Dissection of the Song H by Tool – English Essay
The reason I picked this song is that Tool has become my favorite band over the past year and I have never heard or read a definitive answer as to what this song is exactly about. When introducing this song at a concert in London, Maynard James Keenan (Tool’s lyricist) said that this song is about choices. While you could say that about almost any song, I think this song is about making
a choice between letting someone in your life or shutting that person out altogether. You might love them, but in some way they hurt you and so it’s a very hard decision to make.
Lines 1-2: “What’s coming through is alive. What’s holding up is a mirror.”
I’m not sure what these lines mean. The singer is possibly looking in a mirror, and maybe he sees the snake behind him.
Lines 3-4: “But what’s singing songs is a snake. Looking to turn this piss to wine.”
The snake is someone the singer loves but the person is detrimental to him. I think “Looking to turn this piss to wine” is a general expression for wanting to make a good situation out of a bad one.
Lines 5-6: “They’re both totally void of hate, but killing me just the same.”
I’m not sure what the word both refers to, possibly the mirror and the snake. However, they both do not have hatred for the singer, so their actions are not spiteful.
Lines 7-8: “The snake behind me hisses What my damage could have been.”
Snakes hiss in warning, and I think the snake is letting the singer know its about to strike.
Lines 9-10: “My blood before me begs me Open up my heart again.”
The singer’s heart tells him to try to help the person out again, or to allow the person back in his life.
Lines 11-12: “And I feel this coming over like a storm again. Considerately.”
A storm is brewing, as the singer knows its trouble to be involved with this person.
Lines 13-16: “Venomous voice, tempts me, Drains me, bleeds me, Leaves me cracked and empty. Drags me down like some sweet gravity.”
The person is very appealing to the singer, but every time he gives in to the person’s wishes he is dragged down once again by the person’s fault.
Lines 22-26: “I am too connected to you to Slip away, to fade away. Days away I still feel you Touching me, changing me, And considerately killing me.”
Time has past, but the person is still on the singer’s mind and is still influencing him. He may be trying to forget the person but he cannot. “Considerately killing me” refers to the singer’s heart being broken by this person, but not out of spite. The person isn’t meaning to hurt him, yet he does.
Lines 27-30: “Without the skin, Beneath the storm, Under these tears The walls came down.”
Possibly the snake is shedding his skin, thus making it appear as if he’s changed. So the singer lets the walls that he has built up to protect him from this person come down.
Lines 31-34: “And the snake is drowned and As I look in his eyes, My fear begins to fade Recalling all of those times.”
The person no longer resembles a snake, so the singer is less fearful of getting hurt again. The singer does remember all of the times he has been hurt by this person though.
Lines 35-36: “I could have cried then. I should have cried then.”
The singer hasn’t cried over the times in the past when he was hurt by person, although maybe he felt bad enough to cry.
Lines 37-44: “And as the walls come down and As I look in your eyes My fear begins to fade Recalling all of the times I have died And will die. It’s all right. I don’t mind.”
The singer realizes that he can’t change this person. He concludes that he is willing to take the pain this person causes in order to have them in his life.
The working title for this song was “Half-Empty”. Tool could not decide between “Half-Empty” and “Half-Full” so they chose to call this song “H”.
This song could be about a father and son. Possibly the son is the snake and is on drugs and won’t get his life together. Or maybe the son is singing and the father abused him. These are just some possibilities, however in some interviews Keenan has been very vocal about a dislike for his stepfather. It has been speculated that Tool’s song “Prison Sex”, which is about child abuse, could have been a real-life experience for Keenan. And that would lead some to believe that “H” is Maynard singing about his father. As I said, all of this is speculation, none of it is proven nor confirmed by the band.
Q. What does the snake represent?
A. The snake represents a person who the singer loves but this person hurts him. Evidence could also point towards the snake representing a drug.
Q. What does the first two lines mean?
A. I’m not sure on this, although I gave a possible answer when I analyzed the lines. The singer could be looking into a mirror, seeing his anger, hate, or his love coming through it in such a passionate way that it seems alive.
Q. Why is “considerately” used to explain how the person is “killing” the singer?
A. “Killing” represents hurting, and the person is hurting the singer, but not necessarily meaning to. Alcoholics, drug abusers, etc are rarely doing what they do to hurt their family, yet they still do.
Q. What does “Looking to turn this piss to wine” (Keenan 4) mean?
A. I think the singer is wishing for a better situation then the one he is in.
Q. What does the word “both” refer to in line 5?
A. It’s definitely referring to the snake, but I’m not sure what else. Its either the mirror, in which case the singer is saying he is void of hate, or his could be whatever is coming through that is alive, which might be his emotions for the person, in which case they are void of hate for the snake. The snake definitely has no hatred, hence “considerately” being used to describe the actions towards the singer.
This song, like almost every song Tool has written, is very complex. The whole song can be interpreted as being about forgiveness, or deciding between two less than perfect choices. It’s about being very close to someone who is tearing you apart, someone you can’t bring yourself to leave, but someone who will destroy you because you can’t leave him or her. It’s the price you pay for being close to them; they aren’t doing it on purpose. I think most people experience something like this at least at certain points in their life. What it is saying is that everyone has to deal with double-edged swords in life; you’ve just got to make the best decision for yourself. No matter what choice you make, you’ve got to be willing and able to bear the consequences.