Here's why Tool's new album is still worth waiting for even after 12 years
Twelve harrowing years after the release of Tool's last album '10,000 Days', here's a reminder as to why it still makes complete sense to wait for Tool's upcoming fifth album.
As far as fan bases go, the Tool fan army is an especially tortured one. The reason? This month marks 12 years since Tool released their last album '10,000 Days'. Ever since the iconic prog rockers haven't released any new material. Meanwhile, Tool fans have been driven to the very edge of their wits. It's almost as if you can hear the collective sighs of the Tool fan army every time some promising news/rumor breaks only to be rubbished by frontman Maynard James Keenan. But the long wait might indeed finally be over this year, at least judging by the slew of positive news coming from the band in little snippets.
Late last year, drummer Danny Carey told an interviewer that Tool's fifth LP would "definitely" be out in 2018. Then in January, he confirmed that the band would be hitting the studio "soon." In February, Maynard posted a couple of promising tweets in which he claimed that "words and melodies on all of the songs except for one" were complete and that all that was left was to track the songs. Meanwhile, a long-time friend of the band Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Prophets of Rage) stopped by the studio to check out the progress of the new album and was absolutely blown away.
The most exciting news though arrived in March when guitarist Adam Jones confirmed via his Instagram account that the band is officially in the studio and working on the album. The band's main website also released a statement supporting Jones, saying, "We are very excited to announce what is sure to be welcome news for both fans of TOOL and prog-metal enthusiasts in general. After all the years of writing and arranging (and re-arranging) at the band’s loft, I can at this time officially report that the guys have moved into a major studio where the recording process for the next album is about to begin in earnest."
Finally, it looks like this could indeed be the year that gets to see the release of the much-anticipated album. But in the last decade, the endless wait for the new album has turned into somewhat of a farce, a fact that Maynard himself acknowledges from time to time without any qualms. In an interview with Revolver, Maynard sarcastically compared the new album to Guns N' Roses' 'Chinese Democracy', their 2006 LP which was infamously delayed for 15 years because of creative differences between bandmates. So what is it that still makes the new Tool album worth waiting for?
The answer is simple. Tool is actually that spectacularly good! Ever since they broke onto the scene with 1993's 'Undertow,' Tool has consistently managed to produce some of the most immersive, intricate and beautiful rock music. In fact, their constant experimenting and reinvention makes them one of the toughest bands to categorize into a genre. Their incorporation of the visual arts and deep metaphysical philosophy has made them a style-transcending act, one that can probably at best be described as 'art rock', for lack of a better genre that defines them. They are a genre unto themselves.
Tool's second album, 1996's 'Ænima' became a forerunner of the sound that we today call alternative metal. Five years later, their methodic pursuit to unify experimentation, mathematics, visual arts and a message of personal evolution culminated into their third studio album 'Lateralus', which without a doubt marks the absolute zenith of their career.
The album incorporated subject matters that dealt with existence, the meaning of life, our connection to the starry dynamo of the night, the Golden Ratio and rolled it all into one smooth, flawless symphony. The title track's theme describes the desire of humans to explore and to expand for more knowledge and a deeper understanding of everything. Fittingly, everything from the time - signatures to the meter and rhythm of the lyrics to the guitar riffs were all written with the Fibonacci sequence in mind. Another half a decade later, the pursuit continued with the critically acclaimed '10,000 Days', which debuted at 'Number 1' on the Billboard 200 charts.
Every time the band has promised something, it has consistently delivered and often done more than just that. Many bands remain stuck with the same sound, failing to adapt to changing times. Some bands manage to change their sound but don't necessarily succeed in evolving it meaningfully. Even fewer manage to stay relevant to the times as the years go by. Tool is one act that does it all, with spot-on perfection and even makes it seem effortless and natural.
There are a lot of reasons to be hopeful about Tool's new album. Maynard James Keenan has been quite busy the last year or so. His side project, A Perfect Circle is all set to release 'Eat The Elephant,' their first studio album in 14 years. The album is scheduled for an April 21 release. Recently, while speaking to Revolver magazine, Maynard opened up about the fact that the new A Perfect Circle record was borne from his frustration to push forward the recording process for Tool. “I had this other looming project that can’t seem to go forward, as much as I’ve tried, every magic word in the book that I tried,” Maynard revealed.
The band has also previewed four singles from the album so far. And if the previewed singles of the new album are anything to go by, 'Eat The Elephant' looks like the comeback album that any band would kill for. It's a sure sign of the fact that Maynard is in prime form, still maintaining the lyrical prowess and genius songwriting that he is known and loved for. If one were to go by history, it would be quite evident that just a few months before a Tool album, we get to see something new from APC as well. Their debut album 'Mer de Noms' came in 2000, just before 'Lateralus'. Their second effort 'Emotive' was the curtain raiser for '10,000 Days'. It's as if Maynard needs A Perfect Circle to keep his creative juices flowing, just like all the wine he's been making off late!
But it's not just Maynard. The rest of the band also looks in prime shape. Over the years, although they haven't put out any new material, the band has been touring extensively. In fact, their biggest non-festival headlining show to date went down only last year and every single live performance only confirms the fact that the band still is as tight as ever.
Tool works at such a deliberate pace for a reason. They're perfectionists. Every note, beat, riff and syllable is drowned in layers of meaning. Even the visual art and copy that comes with their vinyl records is extravagantly detailed, often displaying the maximalist art style of the likes of Alex Grey. The reason for their frequent delays is perfectly embodied in their philosophy of not releasing any of their material digitally or via streaming services. In fact, the band recently confirmed that the recording of the new album would be completely analog. This is not Tool just making some cool statement to stand out. It's a nod to the fact that they invite listeners to treat their work as an explorative journey. It's something that demands your full attention and is sometimes even quite taxing on the brain.
If we were to honestly evaluate Tool's body of work, it's clear that they were at their very best during their Lateralus days at the turn of the century. The sprawling '10,000 Days', while intermittently outstanding, was their shakiest album to date. A few sections of rambling lyricisms and brain-boggling progressions made it the lone Tool album that can at times feel more taxing than rewarding. Understandably, it wouldn't be unfair to ask if the fifth album could be marred by similar flaws.
So why then, after waiting for over two decades is it still worth the wait? Simply because no other band on earth could possibly fill this void. It's not just because Tool sounds like no other band that is active today. It's that no active band's sonic and conceptual universe can even hold a candle to their work. It's the sheer magic with which Tool binds the mysterious, the eccentric and the mundane so skillfully together, something which is really hard to find in the modern rock landscape. Metallica is still making new music that sounds just like Metallica. The Foo Fighters are still The Foo Fighters (more or less) and Queens of the Stone Age are probably the closest to Tool in successfully embracing the weird instead of shunning it, but even they are miles behind.
Recently, in an interview with Rolling Stone Italy, Tom Morello assured Tool's much-tortured fan army that the long wait is totally worth it. “I heard the instrumental version of the record. Maynard had not recorded anything yet. It sounds great, I can say that it is worth waiting so much," he said. Morello knows something that the entire metal universe subconsciously knows deep down inside: the fact that there is not a single musical act out there that can take you on a transcendental journey that leaves your head spinning and your third eye pried wide open!