While everyone is indeed entitled to their opinion, for anyone that questions why this blog (Part Two) is centered around Tool, well, allow me to educate you. After all, what's in a name? Everything, apparantly.
Class is in session, so shut the fuck up, put on 'Ænima' and remember where you left your reading glasses because the subject matter of the matter is the flipside of the progressive music coin personified. Magazines like Rolling Stone would have had you known that when Tool were shat out of the womb into the world that they were alternative metal, nothing more, nothing less. Well, how does it feel, knowing that was all a ruse to get you to subscribe to their way of thinking? Tool, for me, show that growth is not just an important factor, but it's going to happen however you decide to perceive it. As people, we grow, we evolve, we learn, we fuck up, we try again and move forward. Taking that philosophy and put it into music and you've already learnt something new. You can call it a formula, I'm gonna call it a fact.
From their 1st record (or EP, or whatever) 'Opiate', they certainly swam in the pool of alternative metal/hard rock and added a dash of (I wanna say) enlightenment to the sea of alternative bands that were out by that point. The 90's were a strange period for music in many ways, but in other, they were a true highlight, 'Opiate' started Tool off nicely and granted, it wasn't a progressive record, but the band themselves from then until now.....(pretend it's 2006) have certainly progressed from an alternative metal band into progressive metal skyscrapers. The two live tracks were a nice touch as it gave potential and thus new fans an insight as to what to expect live from a new band. You don't see this as much these days, more simple demos or an EP and if you like it, you might go and see the band live. They already gave you a taste of the live feel, smart bear style.
'Undertow' was the follow-up full length debut album and a solid debut full length record. I found out difficult to care for at various stages, but overall it's a solid alternative metal album. Intolerance, Flood, Prison Sex & Sober are great tracks for their time, even still to this day, but it was Tool's third album, 1996's 'Ænima' that stood out for me when I first heard it all the way through.
I can honestly say at one point in time, this was definitely my favourite Tool record. It wasn't definitive of any one style, boasting elements of Metal, Alternative Rock, Prog and a peak through the looking glass into Art Rock (in particular) with tracks like Ænema & Eulogy. The band seemed to truly become a unit (pun intended) in this record. It's not like a typical rock or metal record where the drums are your backbone, the bass is the heart, the guitars are the limbs and the vocals are the driving force at the fore front of the whole scene. No, with Tool, like Dream Theater (In Part One), every instrument is it's own entity and plays their own part so fucking well that you think you've heard this all before, when you haven't. Originators all day long.
Of course, 15 tracks is a lot to put into a record, trust me, my debut album was the same length and would have been a lot more if I was left entirely to my own devices, so 'Ænima' does have a few "filler" tracks that you could easily skip through if you felt like it to get to the good stuff. It eventually contributed to why it no longer remained my favourite Tool album after so many listens. Still a good album, some quality tracks on there, Stinkfist was the first video of Tool's I ever saw, but tracks like Pushit, Forty Six & 2 and Ænema are "classics" if I could use that term properly. Ah sod it, classics they shall be known as.
I never got into Tool properly in the 90's though. It was when 'Lateralus' arrived in 2001 that I started to check out their previous records along with it and see just what a band that doesn't rely on epic guitar solos in every song really sounded like. Whether you like it, don't like it or are indifferent, 'Lateralus' is a Progressive Metal album and a very fucking good one at that. I guess one (be it you or I) might state that this album had a more focussed style, slightly industrial without compromising the bands sound. I remember vividly when MTV2 would play the Parabola video on loop when it came out. Was a pretty decent video, but the track(s) are very good themselves without the visual to captivate you and fuck with your inner being. Random side note, because the tracks are seperated into Parabol & Parabola, I wanted to have the track(s) like they are in the video, without the skip mid crescendo from part A to part B, I decided to mix both tracks together, making the one song and taking the tracklisting down from 13 to 12 tracks. This has no useful information other than if you wanted the tracks to be fluent, even a fucking monkey could do what I did with them. Aaaaanyway, whatabout Schism? Yeah, love Schism. Every time I'd walk into a guitar shop there'd usually be someone playing that riff while trying to sing "I know the pieces fit" before someone inevitably shouted at them to stop playing a song from "The List". I think you can guess for yourselves what comprised of said list.
I don't know about you, but way back when listening to older (70'sish) prog I couldn't help but sometimes find myself becoming somewhat slightly bored by what I was listening to. I guess it would depend on the mood I was in (duh), but that's why Pop and basic Rock are more universally accepted on your TV & Radio, it's good but simple, whereas Prog is more food to digest, a greater process with deeper meaning enveloped, giving it that niche quality that makes it awesome when done well. Bands like Yes & Rush started out as many bands did from obscurity, but bands today have all the music and inspiration elsewhere in the world at their feet and fingertips, Yes & Rush (as examples) didn't have as much influence to garner musically as there wasn't as much music back then, they relied on what they knew, what they thought, art, literature, and out of this they had misses, but then had some great hits, Closer To The Edge & 2112 immediately come to mind. Both bands evolved from prog bands in the 70's and became radio rotated rock throughout the 80's and received not only success and critical aclaim, but gained new fans while losing some old ones in the process. Shit happens, but personally, I like both eras of both those bands as there's a lot of great music on some great albums to be heard at anytime. Meanwhile, back in the 90's & noughties....
Tool certainly fitted the mould of change, the world is not always a colorful and beautiful place, sometimes it's just plain black and white. A term I once heard about Tool's musical style and sound referred to them as "Thinking Man's Metal". Think about that for a second, because in a (slightly) pretentious way, it makes accurate sense. Most music in general requires no thought other than your basic attention. When you're nodding/shaking/banging your head or tapping your foot/hand/stick/stump, you feel the music and it consumes you from there. When you're actually sitting and thinking about what Maynard's singing, you may find yourself thinking about Danny Carey's drum patterns and how they mesh with Justin Chancellor's very distinctive bass playing, before Adam Jones' haunting clean swipes fused with crunching electric riffs put shift into overdrive and start to fuck with your eardrums in forgivable fashion. Like DT, Tool is a great band that is only so by all the members individual greatness.
Fasting forward back in time by eight years and '10,000 Days' opened with my favourite Tool song, Vicarious. "THAT FUCKING RIFF THOUGH!". Needless to say, it was worth the long-ass wait, though again a good album, it depends on the day whether I could say definitively that this is their best album. As good as Lateralus is, because it is a great album, there's something about '10,000 Days' that truly cemented them as a great Prog Metal band. I truly believe that Tool are the only band in history that could legitimately get away with playing the same riff over and over again (mixed and mashed) and it will NEVER get old, boring or overplayed. I'm slightly exaggerating, but the proof in my statement could easily lie in Rosetta Stoned, which is more than just the one riff of course, but is one of their best too. While I'm writing this I've now got upto to this album as I'm typing along, taking slight time outs to write a tweet or two and it's fucking hilarious when you think, it's been eight years since this album arrived and now that they've announced tour dates in the US, the album rumour mill is writhe with speculation and unanswerable questions.
If you think Tool are gonna give anything away in the form of information, fuck that, that's the beauty and brilliance of the dance. You'll get the record when it's done. It's not done until it's done. They haven't gone wrong before, so the odds that Vegas are offering probably won't be changing anytime soon. I don't think that '10,000 Days' should be taken literally, that's 27 years, it's been eight thus far.....actually, maybe your cynicism is understandable, but guess what, like the dragons in Game Of Thrones, Tool's new album is coming, just hold on damn you, impatient fuckers. You have hours of music to keep you at bay until that needle drops in addition to the many, many Prog & Metal bands out there, some I mentioned already, but others like Mastadon I will mention now. To appease the impetuousness within you, allow Adolf Hitler to summerise for you below (Pt 1 of 3).
Click Here for the Metal Evolution documentary series on VH1 Classic - Progressive Metal is the final part in the series.
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I've been thinking about writing this for a few weeks, but there's no other way to state this than Progressive Music in general is the coolest fucking music around. In the case of Progressive Metal, Dream Theater are considered the archetype, although they clearly had influential assistance along the way.
I love many bands, lots of music, both old and new, going back to the 60's with Hendrix, The Who, Deep Purple & such, all the way up til' Dimensionaut by Sound Of Contact (read my review on them, trust me, I'm a doctor). My three favourite bands of all time, while I'm strongly thinking about it, are Rush, Iron Maiden & Dream Theater, all for different reasons but yet all for the same. Starting with they all do their own thing in their own way and they do it very, very well, very well indeed.
When it comes to Dream Theater, what I particularly like about the band before the music even starts to play is that there are no egos to cast a cloud over what you're listening to. It is all about the music and the music is what DT are all about. DT have gone through various changes in line-up in their 28 year history, starting out with the line-up of Mike Portnoy, John Myung, John Petrucci, Kevin Moore & Charlie Dominici (who created the band's Majesty symbol, after all, his name is in it. Clever stuff). Their first record 'When Dream And Day Unite' honestly didn't get the credit it deserved. of course, if it had had the Remastered (2002) production values then, surely, it would have been received differently, but for the album as a whole and the tracks within, a good album. Ytse Jam is fucking brilliant. 'Images And Words' is probably my favourite album. I say probably because I am quite partial to their new eponymous album and 'Six Degrees' and even 'Systematic Chaos' (which I'm surrently listening to as of writing this), but yeah, fuck it, Images And Words is their 'classic' album, though they have great albums throughout their catalogue of quality music. Even with line-up changes of Dominici to James LaBrie & Moore to Derek Sherinian, followed by Jordan Rudess and yes, Portnoy for Mangini, I'll address my thoughts on that in a sec, but the music has a clearly defined evolution that cements the band as legends of a legendary genre that itself evolved from Prog Rock.
With the current line-up (pictured left) the band did indeed feel like a rebirth, so their latest album being self-titled was indeed quite fitting of that notion, but for those that to this day still bith and moan about Portnoy being gone, believe me, I am a huge Portnoy fan, but seriously, move the fuck on. He has, the band have. Maybe the lanets will re-align one day down the road and the fan boy's will get their wish come true, but for now, be grateful that a) the spirit of the band carried on and b) that Mike Mangini is that fucking good a drummer that he can fill the incredibly gifted shoes of Mike Portnoy. For the time periods that the certain line-ups existed, they certainly fitted the mould and upon looking through their history, it's clearly understandable where certain things needed to change in order for the band to be where it's at today. Arguably, five of the best individually gifted musicians, in the same band. What are the odds. With reference to Mike Portnoy, if you are wondering whether he has disappeared into obscurity, obviously he hasn't, he's been with AX7, Adrenaline Mob and formed a brief band with Billy Sheehan, Tony MacAlpine & Derek Sherinian (PSMS) and their live dvd is awesome. Plus, The Winery Dogs (Portnoy, Sheehan & Kotzen) and finally Transatlantic (with Neal Morse & co, review of theirs to come). So, if you're missing Portnoy then don't threat no more, there's plenty of music for you to listen to.
For the 'metalhead' in you, may I recommend a dose of Train Of Thought followed by a dash of Black Clouds, arguable Dream Theater's two heaviest records (though the new one is definitively in the same mix). Train Of Thought is what Metallica's St Anger coulda, shoulda and woulda been if someone held an axe to Kirk Hammett's surf board collection and gave him an ultimatum. Though as much as one can admire Hammett for his metal guitar status, he ain't no John Petrucci........fact!
I can hear the "WTF's" through the minds of metal diehards daring my questioning of Metals "greatest guitarist". Bitches, please, he's good but he ain't even Dave Mustaine ffs. Here's the truth, Metallica evolved quickly, Kill 'Em All was a quality debut, Lightning would've been better with MOP's production. MOP was great, just should've had some better songs like on AJFA, which had the worst fucking production of the four albums mentioned. Then, they became a har rock band and became huge, you know the rest, but Hammett didn't evolve as much as Petrucci has and, to this day, you can hear it in the music.
Compare Metallica's last full length album (not fucking Lulu, yes, Lou Reed RIP but, no, just no, ok?). Death Magnetic, Metallica's ninth album, released in 2008, match it side by side with DT's Systematic Chaos, their ninth album from a year earlier. Death Magnetic, despite the overall creativeness of the songs, had fucking horrible production. Not as bad as St Anger with a bucket lid for a snare drum, but the tracks, they distort through the speakers. There's no sound engineer on the album notes and I can't blame them for not wanting to be affiliated with it neither, because for a band of Metallica's stature, it's fucking terrible. The songs on the other hand....well, they're just as bad, especially when you compare it to Systematic Chaos, an album who's main singlewasn't reliant on ripping off their own song from seven albums before. Where's the creativeness?
Dream Theater themselves have always claimed to be a mix of Yes with Metallica's sound. I can see why, but I'd swap Yes for Rush and then you're abit closer to the mark. The irony of DT "taking" a Metallica approach and ultimately bettering it without compromising the quality of their song writing and over produced sound is simply quite cool. I'm just greatful as a fan that they've done so in such a fashion that has meant that, unlike many Metallica fans, I don't need to sit around twiddling my thumb(s) waiting for Lars to do the press rounds and for my sense of impending excitement to catastrophically come crashing down like a fucking moonsault from the top of a ladder, minus a crowd of 15,000 people shouting "Holy Shit!" in unison.
I've just had a flick through my musi collection and remembered a German Prog Metal band I came across back in the glory days of Myspace (oh, what fond memories one has of that now baron wasteland of spam and tears of Justin Timberlake) called Dreamscape (no, it's not that similar....ok it is). Despite the (similar) name, I can't deny, they do indeed bare a similar resemblance in sound....and style....and in general. But you know what, they actually do their own thing in the shadow of DT. I will post links and videos below of both the Theater & the Scape so that you may compare for yourselves, but take my word, Dreamscape are a decent band. I haven't much of them in the last few years, but there's always hope.
In terms of progressive music, whe it comes to DT, there's always something to be said. The consistency of their songwriting is quite unique, especially when factoring in their musicianship. I mean, fuck, check out the Liquid Tension Experiment video I've posted below for proof of that. Prog has some brilliant bands to look back on, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Rush just to name a few, two of those I'm a huge fan of, though funnily enough, for me, Yes-West was more to my liking than some of their prog stuff. I said some, not all, prog has changed dramatically over the years, but different bands did it differently. Rush, in my humble opinion, are the greatest Prog Rock band, ever, period. The journey from 2112 to Hemispheres solidifies that, then going into Permanent Waves and into Moving Pictures. They evolved from a great Prog band into a great Rock band while maintaining their core balance and evolving. If they regressed back to 2112, it would've been a yawnfest. Subdivisions et al needed to happen, though with the seven albums Rush released in the 80's, with permanent Waves being the very 1st album released i the 80's (Fact) all the way up to 'Presto' (love that album), they were the backbone of the 80's sound and came out of it a better band just as bands like Dream Theater were getting ready to grab the passing torch and hold onto it tight.
Click Here for the Metal Evolution documentary series on VH1 Classic - Progressive Metal is the final part in the series. For anyone wondering why this blog is only part one. Think about it, I haven't addressed that other prog band yet........Tool!
This is where I'll blog about the things I like and don't like from music to wrestling & thensome for everyone to read and enjoy.