Undertow (Tool album)

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Cover art for Undertow, featuring a red 3D model of a ribcage designed by Adam Jones
Studio album by
ReleasedApril 6, 1993 (1993-04-06)
RecordedOctober–December 1992
Tool chronology
Singles from Undertow
  1. "Sober"
    Released: May 1993
  2. "Prison Sex"
    Released: 1993
  3. "Undertow"
    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] This is their only album to feature original bassist Paul D'Amour.

According to AllMusic, Undertow helped heavy metal music remain prominent as a mainstream musical style, and allowed several later bands to break through to the mainstream. It was released at a time when grunge was at the height of its popularity, and pop punk was slowly beginning to gather mainstream attention.[4] AllMusic saw the album's success in the "striking, haunting visuals that complemented the album's nihilistic yet wistful mood."[4]

As of 2020, Undertow has sold over three million copies in the United States, and is certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[5]


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

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

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".[6] 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.[7]


The album art was designed by Adam Jones.[3] Photos in the liner notes of a nude obese woman, a nude thin man, 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 Walmart.[8][9] The band reacted by releasing another version, which depicted a giant barcode on a white background.[8] This version of the album included a note from the band:

It came to our attention recently that many stores across our fine and open minded nation would not stock Undertow because of our explicit artwork. Although we loathe being censored, we want your money we still want you to hear our music, so we took it out. However, it is available to you at no extra cost. Fill out the form, stick it in an envelope, mail it in, and we will send you the original artwork. Love, Tool

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." The songs the lyrics contained in the passage are from appear in this order: "Sober", "Crawl Away", "4°", "Prison Sex", "Flood", "Undertow", "Intolerance", "Swamp Song", "Disgustipated". The only quote missing from the album is "I'll make weapons out of my imperfections", a line from Maynard's original lyrics for "Bottom" before they were modified by guest Henry Rollins.[10]

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; only the members of the band are depicted.

Adam Jones' pet pig, Moe, appears on the back cover[7] amid an array of forks standing on end.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Entertainment WeeklyA−[12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[13]

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."[4] In Entertainment Weekly's review of the album, David Browne 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 a Dotdash 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".[11] A less positive review came from Select writer Andrew Perry, who said "[B]ereft of the irony, danger and maverick punkiness of grunge's finest, Tool ultimately will only help Alice In Chains reassert the trad metal market. Which really isn't what we deserve."[14]


Publication Country Accolade[16] Year Rank
Raw UK Albums of the Year 1993 6
90 Essential Albums of the 90s 1995 *
Visions Germany The Best Albums 1991–96 1996 *
Pause & Play US The 90s Top 100 Essential Albums 1999 11
Classic Rock UK The 100 Greatest Rock Albums of All Time 2001 87

(*) designates unordered lists.

Track listing[edit]

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

1."Intolerance" 4:53
2."Prison Sex" 4:56
3."Sober" 5:06
  • Keenan
  • Henry Rollins
5."Crawl Away" 5:30
6."Swamp Song" 5:31
7."Undertow" 5:22
8."4°" 6:03
9."Flood" 7:46
10."Disgustipated" (Song ends at 6:45. Sounds of crickets chirping can be heard for 7 minutes and 5 seconds, then at 13:50 a hidden message plays while the crickets continue until the end.) 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 one second each in length, and track 68 is two seconds). It also appears as track 39, track 10 (mostly in Europe and Australia) or as a hidden track following "Flood" on track nine. On certain Japanese imports, "Disgustipated" is track 70. In all cases, however, it is listed as track 10 on the album itself.

Japanese edition
11."Opiate" (Opiate does not include "The Gaping Lotus Experience")5:20
Total length:74:35
Australasian bonus disc
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


The band members' instruments are listed under aliases, and Haskett is listed in the liner notes.


Additional personnel[edit]



Chart (1993–1994) Peak
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[18] 17
US Billboard 200[19] 50
US Heatseekers Albums (Billboard)[20] 1
Chart (2001) Peak
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[21] 89
Chart (2019) Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[22] 21
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[23] 36
US Billboard 200[24] 19

Sales and certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[25] Platinum 70,000double-dagger
Canada (Music Canada)[26] Platinum 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[27] 3× Platinum 3,000,000double-dagger

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog Distributor Notes
United States 1993 (1) Zoo Vinyl ZP11052-1 BMG Grey vinyl (promotional)
ZP11052-1 Clear vinyl (promotional)
April 6, 1993
(original release)
CD 72445-11052-2
Cassette 72445-11052-4
Vinyl 72445-11052-1
CD 72445-11073-2 Barcode cover
Cassette 72445-11073-4 Barcode cover
CD D 153661 BMG Direct Marketing
Canada BG2-11052 Columbia House
Germany 72445-11052-2 BMG
United States 1996 (2) Volcano Vinyl 72445-11052-1-RE Repress
CD 61422-31073-2 Barcode cover
Europe 1993 7243 8 46690 2 Virgin
United Kingdom Music for Nations CDMFN 246
Canada 1999 (3)
Tool Dissectional
61422-33010-2 BMG Canada
United States Vinyl 61422-31052-1 Sony BMG Released in the original Zoo sleeve
Europe CD 0550032
Japan June 27, 2001 ZJCI-14006 Avex
United States 2004 (4) Vinyl 61422-31052-1 Sony BMG
Japan May 10, 2006 CD BVCQ-21070
Europe May 15, 2006 82876536472
  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.


  1. ^ Epstein, Dan (April 6, 2018). "Tool's 'Undertow': 10 Things You Didn't Know". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  2. ^ Reed, Ryan (April 6, 2018). "How Tool Became a Genre Unto Themselves With 1993's Game-Changing 'Undertow'". Revolver. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Gennaro, Loraine (1994). "Tool Guitarist Adam Jones is a Master of Many Trades". Guitar School. 03: 16. Retrieved April 7, 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d Theakston, Rob. "Undertow – Tool". AllMusic. Retrieved January 18, 2019. Just as grunge was reaching its boiling point and radio-friendly punk-pop loomed on the horizon, Tool released Undertow, which firmly reinforced metal's prominence as a musical style [...] With its technical brilliance, musical complexities, and aggressive overtones, Undertow not only paved the way for several bands to break through to the mainstream [...], it also proved that metal could be simultaneously intelligent, emotional, and brutal.
  5. ^ "British Rock Royalty Add More Awards". RIAA. July 2, 2001. Archived from the original on October 15, 2006. Retrieved May 14, 2007. ..."Aenima" and "Undertow" are currently double Platinum...
  6. ^ "The Tool FAQ". toolshed.down.net. Retrieved August 12, 2011.
  7. ^ a b Beaujour, Tom (2008). "Chapter 2 – Undertow (1993)". Revolver Presents 'The Book of Tool': 22–24.
  8. ^ a b Griffin, J.R. (1994). "Tool on Videos, Censorship, Art, And Why You Should Never Let A Guy Named Maynard Put You in a Cage". Axcess. Retrieved May 13, 2007. It came as no surprise when Walmart and Kmart refused to carry the album. Rather than miss out on a large audience, Tool decided to censor itself and released a plain white album cover that contained nothing more than a giant bar code, the band's name, and the album tracks.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Epstein, Dan (April 6, 2018). "Tool's 'Undertow': 10 Things You Didn't Know". Rolling Stone.
  11. ^ a b Grierson, Tim. "Tool – 'Undertow' Review". About.com. Archived from the original on January 5, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2009.
  12. ^ a b Browne, David (May 28, 1993). "Undertow". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on March 26, 2017. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  13. ^ Kot, Greg (2004). "Tool". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 818–19. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  14. ^ a b Perry, Andrew (May 1993). "Tool: Undertow". Select. No. 35. p. 98. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  15. ^ "Tool: Undertow". NME. April 24, 1993. p. 30.
  16. ^ "Undertow". Acclaimedmusic. Retrieved May 22, 2007.
  17. ^ Epstein, Dan (April 6, 2018). "Tool's 'Undertow': 10 Things You Didn't Know". Rolling Stone.
  18. ^ "Charts.nz – Tool – Undertow". Hung Medien. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
  19. ^ "Tool Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Archived from the original on November 9, 2018. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  20. ^ "Tool Chart History (Heatseekers Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  21. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Tool – Undertow" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
  22. ^ "Australiancharts.com – Tool – Undertow". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  23. ^ "Ultratop.be – Tool – Undertow" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
  24. ^ "Tool Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  25. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2019 Albums" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved November 12, 2021.
  26. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Tool – Undertow". Music Canada.
  27. ^ "American album certifications – Tool – Undertow". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved April 17, 2021.

External links[edit]