Hammering It Out With New Tools

By the time you get to "Intermission," the eighth track on Tool's second album, you really need a breather. The L.A. quartet has stirred up its raw, gripping rock with a dazzling smattering of new elements--from exotic instruments to samples--that give the music an even more exhilarating edge.

The lead track, "Stinkfist," opens with strange, staticky percussion that quickly gives way to massive, undulating rhythms laced with gritty, astringent guitar. "Useful Idiot" simmers and stews with a kind of delicate edginess, and an epic opus called "Eulogy" is a chilling tribute to fallen idols. Interspersed with the more straight-ahead rock numbers are some startling departures: A clangorous piece called "Die Eier Von Satan" seems to be an ode to German industrial-rock pioneers Einsturzende Neubauten, and a couple of tracks--"(-) Ions" and "Cesaro Summability"--even veer into the arty realm of sound collage. At times Maynard James Keenan's vocals sound as if they will crumble under the weight of the emotions they convey; at others he belts out phrases with hair-raising fury.

Occasionally the experimentation on "Aenima" can be a bit jarring, but there's enough of a sturdy rock undercurrent to keep the volatile energy that charges these tracks on course.

*

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