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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