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Puscifer, ‘V Is for Vagina’ (Puscifer Entertainment)

Through four albums of dark, existential art metal, Tool have cast a spooky shadow, but the underlying truth about the band (and frontman Maynard James Keenan) is that they’re pretty cheeky. Ænima featured a big single about fisting, a nod to acerbic comic Bill Hicks, and “Die Eier Von Satan,” whose lyrics sound like a Nazi salvo but are really a recipe for cookies.

Keenan’s latest round of yuks is his solo project Puscifer, which first surfaced as a fictional band on the sketch-comedy TV series Mr. Show. Though V Is for Vagina has metal elements, it’s totally gothed-up groin music, and at the center of it all is Keenan’s voice, which is mostly embedded in the mix on Tool albums. He tries out a number of tones here, including a blue-eyed croon (“Rev 22:20”) and a lothario growl that wraps around words like “booty” and “saddlebags” with a Björk-like air of wonder, as though he’s discovering them for the first time.

Keenan sometimes winks too much, but he knows when to pull back from the brink of ridiculousness (despite describing himself as a “pimp without a dog, without a bone”). V Is for Vagina‘s industrial funk — featuring multi-instrumentalists Danny Lohner and Lisa Germano, guitarist Jonny Polonsky, and Primus drummer Tim Alexander — is sharp and giant-sounding, with a delightfully subversive sense of melody. The album may seem like a gag, but for Keenan, that may just be his version of honesty.

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