Tool's greatest breakthrough was to introduce dark, vaguely
underground metal to the preening pretentiousness of art rock. Or maybe
it was introducing the self-absorbed pretension of art rock to the
wearing grind of post-thrash metal the order really doesn't matter.
Though Metallica wrote their multi-sectioned, layered songs as if
they were composers, they kept their musical attack ferociously at
street level. Tool didn't. They embraced the artsy, faux-bohemian
preoccupations of Jane's Addiction while they simultaneously paid
musical homage to the dark, relentlessly bleak visions of grindcore,
death metal, and thrash.
Even with their post-punk influences, they executed their music with
the ponderous, anti-song aesthetic of progressive rock, alternating
between long, detailed instrumental interludes and tuneless,
pseudo-meaningful lyrical rants in their songs.
Tool, however, had a knack for conveying the strangled, oppressive
angst that the alternative nation of the early '90s claimed as its own.
So, the band was able to slip into the definition of alternative rock
during the post-Nirvana era, landing a slot on the third Lollapalooza
tour in 1993, which helped their first full-length debut album,
Undertow, rocket into platinum status.
Their music has been influenced by King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Pink
Floyd, Rush, Meshuggah, and early Yes, among several others. In turn,
Tool's music has been deemed influential by critics and fellow artistes
Recently Kirk Hammett (Metallica) played with the band in a show and
described in Metallica's official web site this event as "one of the
most profound jamming experiences I have ever encountered." During the
1980s the future members of Tool, guitarist/bassist Paul d'Amour,
drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones and singer Maynard James
Keenan coincidentally moved to Los Angeles.
Both d'Amour and Jones wanted to enter the film industry. Carey
became a professional drummer playing for Carole King, Pigmy Love Circus
and Green Jell. Keenan, along with d'Amour and Jones, started their own
band at the end of the decade. Carey was introduced to Jones by an old
high school friend of Jones.
In 1990 when Carey, then a neighbour of Keenan, joined their
rehearsal, Tool was formed. The next year Tool began touring with
Rollins Band, Fishbone, and Rage Against The Machine.
Tool received immediate recognition for their first commercial
release, Opiate (1992). The six-song EP included the "hardest sounding"
songs the band had written to that point, among them the singles "Hush"
and "Opiate." A music video for "Hush" was created by Failure's Ken
Andrews, with the band members appearing naked and their mouths covered
by duct tape, symbolically protesting censorship. Ironically, due to FCC
regulations requiring the censorship of genitalia, the video eventually
showed the band's genitalia covered with parental guidance stickers.
Tool were quick to release their first full-length album, Undertow
(1993), soon after Opiate, because many of the songs on Undertow had
already been written at the time Opiate was released. Eventually, they
were hired to play the second stage at Lollapalooza in 1993, where they
attracted great attention.
The band was quickly moved to the main stage because of their
"presence, prowess and power." This helped to boost the popularity of
Undertow and before long, the album was certified gold by the RIAA. The
album was later certified double platinum on May 14, 2001.
The band received negative publicity, however, with the release of
the 1994 single "Prison Sex" and its music video, directed and created
by Adam Jones. The American branch of MuchMusic called the band into
question by deeming the video too graphic and offensive. MTV stopped
airing the video after a few viewings - both due to a symbolic dealing
with the sensitive subject of child abuse.
In May of 1993, Tool was scheduled to play the Garden Pavilion in
Hollywood. The band learned at the last minute that the Garden Pavilion
belonged to L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology which "betrays the
band's ethics about how a person should not follow a belief system that
constricts their development as a human being." In a recent interview
with Blender, Maynard recalled that he "spent most of the show baa-ing
like a sheep at the audience."
In September 1995, shortly after recording for their second album
began, D'Amour left the band amicably. In November, he was replaced by
Justin Chancellor, a member of Peach, an English band with whom Tool had
previously toured in Europe.
After Justin Chancellor came on board, Tool finished the
already-begun AEnima, which was subsequently released in October of
1996. Once again, a single had difficulty gaining airplay; this time it
was "Stinkfist." MTV renamed the music video of the song to "Track #1"
because of the offensive connotations, and multiple radio edits were
made to both shorten the song and change its lyrics.
However, an overwhelming fan response compelled most radio stations
to play the track uncut. In addition, Matt Pinfield, the host of MTV's
120 Minutes, responded to fan complaints by waving his fist in front of
his face on air while explaining the reason for the name change as he
introduced the video. AEnima would be Tool's last studio album release
for five years.
AEnima was dedicated to satirist Bill Hicks who died two-and-a-half
years before its release. Some clips of Hicks' performances are included
on AEnima and Undertow, including multiple sketches about psychoactive
drugs and a sample of a bleating sheep.
The lenticular casing of the AEnima shows California falling into the
Pacific Ocean, and the chorus of the song " AEnima " features the lyric
"Learn to swim, I'll see you down in Arizona Bay;" these are references
to another popular Hicks sketch about his hatred of Los Angeles.
Eventually, "AEnima" would win Tool's first Grammy Award.
During their 1997 tour to support the album, Tool appeared at
Lollapalooza again, this time as a headliner, gaining critical praise
from the NY Times: "Tool was returning in triumph to Lollapalooza after
appearing among the obscure bands on the festival's smaller stage in
1993. Now Tool is the prime attraction for a festival that's struggling
to maintain its purpose.
Tool uses taboo-breaking imagery for hellfire moralizing in songs
that swerve from bitter reproach to nihilistic condemnation. Its music
has refined all the troubled majesty of grunge." That same year, Volcano
Records alleged contract violations by Tool and filed suit.
The band countersued and the parties later agreed to a new contract
and a three-record deal. This legal battle put a great strain on the
band and delayed work on their next album. During this time, Keenan
founded a new band, A Perfect Circle, with long-time Tool guitar tech
At this point, rumours that Tool were breaking up were beginning to
spread, until the band released the box set Salival in 2000 putting an
end to the rumours. The box set featured one new original recording, "Merkaba",
as well as recordings of unique live versions and B-sides, including
covers and five of the band's videos, "Stinkfist", "AEnema", "Prison
Sex", "Sober" and "Hush." Although this release did not produce any
singles, the hidden track "Maynard's Dick" (a track which dates back to
the Opiate era) briefly found its way to FM radio when several DJs chose
to sneak it onto the air without permission.
In January 2001, the rumour mill surrounding the band gained new life
when Tool announced their new album, Systema Encephale, along with a
tracklist full of esoteric and obscure words such as "Numbereft", "Encephatalis",
"Musick", and "Coeliacus."
As anticipated, file-sharing engines such as Napster became flooded
with bogus files disguised with those titles. During that time, Tool
members were outspokenly critical of engines like Napster due to the
negative impact on smaller artists that are dependent on success in
record sales to continue their career. Keenan had this to say during an
interview with NY Rock in 2000: "I think there are a lot of other
industries out there that might deserve being destroyed.
The ones who get hurt by MP3s are not so much companies or the
business, but the artists, people who are trying to write songs." Only
one month later, they revealed that the new album was actually titled
Lateralus and that the name Systema Enc,phale and the tracklist had been
a ruse, much to the dismay of music magazines and commercial websites
who had committed headlong to the fake title.
Lateralus features songs averaging six-and-a-half minutes in length,
unwieldy even for the most ambitious of disc jockeys. The length of the
music video for "Parabola" clocked in at an unheard of ten-and-a-half
minutes, almost condemning it from being aired on mainstream music
Nevertheless, the album became a success the world over, reaching #1
on the Billboard Top 200 album charts on its debut week. Tool received
their second Grammy Award for the best metal performance of 2001 for the
During the band's acceptance speech, drummer Carey stated that he
would like to thank his parents (for putting up with him) and Satan,
while bassist Chancellor concluded: "I want to thank my dad for doing my
mom." After extensive touring throughout 2001 and 2002, including a
10-show mini-tour with King Crimson in August, the tour came to an end
on November 24, 2002.
Although the end of the tour seemed to spell another dormancy for the
band, they did not become completely inactive. While Keenan recorded and
toured with A Perfect Circle, the other band members released an
official yet fanclub exclusive interview and a recording of some of
their new material. Three hundred pre-released and autographed copies of
the "double vinyl four-picture disc" edition of Lateralus were made
exclusively available as well.
Following another prolonged break, during which Keenan rejoined A
Perfect Circle to record and tour, he joined his bandmates to work on a
new record. After some minor details about their new material emerged,
such as the influence of Lateralus tourmates Fantomas and Meshuggah, the
notorious rumour mill surrounding new Tool-releases resurfaced as well,
as it was fuelled by unusual incidents.
One of the main controversies regarding the new release was the album
title. After rumoured titles such as Teleincision had been dismissed, a
news item on the official Tool website eventually announced the new
album's name: 10,000 Days.
Nevertheless, rumours did not cease to emerge, reaching a point where
it was speculated that they had fabricated a "decoy" album, creating an
elaborate hoax to fool audiences until the day of release.
They only began to subside when a leaked copy of the album was
illegally distributed via filesharing networks preceding the release
date by two weeks.
The record was eventually released as announced on May 2, 2006 in the
US, and debuted at the top spots of various international charts.
Despite being available on said filesharing networks, 10,000 Days sold
564,000 copies in its opening week in the US alone securing itself the
top spot on Billboard charts. However, 10,000 Days' critical reception
was less favourable than its predecessor Lateralus.