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Founded in Los Angeles in 1990, Tool is a Progressive Rock/Metal group mostly known for their use of unconventional time signatures and rhythms, long songs, Mind Screw-tastic imagery, and emphasis on personal interpretation of their music. Like many bands in the 90's music scene, Tool started out as an underground group, and was signed by a record company after only three months of playing as a group. On March 1992, their first EP Opiate was released. Since then, four studio albums have been released, all of which have gone platinum and have achieved widespread success worldwide.
Tool incorporates many different styles and influences in their music, but the one theme they keep constant is the importance of personal interpretation of their songs, making it possibly the only band that runs solely on The Walrus Was Paul. To emphasize this even more, Tool does not release official lyrics with any of their albums, so that what the lyrics actually mean (or even are) never gets in the way of what the listener thinks they mean.
Confused yet? Good.
A few factors remain constant throughout their work however. They love using weird time signatures that shift throughout the song, and one track ("Lateralus") even has the rhythm and syllables of the lyrics arranged in a Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13). The members of the group have unique styles, and Maynard James Keenan's vocals are instantly recognizable, not only for his voice but for his skill with the Metal Scream (a full 25 seconds in "The Grudge", for example.) Danny Carey is also one of the most acclaimed contemporary drummers going, and Adam Jones's guitar tone on Opiate, Undertow and Lateralus is just as iconic as Keenan's vocals. Not to mention Justin Chancellor's strong bass lines (and on Opiate and Undertow, Paul D'Amour), which often make a Tool song instantly recognizable.
Another important part of the band's music is the inclusion of collaborated works of art and music videos that echo themes presented in their songs and albums. These pieces of art usually involve imagery straight out of the Nightmare Valley, and aren't necessarily supposed to tell an actual story, but evoke certain feelings from the viewer. They succeed very well.
Over the band's career they've addressed many diverse topics as religion, the music industry and media censorship, child abuse, drug use, transcendence, and even Fan Dumb from their own fans who started complaining that It's Popular, Now It Sucks. This various subject matter has also made Tool the subject of much controversy and censorship, including one incident with their song "Stinkfist", which was renamed and edited to run on MTV, due to "Offensive connotations", as well as Wal Mart not selling their first LP Undertow with the original cover art. Despite (or possibly because of) that controversy, they have remained a hugely successful group and continue to actively tour both in the United States and internationally.
Three of the group's songs ("Schism", "Parabola", and "Vicarious") also appeared on Guitar Hero: World Tour as playable tracks.
- 1992 — Opiate (EP)
- 1993 — Undertow
- 1996 — Ænima
- 2000 — Salival (box set with an 8-song CD and a DVD or VHS with the videos for "Sober", "Prison Sex", "Stinkfist", "Ænema", and on the DVD version, "Hush")
- 2001 — Lateralus
- 2006 — 10,000 Days
- 1998 Best Metal Performance ("Ænema")
- 2002 Best Metal Performance ("Schism")
- 2007 Best Recording Package (10,000 Days)
Tool provides examples of the following tropes:
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: "Tool" means "penis". Word of God is that this is only one interpretation, but some of the licensed artwork definitely goes down that particular route.
- Alien Abduction:
- Addressed...sort of...in "Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)" / "Rosetta Stoned".
- "Faaip de Oiad" also mentions it.
- Alternative Metal / Progressive Metal: Their sound is hard to categorize.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence:
- Sort of the point of "Forty Six & 2", which combines Jungian philosophy with an eccentric take on human evolution.
- Lateralus as a whole is heavily influenced by transcendentalism.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- "Die Eier von Satan" features vocals by Marko Fox delivered in an angry tirade of German. It features a heavy industrial production and a roaring crowd in the background, making it sound something like a Nazi rally. The lyrics are actually Fox's grandmother's recipe for brownies with Turkish hashish. She called them Die Eier Von Satan, which means The Eggs of Satan, with "eggs" being common German slang for testicals. The chorus is "und keine Eire," which means "and no eggs." The Eggs of Satan contain no eggs.
- "Message for Harry Manback" features quite a lot of extravagant swearing in Italian, though you can assume as much based on the rest of the message, delivered in English.
- California Collapse: What the song "Ænema" is about, with inspiration from Bill Hicks.
- The Cameo:
- Singers: Henry Rollins in the breakdown of "Bottom", Marko Fox on "Die Eier von Satan", Statik on "Disgustipated" and "Triad" and Lustmord on "10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)".
- Musicians: On Salival, additional musicians include: King Buzzo on "You Lied", Vince DeFranco playing synths on "Third Eye", Alotte Duka playing tabla on "Pushit", producer/keyboardist David Bottrill on "Message to Harry Manback II", and the DVD version contains a live version of "Hush" with additional vocals by Tori Amos.
- The Chosen One: Subverted in "Rosetta Stoned" - the narrator describes being abducted by aliens, who have chosen him to deliver a message to the human race...but he forgot to bring his pen to write it down.
- Concept Album: Regardless of whether or not the band views any of their record as such, 10,000 Days is cited as an example all the same.
- Cover Version: "No Quarter" by Led Zeppelin, "Demon Cleaner" by Kyuss, and "You Lied" by Peach, Justin Chancellor's previous band.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Several songs, especially "Hush", "Hooker with a Penis" and "Ænema". "Rosetta Stoned" alone should have earned 10,000 Days a Parental Advisory label, but the heavy distortion and layering on the vocals may have fooled the ratings board.
- Epic Rocking: A large percentage of their discography consists of this; notable examples are "Pushit", "Third Eye", "Reflection", "Wings for Marie" (both parts), and "Rosetta Stoned".
- Go Mad From the Revelation: "Lost Keys" / "Rosetta Stoned" has a lot of fun with this. The subject may have had a sanity-breaking encounter with aliens, or he may have just OD'd on hallucinogens.
- Good Feels Good:
- "The Patient" suggests that being a kind and loving person is its own reward, even when it's difficult.
- Most of the Lateralus album appears to be hinting that the alternative (choosing to be bitter) won't make things any better.
- Gratuitous Italian: "Message to Harry Manback" (both versions).
- Humans Are Bastards: "Right In Two", the demo version of "Rosetta Stoned".
- Indecipherable Lyrics: A lot of "Rosetta Stoned"'s lyrics are heavily layered and electronically slurred, and are almost incomprehensible. The first lyrics of "Forty Six & 2" and sections in the middle of "Stinkfist" and "Eulogy" are buried underneath the music, also making them difficult to decipher.
- Instrumentals: The interludes on Ænima, Lateralus and 10,000 Days are this, plus "Triad" for a normal-length tune.
- Intercourse with You: "Maynard's Dick", the hidden track on the CD of Salival.
- Last Song Nightmare:
- "Disgustipated" from Undertow
- "Faaip de Oiad" from Lateralus
- "Viginti Tres" from 10,000 Days
- The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: Self-admitted in "Hooker with a Penis," which then mocks the listener for assuming otherwise.
I sold my soul to make a record, dipshit, and then you bought one.
- Madness Mantra: From "Disgustipated" - "This. Is. Necessary. Life Feeds on life..."
- Metal Scream: Maynard really likes this, particularly the 25-second scream in "The Grudge" and pretty much all of his singing in "Ticks & Leeches".
- Mind Screw
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Generally a 6 or 7, but they can also go as low as 4/5.
- Mood Whiplash: Can be induced by the middle tracks of Ænima, from the introspective "Forty Six & 2" to the head-scratching "Message to Harry Manback" to the venomous snark of "Hooker With a Penis" to the bouncy, cheerful "Intermission", which is the main guitar riff of the next song, the rather somber "Jimmy", played on an organ.
- Precision F-Strike: "Pushit", "Ticks and Leeches" (it's actually the only song on Lateralus that has any cursing), "The Pot".
- Protest Song: "Right in Two".
- Refuge in Audacity: A few examples. For one, they have a song called "Maynard's Dick". Plus there's the band's name.
- Reincarnation: Arguably a theme to "H".
- The most prominent is to Bill Hicks in Ænima: inner artwork, clips of Hicks in the intro to "Third Eye", and the song "Ænema" being based on Hicks' "Arizona Bay" routine, with a Title Drop in the chorus.
- The live version of "Third Eye" on Salival replaces the Bill Hicks material with clips of Timothy Leary.
- "Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)" is a nod to Albert Hofmann, the creator of LSD.
- Signature Style: Soft drumming, heavy guitars, and the Perishing Alt Rock Voice of Maynard James Keenan make up a lot of the bands songs, making them one of the most distinct bands in the metal community.
- Spoken Word in Music: "Faaip de Oiad", "Disgustipated", "Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)", "Bottom" and "Third Eye" all use this. "Bottom" even drags Henry Rollins in for a cameo.
- Take That: A good chunk of their earlier catalogue is built on this ("Hush", "Eulogy", "Hooker with a Penis", "Ænema", and others).
- Too Dumb to Live: Not the bandmembers themselves, but a fan. When you run onto a normal stage, security will take you down. When you run onto a stage where Tool plays, Maynard James Keenan himself will take you down, and keep on singing while he holds you down.
- Uncommon Time: Many of their songs, namely "Schism", which has up to 47 meter changes.
- Viewers Are Geniuses:
- The Walrus Was Paul
- Word Salad Lyrics: Most of their songs mean something, but it's usually pretty oblique.