by: Young Coconut
Tool has been around for long enough now that it is tempting to call them the godfathers of *something*. But what? Progressive metal, maybe? Nah, we think that that title officially belongs to Megadeth. Regardless, Tool has certainly climbed to lofty musical heights in the past 2.5 decades, to the point where it seems to warrant a look down from their cushy palazzo on the peak on Mt. Metal and take a look at their humble beginnings.
Yes, folks, today we are going to do a nostalgic review of the Opiate EP, originally released in 1992. Currently, as of this writing, the year is 2017, so its been 25 years since this wing dinger was released. Holy shit.
The problem is, as I see it – Tool never really had humble beginnings. Although the band is famous for having a sense of humor in interviews and press releases, I personally think the band got fairly pretentious musically speaking in the second half of their career, which is the point at which I got bored with the band and stopped caring about their new music almost as much as they did <zing!>.
I’m fairly certain the reason they haven’t released an album in the past 10 or so years is that they don’t really see a point. They’ve pretty much said what they needed to say, whatever that was (uhh…humanity deserves to be eradicated? gotcha, thanks!). This is just my opinion, of course, but Maynard seems pretty happy to just hang out in Arizona and make wine. And why not? He did spend enough time rocking people’s faces off, did he not? (check current Tool tour dates here) As for the rest of the band – Adam, Danny, and Justin …well, I don’t know what they’re up to these days. But I did see this on Youtube and I thought it was pretty cool.
At any rate, call me old school, but Opiate is maybe my second favorite Tool release after Undertow, which is my all time favorite. Maybe I’m just a nostalgic type of guy that can’t accept change or progress, but I really do think Tool was a better band back then. And by better, I mean weirder. I mean, just look at the bunch of weirdos in this picture. Maynard with his mohawk and rat tail. Who else would rock that hairdo? They really knew (or didn’t know) how to strike a pose back then, making them all the more endearing to other freakazoids around the country, like me.
I’ve got to tell you the story of how I learned about Tool. It was in 1994, and they were having some kind of coffee house at our high school. For some strange reason, some band decided to cover “Jerk Off”, off of Opiate. I wasn’t even there to witness this, but my friend Marco was, and he immediately recognized the genius of the song and went out and got Opiate. Wow! I remember that shortly after he was over at my place raving about this band “Tool”, and we were listening to it in my parents’ bathroom, which is for some reason where they kept our CD player at the time. I was like…wtf is this music? Who is that guy screaming? What is with these crazy songs? Anyway, I remember seeing the back cover of Opiate and thinking, what in the hell am I even looking at? The guy is named Maynard? Did his mom actually name her baby Maynard?!
Anyway, once I heard Opiate once or twice, I was totally sold. Not only was the music right up my alley, but I loved everything about it. It was even funny, in a smart way, which is a practically non-existent trait in most music, much less metal. I loved Maynard’s vocals, I loved the riffs, and the drummer was like super mega kick ass. I think that was one of those things that made me want to run out and buy drums, which I think I did soon after. Although, I’ve never ever EVER gotten anywhere near as good Danny, who is the ultimate drumming beast / beat scientist, as all Tool fans of course know. For the record, I don’t totally suck but compared to Danny Carey – yeah, I fucking suck blackzilla, bro!
Another cool thing about Opiate is that it’s short. It leaves you wanting more. Just when you’re getting into the way the band manages to mock and ridicule humanity’s hypocrisy, the album is over, and you’re left listening to that hidden track about the guy trying to fuck the Lay-Z-boy (The Gaping Lotus Experience, yeah yeah I know).
So, if you, for some mysterious reason, are a Tool fan who hasn’t heard Opiate, then here it is, straight from pits of Youtube for your listening pleasure.
It can easily be argued that Opiate is not the band’s finest hour. I’m pretty sure the majority of Tool fans don’t rank this album near the top. For me personally, like I said before, I think that Undertow is their best album, and that album is fairly un-funny and rather serious compared to Opiate, but I just love the track sequence and the songs. Opiate just seems like an entertaining one-off by the band, but, for my money, the tracks are basically all killer no filler and, with the inclusion of some live cuts, its just a raw and thrilling little musical offering by a band that was almost too unique for its own good. I suggest getting yourself a copy ASAP if you don’t already have it.