When you listen to the new Tool album, you can feel yourself simultaneously
pulling away from it and edging closer. There are a lot of familiar time
signatures, riffs, hooks, fills and so on. But, the new choices seem to run
counter to what I consider “Toolish.”
Maynard is deeper in the mix, he rhymes a lot, he sings clearly defined choruses
that repeat often, his lyrics are direct and mostly devoid of metaphor and
ambiguity. Still, he sounds rich and beautiful at times, rough and bone
scraping at others – and strangest of all, he sounds tiny and falsetto for “The
The guitars are out front, yes, but they aren’t more or less complex than
before. If anything, they express a clean minimalism as compared to Lateralus’
guitar work. There seems to be a balance between off-time insanity and simple,
The real genius here is the bass and drum work. Both are the densest, most
complex and busy they have ever been in Tool.
Ok, the songs.
“Vicarious” – It features awesome layered off-time interplay for the
intro/interludes, and a straightforward head bobbing main riff. Some people
will frown at the APC chorus and safe main riff. Still, the song redeems itself
from the halfway mark to the end with a monstrous build up and release. It’s
much more accessible than anything Tool has ever put on track one. Imagine if
?Hooker With a Penis? was the first song on Aenima.
?Jambi? – This should have been the single. This song is equal parts totally
new territory and ultra-heavy Toolishness. Easily one of the best songs on the
album, ?Jambi? is heavier than ?Vicarious?, less straightforward, and
more experimental. This song could go toe to toe with any song on Lateralus or
?Wings for Marie? – Were you worried Tool had abandoned the diaphanous,
floating complexity of previous albums? This is the evolution of that style.
Honest, dark lyrics, sad and personal, interplay with perfect choices from the
rest of the band. It serves as an extended intro to 10,000 days, but could
?10,000 days? – Slow, methodic, powerful, meaningful, heart-wrenching and
amazing, this is the epic tour-de-force of the album. If nothing else on the
album grabs you, this will. For some, all the strange choices will turn them
away from the new album. This song will remain. If nothing else, we have this,
and it was worth the wait.
?The Pot? – Nope, this is not what I expected. It?s jam-packed with Tool
cleverly hidden in a radio-friendly single. A wolf in sheep?s clothing, it
just doesn?t hit me in the gut. Take the ?Vicarious? upbeat APC chorus
concept and fully indulge. Maybe it will grow on me, but for now it seems like
?Lipjan Conjuring? – As a pause/filler, its actually really nice. Maynard
attempts to perform a realistic delivery, and the accompaniment is discreet.
?Lost Keys? – This has great production value, is a suitable meditative
intro, and it?s compelling. Then, it?s ruined by a short sketch voiceover
reminiscent of Metallica?s ?One?. Maybe it will grow on me, but I?m not
into it yet.
?Rosetta Stoned? – Total insanity. I like it, but my brow stays furrowed
almost the whole song. It?s playful, irreverent, and bizarre. Imagine the
vibe of ?Hooker With a Penis? expanded into an epic monster. This is not
the same kind of Tool that talks about charkas and golden ratios. This is poop
and Sudafed with off-time riffs.
?Intension? – As the intro to ?Right in Two?, this will stand out for
musicians and long time fanboys. The bass is tremendous, the drumming
experimental and complex, the guitar complementary, and the vocals golden.
Groove on, Tool.
?Right in Two? – This is seriously my number one pick from the album. As a
non-epic, this combines everything from Tool?s repertoire and manages to rock
while looming in the shadows. Again, the meaning of the lyrics is easy to pick
up on, and the metaphors this time deal with Christian/evolution themes. It?s
worth 50 ?The Pot?s.
?Viginti Tres? – Unless you are tripping, skip it. It?s just noise.
So, the album as a whole? The songs that stand out – ?Jambi?,
?Wings/10,000 days?, ?Intension/Right in Two? are all I?ve ever
wanted from Tool. ?Vicarious? and ?The Pot? each have awesome sections,
but take a step back from what I expected from the evolution of this band.
?Lost Keys/Rosetta Stoned? falls in between, but I suspect it will emerge
as a favorite too.
Bottom line: 75% is the evolution of genius. 25% is left turns and
radio-friendly. So, taken as a whole, Lateralus and Aenima are better albums.
But, the songs that stand out are equivalent if not better than anything on