"Good" musical artists usually fall neatly within a particular category of music, like "rock" or "metal" or "punk." "Great" musicians generally blur the lines, incorporating elements from multiple musical genres to create a sound and style that is wholly their own. That puts Tool amid the musical "greats," even without an extensive lineup of studio albums, live albums, and a massive collection of awards and tour dates. In the arena of rock, Tool stands alone. > Read more
Tool Time Begins
Assembled as a group in 1990, Tool originally consisted of vocalist Maynard James Keenan (MJK), guitarist Adam Jones, bass player Paul D'Amour, and drummer Danny Carey. In 1995, Justin Chancellor replaced D'Amour on bass, but the rest of the band has remained intact for what's quite nearly three decades now.
In the realm of rock 'n' roll bands, D'Amour leaving Tool was almost unsatisfyingly anticlimactic. There were no brawls or destroyed hotel rooms to report. No overdoses followed by dramatic stints in rehab,; not even a slamfest in the media where fans could take sides and blame the "other guy." It's one of the actual cases where D'Amour and Tool split "due to creative differences," the remaining members of Tool insistent on perfecting the tunes before recording, and D'Amour simply wanting to lay down the tracks and get on with his life. He's since gone on to other successes, including with his current band Lesser Key, which he says gives him the artistic freedom he desires.
Tool's Box is Filled with Musical Innovation
Tool's musical style leans heavily on progressive rock/prog metal, grunge, and alternative with twists of punk rock, psychedelic rock, and even art rock., made unique by complex and unusual time signatures, which are highly variable across (and sometimes within) their songs. They commonly take on significant social issues, sometimes leaving lyrics out completely to focus on the music instead of the words. When lyrics are included, they take a "no holes barred" approach, confronting serious issues like portrayals of violence in the media, child abuse, and human mortality. Sometimes Tool's tunes are the hardest of the hardcore, at other times, soft and even melodic.
Tool also relies heavily on the visual aspect of today's music, leaving themselves out of their music videos (since the first two) so that the public will focus on the music instead of "personalities." The videos usually feature at least some stop motion animation. Though often compared to bands like Jane's Addiction, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols, King Crimson, Rush, Helmet, Faith No More, and the Melvins. In the end, it's mostly just Tool being Tool.
Tool's Works: Albums & Awards
Tool's first album, Undertow (1993), didn't exactly revolutionize the world of music overnight, but did eventually go Platinum (2 times), closing in on 3 million copies sold in the U.S. Their second album, Ænima (1996) received more love, debuting in the #2 spot on Billboard and garnering Platinum status three times over. The title track of the album brought Tool a Grammy (for Best Metal Performance), and Kerrang listed it as #6 on their list of most influential albums of all time.
Their third album, Lateralus (2001), was a bit delayed by a legal battle, and the band initially announced a fake name for the album, Systema Encéphale, complete with a made-up list of tracks. Lateralus (according to Tool's members) is a mish-mash of the name "vastus lateralis," a powerful muscle in the human thigh, together with the term "lateral thinking." Fitting for a band nicknamed by The Age's music critic, Patrick Donovan, "the thinking person's metal band."
Their fourth and most recent album, 10,000 Days (2006) debuted at the #1 spot on Billboard, selling more than 2.5 million copies around the world, and also taking Platinum status. Murmurings about a fifth album have circulated since 2013, but no album has yet been produced. Tool's fan base is nothing if not patient, enduring incredibly long bouts of no musical production from the band, often sparking rumors that they've broken up. They haven't.
To Tool or Not to Tool, That Remains a Question
This latest hiatus is at least partly due to yet another ongoing lawsuit the band is involved in, this time with an insurance company. Rumors of Tool's breakup have been even more intense since Keenan took on not one, but two outside projects: A Perfect Circle and Pucifer. While A Perfect Circle is actually a band, with regular members, Pucifer isn't really a band at all. Keenan is the only official member and it serves more as his creative outlet than an actual, functioning band, and perhaps more of a line of clothing than even that. But his outside work is likely not helping to rush another Tool album to market.
What's a Tool fan to do? Wait. Patiently, if possible.