It is no secret that the instantaneous nature of the internet has minimized the overall musical experience. In the past, antsy, dedicated fans slept in front of venues to get a hold of a ticket the instant the show went on sale. Deep within the confines of our newfangled internet age, it’s become quite difficult for musicians to fly under the radar, create history and retain an air of enticing mystery. If there is one band who has succeeded within such while remaining wholly unique and impossible to categorize over a two-decade-plus career, it is Tool. The radical group of living, breathing enigmas have a rich history of creating musical existential toolboxes full of the simultaneously spiritual, thought-provoking, abstruse, bloody raw and downright brilliant nuts and bolts that serve beyond the easy to digest and mainstream success as enthusiast’s escape into a journey of the mind beyond space and time.
Formed in 1990, Los Angeles rock band, Tool, has morphed into one of the most successful progressive rock bands of all time. The lineup has consisted of the ingenious, Maynard James Keenan, Danny Carey, Adam Jones, and bassist Justin Chancellor since 1995, when Chancellor replaced original bassist, Paul D’amour. The three-time Grammy Award winners who are passionately revered by fans worldwide have incorporated an evasive, secretive and unmitigatingly cryptic aura reflecting abysmal depth within each and every one of their lyrically and visually hypnotic concepts.
The band creating a edge throughout the release their first full-length studio album, ‘Undertow’, in 1993 on Zoo Entertainment which was dropped in the midst of the era of grunge shelling out apathetic lyrics over distorted guitars. And no, ‘Opiate’, does not count as Tool’s first full-length release. It is immediately apparent over intricate drums, a powerful bass tone and hauntingly furious vocals that the listener is diving into an explosive journey full of agony and melancholia that articulates the inner workings of a human being traversing a tortuous path at dizzying speed. Encompassing of standout tracks such as “Prison Sex”, “Sober”, “Undertow”, and “Swamp Song” to name a few, the intense and painfully dry album set the stage for one of the most innovative bands of all time to emerge and forthrightly diverge from the straight and narrow path.
Abounding with the cold-hard facts and brass tacks, listeners are sent down an entrancing expedition through insane shred solos and lyrical extremes within Tool’s 1996 release and second studio album, ‘/Enima’, which sends listeners down a virtuosic, maniacal and addictive mind confronting the power of denial tendencies and irrational rationalizations that sweep through our nation. The magnetically dark album houses one of Tool’s most controversial songs of all time, “Third Eye”, which opens with a quote from comedian/philosopher, Bill Hicks, pertaining to how drugs get a crooked rep throughout society even though an abundance of the most talented musicians and artists in history have created their best work within altered states of consciousness. The lyrically meditative description of the experience of bliss an individual encounter’s upon prying open their third eye after tumbling down the rabbit hole which leads to a conversation with a celestial being the drug user has encountered attests to the power of the aural experience Tool’s music brings to life.
The lyrical level truly parallels the instrumental state of euphoria delivered through a lengthy and explosive blend of personal power and personal confrontation that leads listeners to belief in themselves beyond the self-conceived interpretation of power from oppressive forces stifling their abilities and sense of tranquility. ‘Enima’ serves as a healthy retreat away from the bullshit that floods the lives of the deprived and inauthentic values of society.
Tool’s live performances defy all conventions. Singer, Maynard James Keenan, has been known to face away from the audience to psychologically influence fans to pay keener attention to their screens full of psychedelic and internally enriching visuals that serve as Maynard’s reflection of his personal journey while residing comfortably in the shadows. Abounding with light shows and varied stage settings, Tool’s live performances attest to the emotive power of their music and artistry.
The mysteriously bewitching band took a five year hiatus prior to releasing their most visually explosive and spiritually stimulating album, ‘Lateralus’, in 2001. The immaculately curated musical exploration of consciousness pushes the envelopes of what Maynard perceives that he knows while reminding listeners to swing on the spiral of divinity, live in the now and accept their fate as mortal human beings. Chromatically rich and creatively stimulating tracks such as “Parobola”, “Lateralus”, “Ticks and Leeches”, and “The Patient” lead listeners into a trance of questions that outstretch definitives and the universal beliefs consumed through societal acceptance pertaining to our precious time on planet earth. Tool dives head first in a sea of thought steering clear from mediocrity while enthusiastically engaging with concepts such as energy fields, vibrations, chakras and further spiritual mediums that relate to the golden spiral seen through nature aka The Fibonacci sequence, which is explored throughout the album’s ninth track, “Lateralus”. Keeping listeners on the edge of surprise, ‘Lateralus’, is a musical, visual and poetic masterpiece.
Tool’s fourth studio album, ‘10,000 Days’, truly set the bar high for the elusive frontrunners of progressive rock. As with every Tool album, this narratively shell- shocking piece of musical art is best listened to in full from start to finish, as it tells an inventive and heart-wrenching tale pertaining to Maynard’s mother, Judith, who has spent a great deal of her life paralyzed. It is rumored that the title, ‘10,000 Days’, represents the amount of time Judith spent paralyzed until her demise as Maynard stares dead in the eyes of excruciating acceptance, honest reflection and spine-tingling conceptions lurking beneath the psyche of a conflicting personality and harsh reality. The manner in which Maynard expresses his connection with his mother within the spiritual world beyond the physical realm along with the depiction of Judith’s benevolent heart, warm grace and beauty is artistically brilliant and vulnerably honorable. The album houses entrancing tracks such as “Jambi”, “Wings For Marie”, “Intension”, and “Right In Two” which carry a supernatural, sci-fi feel laced with Maynard’s experiences that are excruciatingly real.
Tool’s discography and musical entity betrays commercial ambitions influences listeners to dive deeper into their personal emotional crescendos and neurotic workings of the mind. Tool is one of the few existing acts today that send a message through their music and inherent eccentricity that stands the test of time and is full of unvarnished truth and dignity.