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Tool aenema.png
Single by Tool
from the album Ænima
ReleasedAugust 9, 1997
Producer(s)David Bottrill
Tool singles chronology
"Forty Six & 2"
Audio sample
Excerpt of "Ænema"

"Ænema" is a song by rock band Tool, released as the third single from their second major-label release Ænima. Adam Jones made a video for the song using stop-motion animation; it is included in the Salival box set. The song reached number twenty-five on the US Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in August 1997.

The song makes extensive use of hemiola, a musical technique in which the emphasis in a triple meter is changed to give the illusion that both a duple and a triple meter occur in the song.

The song is cast in terminally climactic form,[1] in which two verse/chorus pairs give way to a climactic ending on new material.

Lyrical references[edit]

Keenan incorporates into the lyrics part of comedian Bill Hicks' sketch "Goodbye You Lizard Scum" from his album Arizona Bay by stating the line "learn to swim, see you down in Arizona Bay." Hicks appears in the liner notes/sleeve as a doctor, and a lenticular image below the case tray illustrates a large portion of California disappearing leaving only the Pacific Ocean, as is mentioned in the song. California falling into the sea is a prediction made by Edgar Cayce, also known as "The Sleeping Prophet," about the end of days in which California and New York are to sink into the ocean among a plethora of other devastating weather changes.

Here in this hopeless fucking hole we call LA
The only way to fix it is to flush it all away
Any fucking time, any fucking day
Learn to swim, I'll see you down in Arizona bay.

In general, the song is a diatribe against celebrity culture, particularly around Los Angeles. This includes everything from the Church of Scientology (with the line "Fuck L. Ron Hubbard and fuck all his clones"), to possibly rappers ("gun-toting hip gangster wannabes"), to drug addicts, Hollywood executives and actresses whom Maynard views as scum and wishes would all be flushed down the proverbial toilet.

The title of the song is an amalgam of the words "Anima", "Enema" and perhaps also "Æon". "Æon" is featured in the works of Aleister Crowley. "Anima", Carl Jung's concept of the female persona found in males, is evoked by Keenan in the lines:

Mom's gonna fix it all soon.
Mom's comin' round to put it back the way it ought to be.


Learn to swim.

In addition to being a humorous aside, this line can be seen as a metaphoric command to abandon the materialism Keenan sees in Angeleno culture and learn to navigate the 'feminine' unconscious. The ocean is a traditional symbol for the 'feminine' (mother ocean, etc.) and also for the vast latent psychological energies postulated in the models of Freud and Jung:

Cause I'm praying for rain
And I'm praying for tidal waves
I wanna see the ground give way.
I wanna watch it all go down.
Mom, please flush it all away.
I wanna see it go right in and down.
I wanna watch it go right in.
Watch you flush it all away.

In this sense, the 'ground' can be seen as the 'Ego' in Freud's terminology. Here the 'Ego' has become hopelessly corrupted and needs to be subsumed, drowned and absorbed by the unconscious so it can be resurrected in a new form on the shores of 'Arizona Bay'. This point was reiterated on Tool's follow up album in the song "Reflection": "I must crucify the ego before it's far too late"

The occult use of the word "Enema" in the title again poetically communicates what Keenan believes to be the 'shithole' nature of the culture of Los Angeles that can only be cured by destructive and ultimately transformative 'feminine' energy.

Just when Maynard's ranting becomes hopelessly misanthropic and no interpretation is possible but that of a prayer for an old testament-scale destruction of a modern-day Sodom by a great Goddess, Keenan gives the listener a hint to the metaphorical nature of the language:

Don't just call me pessimist.
Try and read between the lines.
I can't imagine why you wouldn't
Welcome any change, my friend.

During the period the song was written, Keenan abandoned Los Angeles for Arizona – ironically a landscape with even less literal water/rain/tidal forces than Los Angeles – which is perhaps another hint that Keenan's apocalyptic deluge is symbolic: the ending of one consciousness/value system/Weltanschauung and the emergence of a new one. One possible interpretation is that the lyrics are nothing more than a description of a purely internal drama during a transitional time in the author's life.[2]

Music video[edit]

Adam Jones directed the video for "Ænema" which features stop-motion animation with art design by Cam de Leon. The video revolves around a humanoid figure with alien-like features. Throughout the video the character ventures through an aquatic world. A hose-like organ (resembling an umbilical cord) which squirts out water protrudes from its abdomen and fills the room in which the figure stands. Towards the end of the video a human character wearing business attire tosses the figure in a water-filled box.

Track listing[edit]

1."Ænema" (P.M. version)6:39
2."Ænema" (A.M. version)6:39


Tool received the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance for "Ænema", at the 40th Grammy Awards in 1998.[3]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1997) Peak
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[4] 25


  1. ^ Osborn, Brad (2013). "Subverting the Verse–Chorus Paradigm: Terminally Climactic Forms in Recent Rock Music". Music Theory Spectrum. 35 (1): 45.
  2. ^ 33 Things You Should Know About Tool Article on Blender :: The Ultimate Guide to Music and More Archived May 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Morse, Steve (January 7, 1998). "Paula Cole a leader in Grammys" (fee required). The Boston Globe. The New York Times Company. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
  4. ^ "Tool Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved August 7, 2017.