Undertow (Tool album)

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Studio album by
ReleasedApril 6, 1993 (1993-04-06)
RecordedOctober–December 1992
Label Zoo
Tool chronology
Singles from Undertow
  1. "Sober"
    Released: May 1993
  2. "Prison Sex"
    Released: 1993

Undertow is the debut studio album by American rock band Tool, released on April 6, 1993 by Zoo Entertainment. Produced by the band and Sylvia Massy, it was recorded from October to December 1992 at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys and Grandmaster Recorders in Hollywood. The album includes some tracks the band decided to not release on their debut EP Opiate . [3]

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Tool (band) American alternative metal band

Tool is an American rock band from Los Angeles, California. Formed in 1990, the group's line-up includes drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones, and vocalist Maynard James Keenan. Justin Chancellor has been the band's bassist since 1995, replacing their original bassist Paul D'Amour. Tool has won three Grammy Awards, performed worldwide tours, and produced albums topping the charts in several countries.

Zoo Entertainment was an American record label formed in 1990 by Lou Maglia. Zoo released three platinum Tool records, as well as gold records by Green Jellÿ and Matthew Sweet. During its early, successful years, music industry executive George Daly was the label's original Vice President of A&R.


As of 2010, Undertow has sold over 2.9 million copies in the United States, and is certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. [4]

Recording Industry Association of America Trade organization representing the recording industry in the U.S.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade organization that represents the recording industry in the United States. Its members consist of record labels and distributors, which the RIAA says "create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legally sold recorded music in the United States." The RIAA headquarters is in Washington, D.C.


Undertow was Tool's only full album release with original bassist Paul D'Amour.

Paul DAmour American musician

Paul D'Amour is an American musician and the first bass guitarist for Tool. His bass sound was recognized by the aggressive picked tone he developed with his Chris Squire Signature Rickenbacker 4001CS, which can clearly be heard on Tool's first full-length album, Undertow.

Comedian Bill Hicks is noted as "inspiration" in the liner notes, and Undertow is the only Tool album released while he was still alive. His presence would feature again on Tool's next album, Ænima .

Bill Hicks American comedian

William Melvin Hicks was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist and musician. His material—encompassing a wide range of social issues including religion, politics, and philosophy—was controversial and often steeped in dark comedy.

<i>Ænima</i> 1996 studio album by Tool

Ænima is the second studio album by American rock band Tool. It was released in vinyl format on September 17, 1996, and in compact disc format on October 1, 1996 through Zoo Entertainment. The album was recorded and cut at Ocean Way, Hollywood and The Hook, North Hollywood from 1995 to 1996. The album was produced by David Bottrill.

Chris Haskett, then with the Rollins Band, is credited in the liner notes with "sledge hammer", probably relating to the "three pianos and shotguns smashed with sledgehammers" on "Disgustipated". [5] Adam Jones recalls a story in which the band purchased two second-hand pianos with the intention of blasting them with shotguns in the indoor parking lot of Grand Master Studio and putting the resulting sounds to tape. Apparently the woman running the studio was happy as long as they cleaned up the mess afterwards. Since the incident, Tool has been approached by other bands claiming to have seen the shotgun holes left by them in the carpark wall. [6]

Chris Haskett is an American guitarist. He was a member of the Rollins Band from 1986 to 1997 and again for the band's reunion in 2006. He has also recorded or performed with David Bowie, Foetus, Pigface, The Cassandra Complex, Tool and others.

Rollins Band American punk rock band

Rollins Band was an American rock band from 1987 to 2006, formed in Van Nuys, California and led by former Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins.


The note from Tool that accompanied some censored versions. Tool-Undertow-note.jpg
The note from Tool that accompanied some censored versions.

The album art was designed by Adam Jones. [3] Photos in the liner notes of a nude obese woman, a nude man of normal weight, and the band members with pins in the sides of their heads generated controversy, resulting in the album being removed from stores such as Kmart and Wal-Mart. [7] [8] The band reacted by releasing another version, which depicted a giant barcode on a white background. [7] This version of the album included a note from the band:

Adam Jones (musician) musician

Adam Thomas Jones is a three-time Grammy Award-winning American musician and visual artist, best known for his position as the guitarist for Tool. Jones has been rated the 75th Greatest Guitarist of all time by the Rolling Stone and placed ninth in Guitar World's Top 100 Greatest metal Guitarists. Jones is also the director of the majority of Tool's music videos.

Liner notes

Liner notes are the writings found on the sleeves of LP record albums and in booklets which come inserted into the compact disc jewel case or the equivalent packaging for vinyl records and cassettes.

Obesity medical condition in which excess body fat harms health

Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to an extent that it may have a negative effect on health. People are generally considered obese when their body mass index (BMI), a measurement obtained by dividing a person's weight by the square of the person's height, is over 30 kg/m2; the range 25–30 kg/m2 is defined as overweight. Some East Asian countries use lower values. Obesity increases the likelihood of various diseases and conditions, particularly cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis, and depression.

The message on the photographs of the band members reads "Trust me trust me trust me trust me trust me I just want to start this over say you won't go this is love I'll make weapons out of my imperfections lay back and let me show you another way only this one holy medium brings me peace of mind cleanse and purge me in the water twice as loud as reason euphoria I've been far too sympathetic no one told you to come I hope it sucks you down life feeds on life this is necessary." All the lyrics contained in the passage appear in this order: "Sober", "Crawl Away", "4°", "Prison Sex", "Flood", "Undertow", "Intolerance", "Swamp Song", "Disgustipated". The only line missing is "I'll make weapons out of my imperfections", Maynard's original lyrics for "Bottom" before they were modified by guest Henry Rollins. [9]

In some versions of the album, when the black CD tray is removed from the case, a picture of a cow licking what appears to be its genital region is revealed. In other versions of the album, released internationally, the picture of the cow licking the genital region is viewable without problems under the transparent backing of the disc case. The photo of the cow is accredited in the album's liner notes to have been taken by Danielle Bregman. The ribcage is also on the front cover of the album, but the obese woman is absent from the booklet of the musical album; only the members of the band are depicted.

Adam Jones' pet pig, Moe, appears on the back cover [6] amid an array of forks standing on end.


Professional ratings
Review scores
About.com Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [10]
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [11]
Entertainment Weekly A− [12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svgStar empty.svg [13]
Spin favorable

AllMusic gave the album a positive review, stating "With its technical brilliance, musical complexities, and aggressive overtones, Undertow not only paved the way for several bands to break through to the mainstream adolescent mall-rage demographic, it also proved that metal could be simultaneously intelligent, emotional, and brutal." [11] In Entertainment Weekly's review of the album, David Brown awarded it an A- and said "Like many of its brethren in the alternative-metal corps—Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, and Helmet—Tool can crunch and lumber about with the best of them. What put this L.A. band a notch above the rest are better songs (with actual verses, choruses, and hooks-check out the terrific ”Prison Sex”) and the hints of vulnerability in singer Maynard James Keenan's voice". [12]

In an About.Com bibliographical article of the band, reviewer Tim Grierson called the album the "Essential Tool Album" and stated "It may be impossible to describe the impact that Undertow had at the time of its release in 1993. Searching, angry, liberating and scary, Tool's full-length debut emerged during a period in rock music when Seattle bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam were expressing alienation through grunge riffs, inspiring lots of copycat artists. Undertow expressed alienation, too, but the album's imposing waves of misery and dread seemed to come from an entirely different planet than grunge, providing a startling counterpoint to the trendy sounds of the era". [10]


PublicationCountryAccolade [14] YearRank
Raw UKAlbums of the Year19936
90 Essential Albums of the 90s1995*
Visions GermanyThe Best Albums 1991–961996*
Pause & PlayUSThe 90s Top 100 Essential Albums199911
Classic RockUKThe 100 Greatest Rock Albums of All Time200187

(*) designates unordered lists.

Track listing

All lyrics written by Maynard James Keenan, unless otherwise noted; all music composed by Adam Jones, Danny Carey and Paul D'Amour.

1."Intolerance" 4:53
2."Prison Sex" 4:56
3."Sober" 5:06
4."Bottom" (featuring Henry Rollins)Keenan, Henry Rollins7:14
5."Crawl Away" 5:30
6."Swamp Song" 5:31
7."Undertow" ( Loudspeaker.svg listen  ) 5:22
8."4°" 6:03
9."Flood" 7:46
69."Disgustipated" ("Disgustipated" ends at 6:45. Sounds of crickets chirping can be heard for 7 minutes and 5 seconds until 13:50. Maynard's landlord can be heard after the crickets, but the crickets are still heard in the background) 15:47
Total length:69:13

"Disgustipated" is track 69 on most pressings in North America (tracks 10-68 are silent; tracks 10-67 are 1 second each in length, and track 68 is 2 seconds). It also appears as track 39, track 10 (mostly in Europe and Australia) or as a hidden track following "Flood" on track 9. On certain Japanese imports, "Disgustipated" is track 70. In all cases, however, it is listed as track 10 on the album itself.

Japanese Edition [15]
10."Opiate" (Opiate does not include "The Gaping Lotus Experience")5:20
Total length:74:35
Australasian Bonus Disc [16]
3."Opiate" (Opiate does not include "The Gaping Lotus Experience")5:20
5."Prison Sex"4:50
6."Jerk Off"4:18
7."Prison Sex"5:01
Total length:40:40


Release history

United States1993 (1) Zoo Entertainment Vinyl ZP11052-1BMG MusicGrey vinyl (promotional)
ZP11052-1Clear vinyl (promotional)
April 6, 1993
(original release)
Cassette 72445-11052-4
CD72445-11073-2Barcode cover
Cassette72445-11073-4Barcode cover
CDD 153661BMG Direct Marketing
CanadaBG2-11052Columbia House
Germany72445-11052-2BMG Music
United States1996 (2) Volcano Entertainment Vinyl72445-11052-1-RERepress
CD61422-31073-2Barcode cover
Europe19937243 8 46690 2Virgin
United Kingdom Music For Nations CDMFN 246
Canada1999 (3)
Volcano Entertainment
Tool Dissectional
61422-33010-2BMG Music Canada
United StatesVinyl61422-31052-1Sony BMG MusicReleased in the original Zoo sleeve
JapanJune 27, 2001ZJCI-14006Avex
United States2004 (4)Vinyl61422-31052-1Sony BMG Music
JapanMay 10, 2006CDBVCQ-21070
EuropeMay 15, 200682876536472
  1. The promotional vinyl did not include the final track "Disgustipated" so that the entire album could fit onto one disc. Because it is promotional, it is possible that it was released before the regular pressing, therefore, only the year is listed.
  2. The year 1996 represents the year that Volcano Entertainment began using its own logo on releases which formerly used the Zoo Entertainment logo. In reality, 1996 reissues with the Volcano logo may not have actually been widely distributed until early in 1997.
  3. The year 1999 represents the year that Tool's Tool Dissectional label was used in conjunction with Volcano. Strong evidence supports a North American reissue date of July 1, 1999, however, the European ones are unknown. To be cautious, only the year is given for all releases of this nature.
  4. The year 2004 represents the year that Sony BMG was created. These reissues contain artwork that depicts Sony BMG as the distributor. Since Sony BMG's pressing schedule is not known, the actual release date may be sometime in 2004 or 2005.



Chart (1993)Peak
US Billboard 200 [17] 50
US Heatseekers Albums (Billboard) [18] 1


1993"Sober" Mainstream Rock Tracks 13
"Prison Sex"32

Sales and certifications

RegionCertification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA) [19] 2× Platinum2,910,000^
Canada (Music Canada) [20] Platinum100,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

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  8. Richard Harrington (April 6, 1994). "Keeping Those Risque Covers Undercover". The Washington Post. Archived from the original (fee required) on November 5, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2008.
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  20. "Canadian album certifications – Tool – Undertow". Music Canada.