Ever felt overwhelmed by an artist’s extensive back catalog? Been meaning to check out a band, but you just don’t know where to begin? In 10 Songs is here to help, offering a crash course and entry point into the daunting discographies of iconic artists of all genres. This is your first step toward fandom. Take it.
Editor’s Note: This feature originally ran in October 2016. We’re reposting as Tool’s Fear Inoculum prepares to drop this Friday.
There are rumors of a new Tool album on the horizon, which was true for most of the Obama administration and may be true through Donald Trump’s administration as well. But avid fans keep hunting for rumors so ravenously that you would think the band members have been totally idle since Tool’s last studio album, 2006’s 10,000 Days. They haven’t. Guitarist Adam Jones (the man most responsible for Tool’s iconic music videos) and drummer Danny Carey have both played with The Melvins. Bassist Justin Chancellor has guested for Isis and Intronauts. And, most famously, Maynard James Keenan has gone on to front two other successful bands, first A Perfect Circle and more recently Puscifer. And, of course, there are still periodic mini-tours as Tool.
The inner workings of bands are somewhat mysterious, and we often learn the most when those bands come to an end. So it is with Tool’s long hiatus. We’ve learned, of course, that Keenan is frighteningly charismatic, capable of carrying an act almost single-handedly. But we also learned that Keenan, left to his own devices, is perfectly content to write a traditional four-minute rock song. This is not the kind of song for which Tool is famous. And while A Perfect Circle and Puscifer have both made interesting music, neither have stretched the boundaries of rock and metal until it wasn’t clear that “rock” and “metal” were even appropriate descriptors anymore. That is Tool’s legacy.
Think about it: A great frontman is harder to find than a great guitarist, bassist, or drummer, mostly because the ability to write lyrics and the ability to sing them are two skills that have almost nothing to do with each other. Keenan is one of the greatest frontmen in the history of heavy music. But through all the new albums from A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, fans have continued to hunger for more Tool. This is a credit to the unique talents of Chancellor, Carey, and Jones.
Over the course of four classic albums and Opiate, the wonderful early EP, Tool have covered a range of topics that would daunt any would-be biographer. Nevertheless, Consequence of Sound has attempted to distill Tool’s appeal down to 10 representative songs. Each song has been selected because it covers a recurring interest of the band, both lyrical (from drugs to spirituality) and musical (Tool’s iconic time signatures). If you have other favorites, we hope that you’ll share them in the comments below.