their post-punk influences, they executed their music with the ponderous, anti-song aesthetic of prog rock, alternating between long, detailed instrumental interludes and tuneless, pseudo-meaningful lyrical rants in their songs. Tool, however, had a knack for conveying the strangled, oppressive angst that the alternative nation of the early '90s claimed as their own. So, the band was able to slip into the definition of alternative rock during the post-Nirvana era, landing a slot on the third Lollapalooza tour in 1993, which helped their first full length debut album, Undertow, rocket into platinum status. By the time the band delivered their belated follow-up, Aenima, in 1996, alternative rock had lost its grip on the mainstream of America, and their audience had shaped up as essentially metal-oriented, which meant that the group and the record didn't capture as big an audience as their first album, despite debuting at number two on the charts. When their first full-length album was released in 1993 (they released an EP a year earlier), Tool won lots of fans with their grinding, post-Jane's Addiction heavy metal. With their dark, angry lyrics and numbing guitar drilling, they appealed both to metalheads and alternative rock fans. When they landed an opening spot on Lollapalooza, their audience grew by leaps and bounds; the increased exposure helped their debut album, Undertow, go gold. Its 1996 follow-up, Aenima, was also a success.

James' Review

What can I say? I really cannot stand this band! I'm not sure what it is, but I can't enjoy it. Their song "Sober" was good and, I have to admit, "Schism" was kinda catchy, but that's where it ends. I know those are the two widely known Tool songs(at least from my experience), but I have listened to their CD's and still, nothing. The music puts me to sleep and Maynard's voice drives me insane! But, Despite all of this, I do realize they were, and still are, a major influence on bands that succeeded them. That, and the two songs mentioned above, are the only things keeping them from a lower rate.

Rating - Mediocre (D)

Mike's Review

This is one where I have to disagree with James. Personally, I feel Tool is a great band and I expecially enjoy Maynard's vocals. The song "Schism" was good, but overplayed on the radio. To someone who prefers heavy music, you might not like this band. If you prefer melodic music with 'deep' lyrics, this is one for you. Tool's lyrics are so deep at points that Maynard seems like a beatnick. If all you've heard of them is "Schism, you're missing quite a bit. Their best album would probably be undertow, Their second album. However, that was released in 1993, so I'm not sure how hard it would be to find.

Rating - Beastly (B)
recommended songs: Sober, Schism, Prison Sex