"Learn to swim, learn to swim, learn to swim, learn to swim…"
On Oct. 1, 1996 (Sept. 17 on vinyl), Tool unleashed one of their career-defining albums, Ænima, an essential release for the golden age of '90s alternative rock. Before Ænima went on to sell more than 3 million copies in the U.S. alone, Tool were known primarily has a hard rock band with a penchant for heavy grooves, expressing anger and exploring dark subject matter. With the introduction of Ænima, however, prior psychedelic nuance became a full-on trip while songs became longer and increasingly dense.
Though there may have been a shift in focus, Tool's dry yet flippant scatological humor remained constant. The album title itself refers to psychologist Carl Jung's own term for the soul, "anima." Throw in the alternate name for an anal douche and you wind up with the heavily digested Ænima. "It's about change, cleaning out the house to refurbish or redecorate and start over," frontman Maynard James Keenan told Carrie Borzillo in a 1996 interview.
That change may not have been instantly noticeable once fans popped Ænima into their CD players, as the opening track, "Stinkfist," seemingly picks up where Tool's previous release, Undertow, left off three years previous. Ænima really begins to take its own shape once the massively distorted "Eulogy" and soul stirring "H." creep into the listener's ears. The two tracks act as heavy breaths of sonic meditation, offering a highly sophisticated sense of calm which branches off from Tool's trademark intensity like a fraternal twin.
Tool, "Stinkfist" Music Video