0005. Tool – Ænima [1996]

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Wow, guys… seriously?  You write a book called “1,001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die,” and you don’t include any Tool albums whatsoever?!  What.the.fuck?  I’m astonished that such a fascinating band could possibly go overlooked by the writers of that book.  I mean, hello?  Tool (and just about any Maynard band) sells out just about every venue they perform at, and they’re the first band I think of when I consider the merit(s) of purchasing a physical copy of an album.  Shit, the album was nominated for a Grammy for Best Recording Package.  Not that Grammy’s matter much in the end (in my opinion, anyway), but it does say something for the album.

This is still one of my absolute favorite albums after 15 years.  I mean, Tool is one of my favorite bands, and I could’ve picked any album from their catalog and written about how much I love it and why, but I chose this because this is the one that resonated the most with me.  This was an album that opened a lot of doors in my mind that I didn’t realize were there.  This, and Antichrist Superstar (which I won’t include in this blog since it’s already in the 1,001 Albums book), really opened my eyes to the vast potential of art.  I remember hearing Die Eier Von Satan as a kid and thinking, “wow, I wonder if that’s some Nazi rant or something.”  Goes to show the power that tone of voice and language can have.  German just about always sounds powerful, though.

I remember hearing Message to Harry Manback and thinking, “damn, I wonder who that is and why he’s so hated.”  I remember hearing Ænema and thinking how much I loved that utter nihilism.  There really is no other band like Tool (at least, not to the best of my knowledge), and this album is one I proudly place in my personal 1,001 albums you must hear before you die.

 

Wikipedia says:

Ænima is the second studio album by American rock band Tool. The album was released on September 17, 1996 in vinyl format and on October 1, 1996 in Compact Disc format. The album was recorded and cut at Ocean Way, Hollywood, California and The Hook, North Hollywood, California from 1995 to 1996. On its initial release, the album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, and has since been certified triple platinum by the RIAA on March 4, 2003. As of July 7, 2010, Ænima has sold 3,429,000 copies in the US.

The album appeared on several lists of the best albums of 1996, including that of Kerrang! and Terrorizer. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1998. In 2003, Ænima was ranked the 6th most influential album of all time by Kerrang! In 2006, it placed 14th on a Guitar World readers poll that attempted to find the best 100 guitar albums.

The title Ænima is a combination of the words ‘anima’ (Latin for ‘soul’ associated with the ideas of “life force” and a term often used by psychologist Carl Jung) and ‘enema’, the medical procedure.

Background

Music videos were made for “Stinkfist” and “Ænema”. Promotional singles were issued for “H.” and “Forty Six & 2”. Several of the songs are shortsegues or interludes that connect to longer songs, pushing the total duration of the CD towards the maximum of around 80 minutes. These segues are “Useful Idiot”, “Message to Harry Manback”, “Intermission”, “Die Eier Von Satan”, “Cesaro Summability”, and “(-) Ions”.

Themes of the album include Egyptian mythology in a seven-pointed star symbolizing Babalon, and sacred geometry in dividing the planet into grids related to chromosomes. The band dedicated the album to Bill Hicks (a comedian who the band felt was going in the same direction as them) and claimed this album to be partly inspired by him. The inside cover displays art featuring a painting of a disabled patient that shows a resemblance to singer Maynard James Keenan and Bill Hicks depicted as a doctor or “healer” with the line, “Another Dead Hero”. Lines from Bill Hicks’ standup set, “One Good Drug Story” and “The War on Drugs” are sampled before the song “Third Eye” and “Ænema”.

Track information

Demo versions of the songs “Pushit”, “Stinkfist”, “Ænema”, and “Eulogy” were recorded with Paul D’Amour on bass, before he left the band. These appeared online in early 2007. D’Amour also worked on “H.”, as he is credited as a co-songwriter on ASCAP’s website.

Danny Carey labeled L. Ron Hubbard as the subject of “Eulogy”.

Speculation has surrounded the song “H.” The “meaning” of this song has seldom been detailed by the band, as they do not regularly comment on such things. However on several occasions, specifically on November 23, 1996 during a show at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, Maynard did grant some insight into the meaning of the song.

Speaking to the audience he said, “Any of you ever seen those old Warner Bros. cartoons? Sometimes there’s that one where the guy is trying to make a decision and he’s got an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Seems pretty obvious, right? The angel is trying to give him good advice while the devil is trying to get him to do what’s bad for him. It’s not always that simple though. A lot of times they’re not really angels or devils but friends giving you advice, looking out for your best interest but not really understanding what’s going to be best for you. So it kind of comes down to you. You have to make the decision yourself. This song is called H.”

The song was discussed live during a few other shows around this time, one example being on February 23, 1997, when Maynard introduced this song by referring to the shoulder angel and devil, and also said it’s about a hurtful yet dependent relationship. In an interview Keenan gave in December 1996, he commented, “My son’s name is Devo H. That’s all I’ll say.” It is also of note that the song’s working title was “Half Empty”, as it was introduced during a mini-tour of California by the band in December 1995. In the book, “Teachings of Don Juan, a Yaqui Way of Knowledge”, the author refers to a character named H. Keenan.

The track “Useful Idiot” features the sound of the needle skipping at the end of a gramophone record growing louder as the track progresses. The track was set at the end of side 1 of the vinyl versions of Ænima as a joke to fool those who owned the version.

“Hooker with a Penis” refers to a fan who accused the band of selling out after their first EP. “OGT” is taken to stand for “Original Gangster Tool”. Keenan whispers in the left channel throughout the song. At 1:41, “consume, be fruitful, and multiply” may be alluding to Genesis, which contains the phrase “be fruitful and multiply” six times. During Lollapalooza 1997, a version of “Hooker with a Penis” remixed by Billy Howerdel in the form of lounge music played over the public address system between sets.

During 1996 concerts, Maynard told audiences that the song “jimmy” is the sequel to “Prison Sex”, and how it’s about getting through the abuse. It is preceded by “Intermission”, a short organ adaptation of the opening riff of “jimmy”.

The segue “Die Eier von Satan” has a heavy industrial guitar played over a reversed drum beat with an irregular time signature (9/8). The lyrical component of the song is in German, performed by Marko Fox, a member of ZAUM. He is backed by a sound that resembles a hydraulic press, and crowd cheering and applause that increase in volume as the lyrics are read with increasing ferocity. These combined effects make the song sound like a militant German rant or Nazi rally.

While the sound and the word “Satan” in the title may suggest to listeners that the lyrics feature aggressive or even violent content, the speaker is merely reciting a cookie recipe, for hashish or Mexican cookies. The song was originally translated by Gudrun Fox. According to Blair McKenzie Blake, the maintainer of the official Tool website, “Die Eier von Satan” originally were cookies that “Marko Fox’s grandmother used to bake for him as a child, without using eggs as an ingredient. The substitution for eggs is a magical incantation from the worm-eaten pages of some moldering grimoire.”

This magical incantation (“sim salabim bam ba saladu saladim”) is taken from the German children’s song “Auf einem Baum ein Kuckuck saß”. According to the lyrics, the special ingredient besides this “incantation” is actually “a knife-tip of Turkish hashish”. The title literally translates to “The Eggs of Satan” or “The Balls of Satan”, due to a German double entendre of “Eier”, which means “eggs” and also serves as a slang word for “testicles”. The experimentation in this song has been compared to that of Einstürzende Neubauten. A slow version of “Pushit” was performed live and appears on Salival.

The song “Third Eye” contains samples of comedian Bill Hicks. The title may be a reference to Hicks’ assertions that psilocybe mushrooms could be used to “squeegee [one’s] third eye clean.” A goal of the album as a whole was to “open people up in some way and help open their third eye and help them on a path.”

“Ænema” makes lyrical references to Bill Hicks’ set Arizona Bay, in which the San Andreas fault collapses, purging the continent of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula which would give Arizona it’s own oceanfront. This is further illustrated in the lenticular map under the cd tray. “Ænema” is technically not the title track leaving this the only Tool album without such a track.

Many regional versions stated the track times for tracks 3 and 4 in reverse. This is noted on all pressings from Australia, UK, and Europe.

Album artwork

The packaging for Ænima was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Recording Package. North American pressings of the album were packaged in a custom lenticular jewel case (called a “Multi-Image CD case” in the liner notes) for the cover and interior disc tray. The cover art and other images in the liner notes can be set behind the lenticular “lens” to create an effect of sequential animation. European pressings of the CD featured a standard case, and the insert contained the covers of fictional Tool releases.

The special images used for the lenticular effect are:

  • Cam de Leon’s painting Smoke Box, with animated smoke and encompassing eyes.
  • A touched-up version of Cam de Leon’s painting Ocular Orifice, with the pupil of the eye animated to rotate completely around.
  • A photo of a nude female contortionist performing auto-cunnilingus with her legs behind her head: Alana Cain is credited for this in the liner notes. Shown sitting on a couch to the right are Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor, Adam Jones and Maynard James Keenan while Danny and Maynard are both nude covering themselves. Maynard stands up whilst covering himself and is shown throwing a single rose to the ground in front of the contortionist. Another photo of the contortionist is also on the disc itself.
  • An image of California before and after a major earthquake is shown in the tray behind where the disc lies — a reference to the song “Ænema” and the Arizona Bay sketch by Bill Hicks. The inlay image of the US incorrectly depicts Oklahoma’s panhandle. It is unknown whether or not this was intentional.

Track listing

All songs written by Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Justin Chancellor and Danny Carey, except where indicated.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Stinkfist” Keenan, Jones, Carey, D’Amour 5:11
2. “Eulogy” Keenan, Jones, Carey, D’Amour 8:28
3. “H.” Keenan, Jones, Carey, D’Amour 6:07
4. “Useful Idiot” 0:39
5. “Forty Six & 2” 6:02
6. “Message to Harry Manback” 1:53
7. “Hooker with a Penis” 4:33
8. “Intermission” 0:56
9. “jimmy” 5:24
10. “Die Eier von Satan” 2:17
11. “Pushit” Keenan, Jones, Carey, D’Amour 9:55
12. “Cesaro Summability” 1:26
13. “Ænema” Keenan, Jones, Carey, D’Amour 6:39
14. “(-) Ions” 4:00
15. “Third Eye” Tool, Bill Hicks 13:47
Total length:
77:23

Personnel

Tool
  • Danny Carey – drums, percussion, samples
  • Justin Chancellor – bass
  • Adam Jones – guitars
  • Maynard James Keenan – vocals
Additional musicians
  • Marko Fox – vocals on “Die Eier von Satan”
  • Eban Schletter – organ on “Intermission”
  • Chris Pitman – additional synthesizer on “Third Eye”
Production
  • David Bottrill – keyboards, producer, engineer, mixing
  • Alana Cain – model (contortionist)
  • Cam de Leon – artwork, computer illustration
  • Fabrico DiSanto – photography, photo assistance
  • Gudrun Fox – translation of “Die Eier von Satan”
  • Adam Jones – production, artwork direction
  • Jeremy Glasgow – assistant percussionist
  • Concetta Halstead – producer, design
  • Bill Hicks – audio sampled on “Third Eye”
  • Billy Howerdel – guitar tech, ‘Pro Tools’ technician
  • Joel Larson
  • Karen Mason
  • Jeff Novack – photography
  • Mark Rappaport – effects consultant
  • Keith Willis – artwork
  • Kevin Willis – producer, art direction, paintings
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One response to “0005. Tool – Ænima [1996]

  1. Most Definetly!

    Aenima by any means should have made it in this list. I know this is always debatable, we would all have a different list. But clearly they wanted to approach many styles and Aenima was one of the most important records of the 90’s. Its very strange that it was forgoten.

    Liked by 1 person

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