When I was first introduced to Tool (quite vaguely) in early 2006, I was told to listen to their track ‘Right in Two’ from their last album offering 10,000 Days. I didn’t care much then. Fast forward to the end of 2007, where the same person re-emerged and reintroduced me (properly this time) to Tool. Being a hardcore fan (more like wacko-worshiper), he drilled it into my mind that I was missing out on something monumental in the progressive metal scene. Little did I know that what I gingerly tried to understand and adapt my senses to, was in fact, the one thing that would change how I saw people, the world, and even life itself.
Tool is a band that commands respect. You can never go back once you step foot onto their realm. They cough up an incredible album every couple of years, with their last one being 10,000 Days back in 2006. Fans are sitting tight with bated breath for their next album release later this year – an apocalyptic explosion of prodigious mastery, no doubt. The members consist of Maynard James Keenan (lead vocals), Danny Carey (drums/percussion), Justin Chancellor (bass), and Adam Jones (guitar). Albums released so far by the band include Undertow (1993), Ænima (1996), Lateralus (2001) and 10,000 Days (2006).
The band has seen itself through many genre shadows – from an alternative rock and progressive metal act, to now famous post-metal / atmospheric metal performers. They nestle themselves in an all together different place in the music scene – where they are envied for their flawless lyrics, admirable (and complex) time-signature arrangements and production. Unlike many bands, Tool manages to stay clear from tags like ‘mainstream’, ‘commercialism’ and ‘mediocrity’. Maynard perceives their music as a medium or “tool” so to speak, for people to question; evolve; break free from dictated norms.
Their albums revolve around heavy concepts like evolution, Jungian theories, the Fibonacci series, transcendence, religion, and the end of days. The first album I’d heard back then was 10,000 Days. I have lost count of the number of times I have listened to every song from the album. And each time, I’d be filled with awe. I then ventured into Opiate and Ænima years later. It’s been 6 years into Tool now and I finally loaded Undertow quite recently for a listen, to take in yet another unusual masterpiece which I have yet to unravel.
Why am I taking so long to listen to all their work, you ask? Because it is better to walk into something with clear comprehension rather than the lack of it. I’ve only listened to two tracks from Lateralus, the title track and ‘The Patient’. I know what the concept of the entire album is all about (I’ve turned and twisted its theory around so many times, I’m dizzy), but I’ve treated it like an initiation into a brotherhood of some sort. I’m building up the suspense and anticipation from one album to the next, you see? It is a widely accepted truth that their most defining album was Lateralus and in simple text, I’ve left the best for last.
Side projects of Maynard J. Keenan include Puscifer and A Perfect Circle (lead vocalist), both bands unmatchable in their own right. Be sure to check out albums like Thirteen Steps, Conditions of My Parole, and V is for Vagina. Tool has suggested several books for reading on their official website and others, for fans and curious newcomers to understand their music better. I recently got my hands on Bob Frissell’s paperback entitled Nothing In This Book Is True But It Is Exactly How Things Are, which is a helpful insight to their album Ænima. Their artsy videos have been the subject of controversy, where Hush was the only one to feature the band members. In this video, all four are seen butt-naked with parental advisory slogans covering their ‘private zones’ (in obvious protest to the censorship of music practice).
Other videos by the band can only be termed as ‘weird’ or ‘whacked’, with Sober being acclaimed for its creative oddness that won it the title of ‘Best Music Video By a New Artist’ by Billboard. Album packaging is almost other-worldly like on Lateralus and 10,000 Days, which is only fathomable once you get your hands on the real deal. With three Grammys and multiple nominations tucked securely under their belt, Tool is making waves in more ways than one.
When you discover something worth exploring, you don’t dive into it headlong – it takes years to let it grow onto you. Leading a life that lacks substance is what a lot of us do – shuffling forward like mindless zombies into an abyss of nothingness. Spiritual books, religion and music of the sort, speak a common language that is white noise to us. But if you are willing and inviting, it is ready to unlock something quite profound.