Sound — 8
You just can't say that there is a bad Tool album. You may not like, but it is imperative that you recognize quality when you listen to it. Undertow is not the perfect example to show Tool's ability, but it should be the first album that you should listen to. Why? Because by listening to all the albuns in chronologic order you get a much better notion of the band's sound evolution. In this first Tool LP we are given a very crude and matchless sound. The musical structures aren't very complex (I mean in a Tool context of course), though we are given right from the beginning the impression that this band has something different than the others. However, songs like Sober, because of it's very charateristic bassline, or Prison Sex", which has a a catchy guitar riff, besides the relatively simple musical structure of both, may iniciate the most unexperienced listeners into Tool's atmosphere, where themes like agressivity and anger are predominant, and uniquely fused with the vocal lines. The guitar sounds like hard rock, but if you're expecting a technical show-off, you'll feel disappointed. Despite the fact that Adam Jones plays, in fact, a solo in the final part of Bottom, that's not what Tool is about. Tool's guitar is about giving you a load of energy that will kick you out of your chair. We cannot say that any instrument coducts the music, but Adam's guitar works is naturally remarkable in some parts. As for the bass, Paul D'Amour wasn't really the best bassist for Tool, and that was confirmed by his desistence after Aenima. Although we do notice some good basslines, a band like Tool demands more. If you have listened closely and you are into Tool's scene, you've certainly noticed the fantastic evolution that the band suffered with Justin Chancellor. But unfortunately that's not the case here. Finally, when you talk about Danny Carey, you should keep in mind that very few drummers were able to reach the top, and he was certainly one of them, no doubt about it. Once more, this isn't the best album to get to know his work. For Tool listeners, this album sounds like a warming up. Listen to Lateralus and you'll be crushed.
Lyrics — 8
Maynard is one of the greatest and most influential lyricists of all time, at least for me. The ability of showing what you feel through words and in an original way, without being repetitive, specially when you talk about relations, isn't easy at all. On this album, Maynard James Keenan focused more on human relationships, retreating anger, regret, and sorrow feelings. But the main thing about him, I guess, is the way he faces life and, consequently, death, and that is related to the most extreme human experiences (like sex, for example). Maynard is a teacher, and every lyric is a lesson. Read some from the album Lateralus and you'll see my point. By the way, MJK is a proser: do not expect great rhymes, but do expect great lyrics. Just think about what he says. The vocals in this album aren't technically demonstrative of Maynard's skills, but, again, you get the idea that this guy has something different something better, of course. Some good vocal work is evidenced on songs like Sober and specially Bottom, in which he shows his trademark: a breathtaking and powerful scream. But if you're looking to something more advanced, not only in terms of lyrics, but also concerning to vocal skills, creativity and power, you'd better listen to Aenima and Lateralus.
Overall Impression — 8
Like I said in the beginning, this album is only a very small sample of what Tool can give us, nevertheless I think is a very good way for you to get started into the band's environment. There is nothing that I hate in Tool in any way. My favourite songs are Bottom and Sober, though it seems to me that Bottom is underrated and the other one is overrated. But that's just me, it's your call now, listen to the album, and please do listen to the other LP's aswell.