CD Review: Feersum Ennjin, “Feersum Ennjin”
If you’re a big tool fan you’ve probably followed the musical journey of Maynard James Keenan over the years. And if you’re an even bigger fan, maybe you’ve kept your musical ear open for what original bassist Paul D’Amour has done over the decades as well.
D’Amour was with Tool through some of the writing for Ænima and while he does get a lot of writing credits on the disc, he left the band and was replaced by Justin Chancellor for the recording of it. Since that point he played on the lone record from the Replicants which he formed with college radio sensation Ken Andrews from Failure. When Ken went solo the rest of the band formed Lusk, and put out one psychedelic head trip on Volcano records before the label went under. Since then, D’Amour has been a little under the radar working on music for movies and TV.
Feesum Ennjin is his “new” project, being billed as a return to rock music. I put “new” in quotes because there really seems to be very little mention out there of five tracks that appeared on a self-titled EP back in 2005. I hadn’t followed D’Amour that closely but was aware of the record. I swear I listened to it but couldn’t really tell you anything about it, so it didn’t stand out to me. However, whether original or remade (I’ve listened to them on Youtube and they sound the same), all five tracks appear on the self-titled debut LP coming out November 22nd on Dissociated Press.
Funny of course is the fact that he’s been out of the spotlight for years now and yet, I immediately wanted to jump on this. I guess fresh off a listen of the new Puscifer record gave me that jones to hear something else associated with Tool. I have to admit that I was a little scared though. The album begins with “Fishing Grounds,” a song with that same familiar bass tone that takes you back to the days of Undertow. At this point even if D’Amour was a former member of the band, it’s really hard to do a better job recreating that sound. Fortunately, the record doesn’t end up being a clone. Instead there are many straight rock moments and some poppier passages as well. Sure, one listen to “Dragon” takes you right back to that first Tool LP sounding a lot like “Bottom” with a little less bombast and some electronic elements mixed in. And the bassline to “Lines” definitely would have fit right in on Ænima, however the song ventures into more of a mod-rock vibe in the chorus. Both of those tunes were on the original EP. Another one of those tunes from ’05 is “U-Boats” which is a fantastic mix of electronic psychedelia and an angry rock chorus.
All the stuff I’ve seen about Feersum Ennjin say it’s Paul D’Amour’s band and I know he’s played both bass and guitar but I’m not 100% sure if this is a “solo” project or not. The song “Safeway” was written for the movie On the Doll a few years ago and the video features a full band. If there are other members as of right now though they seem to be going unmentioned unless I just haven’t dug deep enough to figure it out. If it’s him singing, he can certainly carry a tune and the layering of his vocals is often reminiscent of what Perry Farrell does in Jane’s Addiction.
Overall, the mix of that familiar bass tone with pop, rock and electronic elements provides a nice mix that shows exactly why he was successful in Tool and the direction he’s moved in since that point.