Tool - 10,000 Days
Volcano
Tool Metal
11 songs (76:12)
Release year: 2006
Tool
Reviewed by Al
Album of the month

A little over four years ago I experienced something that would forever change my perception of music, something that dashed to pieces my preconceptions of what was possible in this artistic medium, something that would later almost directly influence me to pick up a guitar and begin creating music. This something was a little album called Ænema by a band called Tool. Since then I’ve enjoyed many years of experiencing all the band had to offer, which has left me with more than a few unforgettable musical memories and an insatiable desire for more. I’ve been waiting four years for this album and I know I’m not the only one.

Herein lies a crash course for the uninitiated. Tool was formed by vocalist Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Paul D’Amour (who would later be replaced by Justin Chancellor in 1995) and drummer Danny Carey in LA in 1990 and released their debut EP Opiate in 1992. In these early days their general sound was that of progressive metal, taking traditional power chord mainstays and experimenting with unusual rhythm and time changes. This was followed up by their first full length Undertow in 1993. The music followed similar lines however some tracks started to morph into far more progressive and lengthy song construction, a prophetic indicator of what was to come later in their career. In 1996 they released Ænema, which while keeping some aspects of the sound introduced on the previous two albums also took great departures from their previous work. The songs became for more intricate, complex and progressive, the lyrics became far more philosophical and psychological based and the band stepped it up a notch musically. This was followed up in 2001 by Lateralus, an example of a band at their creative and artistic peak, employing even longer and more intricate song structures then before and on the back of the single Schism, arguably the first time the band managed to achieve some sort of mainstream success. Here endeth the lesson.

Naturally expectations for this release were phenomenally high and it is with these expectations and an almost morbid fascination that Tool might finally disappear up their own collective arseholes and manage to release something sub par that I approached 10’000 Days. In a nutshell my expectations were too high (I think the band would have had to release this generation’s version of The White Album for them to be met) and my fears were unfounded. Tool have released yet another masterpiece that ranks comfortably alongside their previous work and have again demonstrated that they are one of the most vital and interesting acts in the music business. Go buy it.

You still here? You need reasoning? Justification for my previous statement? Not content with me spouting unsupported hyperbole? My, my you’re demanding…

Fine, have it your way…

The band’s sound has not changed per se, but has instead been injected with a variety of little tweaks and nuances. Aside from a couple of tracks, traditional song structure has been completely eschewed in favour of winding complex musical journeys. The mathematical precision of the riffs remains, as does the always present off kilter tempo and time changes. Maynard’s voice however, displays far more variance on this release than previously, almost sounding like a different person at times. (The Pot). Overall this is a logical follow up from Lateralus, there is far less progression than there was between that album and its predecessor but with Lateralus being so eclectic there is a high chance that changing the sound even further to the leftfield would have made the band an even more daunting prospect than it already is. The band has progressed enough to bring something fresh to the table but not so much that it alienates fans of their previous work.

The track listing for the album suggests 11 songs, however this is a fallacy as many of the tracks combine to form intro / main body / outro amalgamations. It is under this premise that I will comence my analysis.

The album opener, the single Vicarious, kicks off with a similarity in tempo and sound to Schism, however this slowly melds into one of the heaviest riffs I’ve heard from the band. The track scores on almost every single aspect, the musicianship is unbelievably tight and the lyrics centred on the (misplaced) entertainment value attached to tragic events shown on the news are exquisite. It is one of the bands finest moments and an epic way to start an album. The second track, Jambi, combines a skittering, fast paced riff with light tribal style drumming that builds up over the course of six minutes to an apocalyptic sounding close, again an absolutely blinding song.

With Wings for Marie (Part 1) / 10,000 Days (Part 2) the band all put on their well-worn Caps of Pretentiousness™ and take the listener on a seventeen minute journey through sparse minimalist soundscapes, atmospheric build-ups and crunching explosions of intensity and...sitar. After sitting through it you’ll either want to play it again immediately or have a stiff drink and a cry. The Pot is an unusual track, simply as it seems to be mildly out of place. It is the most straight ahead rock cut on the album and thus doesn’t gel particularly well when listening to the album in one sitting, it is however a fantastic track in it’s own right and jolts you out of the state of disbelief you may be experiencing following the previous track. The other tracks live up to this high standard but I will be brief as I feel both my space and your attention span fading. Lost Keys / Rosetta Stoned and Right in Two are both phenomenal works, again taking the listener on a winding path through dense and unusual song structures.

This brings me to the bad, and yes, there is a downside. Tool’s bizarre obsession with needless throwaway interludes remains. While it’s arguable that these add to the atmosphere when listening to the album as a whole, they just tend to irritate me after a couple of listens through, putting an unnecessary pause between the onslaught of excellence that is the rest of the album. Thankfully there are only two on this release (Lipan Conjuring and Viginti Tres) as opposed to the five present on Ænema.

It was a severe temptation for me to slap an album of the year sticker on this one, but after all it is only May and I don’t want to jump the gun. It is however going to take something pretty special for this to be surpassed this year in my eyes. Always remember to give this one a while before passing judgement, Tool is a band that doesn’t suffer the impatient and the music takes time and demands full attention to reveal itself fully, but when it does it may be one of the most rewarding aural experiences you’ve had. All I can say is that if you like Tool, get it, if you’ve never heard Tool, get Lateralus, then get it, if you want to encourage music as art, buy it and if you don’t like Tool get it anyway and make sure.

Killing Songs :
All besides the 'interludes'
Al quoted 95 / 100
Jeff quoted 60 / 100
Daniel quoted 85 / 100
Ken quoted 55 / 100
Adam quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Tool that we have reviewed:
Tool - Undertow reviewed by Al and quoted 93 / 100
Tool - Ænima reviewed by Jay and quoted CLASSIC
Tool - Lateralus reviewed by Danny and quoted 96 / 100
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