Founded in Los Angeles in 1990, Tool is an enigmatic 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 together. 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 (to quote one of their own lyrics: "try and read between the lines"), 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. 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 disturbing (if not straight-up horrifying) imagery, play with the Uncanny Valley, and aren't necessarily supposed to tell an actual story, but evoke certain feelings from the viewer. They definitely succeed.
Over the band's career they've addressed many diverse topics, such 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 Walmart 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.
They are working on a fifth studio album according to the band members. The album has had numerous and ''very'' tumultuous release dates over the past couple years, much to the confusion and ire of their fans. On July 15, 2014, Danny Carey finally explained in part what was causing the delay: an ongoing lawsuit, and familial commitments. Adam Jones later added that any new music of theirs won't be released unless they are satisfied with the final product. As of March 2018 however announcements have come out that the band has been writing and recording material, though no firm release date or other information has been given yet. In January 2019, Maynard James Keenan announced that recording for the new record was complete and that it was entering the mixing stage, and its release date announced at a show for August 30th, 2019.
- 1991 — 72826 (demo)
- 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
- 2019 — ????? (slated for August 30th, 2019)
- 1998 Best Metal Performance ("Ænema")
- 2002 Best Metal Performance ("Schism")
- 2007 Best Recording Package (10,000 Days)
"Why can't we not be troper..."
- Alien Abduction:
- "Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)" / "Rosetta Stoned" has this as a central theme, although it's also possible that the person in question is just having a really bad hallucination.
- "Faaip de Oiad" also mentions it, as part of a subversive societal takeover.
- Anything That Moves: The second friend described in "The Gaping Lotus Experience," up to and including inanimate objects.
- 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.
- As the Good Book Says...: Because "Right in Two" is based on the premise of two angels talking about humans, there are several references to Biblical stories. The song title comes from the story of King Solomon threatening to cut a baby in half, and it also refers to the Garden of Eden.Don't these talking monkeys know that Eden has enough to go around?
Plenty in this holy garden, silly monkeys
Where there's one you're bound to divide it
Right in two
- Awesome, but Impractical: Danny Carey's all-bronze drumkit made completely out of recycled cymbals◊. They may look cool, but they can't be used for overseas travel due to the sheer weight of the shells. According to The Other Wiki, the bass drums themselves weigh 93 pounds!
- Bald of Awesome: MJ Keenan frequently sports a shiny head, but don't be surprised to see him with other, more unorthodox hairstyles.
- 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, bringing to mind something resembling a Nazi rally to a non-German speaker. The lyrics are actually Fox's grandmother's recipe for cookies made with Turkish hashish. She called them die Eier von Satan, which means "The Eggs of Satan", with "eggs" being common German slang for testicles. With this in mind, one could alternately translate the title as The Balls of Satan. The singer also frequently quotes "und keine Eier" ("and no eggs"). So basically, The Eggs of Satan contain no eggs.
- "Message for Harry Manback" features a lot of extravagant swearing in Italian, though you can assume as much based on the rest of the message, delivered in English.
- Bizarre Instrument: Pianos... being shot with shotguns and smashed with sledgehammers in "Disgustipated," a hydraulic press (or something that sounds like one) on "Die Eier von Satan," a breathing tube in "Parabol," and Maynard's cat in "Mantra," possibly among others.
- California Collapse: "Ænema" is basically a wish that this would happen out of disgust with the culture of Los Angeles, with inspiration from Bill Hicks. The album artwork currently provides the page image.
- 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".
- Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them: "H", on the surface, is about a relationship which is poisonous to the subject but which they can't bring themself to leave.
- 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 records as such, 10,000 Days is cited as an example all the same.
- Cover Version: "No Quarter" by Led Zeppelin, "Demon Cleaner" by Kyuss, "You Lied" by Peachnote , "B'Boom" by King Crimson.
- 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.
- Drugs Are Good: The studio version of "Third Eye" has several samples of comedian Bill Hicks extolling the virtues of drugs, particularly psychedelics.
- 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". As noted below, they also have a habit of splitting a piece into multiple tracks; if considered as one song, "Disposition"/"Reflection"/"Triad" would be Tool's longest song at around 22:40. (There are around two minutes of silence added to the end; with the silence included, the piece comes out to around 24:40.) Their longest individual track is "Disgustipated", which comes out to 15:47, although it could be considered a subversion as much of it is given over to Chirping Crickets; after that, the live version of "Third Eye" comes out to 14:05, the live version of "Pushit" comes out to 13:57, and the studio version of "Third Eye" comes out to 13:47.
- Fading into the Next Song/Siamese Twin Songs: Quite a few songs, such as "Intermission"/"Jimmy", "Eon Blue Apocalypse"/"The Patient", "Parabol"/"Parabola", "Disposition"/"Reflection"/"Triad", the two halves of "Wings for Marie", "Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)"/"Rosetta Stoned", and so on. Many of these could really be considered one song divided into two or three tracks; "Wings" is actually explicitly labelled as such.
- For Inconvenience, Press "1": "LAMC" is nearly 9 minutes of someone's struggle with the Los Angeles Municipal Court's automated telephone response system. The options get increasingly bizarre over the course of the song.
- 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. The lyrics make either completely plausible.
- 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 German: "Die Eier von Satan" seems to be trying to invoke Music to Invade Poland To. The angry German ranting is actually the instructions for a cookie recipe.
- Gratuitous Italian: "Message to Harry Manback" (both versions) feature a lot of Italian swearing.
- Gratuitous Latin: "Viginti tres" is Latin for "Twenty-three".
- Heartbeat Soundtrack: The opening of the studio version of "Third Eye."
- Hidden Track: "The Gaping Lotus Experience" at the end of Opiate and "Maynard's Dick" on Salival.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: A lot of "Rosetta Stoned"'s lyrics are heavily layered and electronically slurred, and are only comprehensible after multiple listenings. 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 Note Nightmare: Tool likes making these out of entire songs:
- "Disgustipated" from Undertow: Maynard relating a very weird dream about an angel allowing him to hear the terrified screams of carrots facing harvest leads to a harsh sort-of song leads to 7 minutes of Chirping Crickets leads to a ominous-sounding voice message.
- "Faaip de Oiad" from Lateralus: A harsh, droning wall of electronic noise with Danny furiously drumming in the background and accompanied by a frantic caller to Coast to Coast AM rambling about the government being taken over by aliens.
- "Viginti Tres" from 10,000 Days.
- Loudness War: Most of their work averts it, but Salival and 10,000 Days are borderline cases, as are a few tracks on Ænima (although the album as a whole still has dynamics). Unusually for this trope, Lateralus, released in between Salival and 10,000 Days, is barely affected and is actually quiet for the time it was released (2001).
- 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.
Shut up and buy - buy - buy my new record // Buy - buy - buy - send more money!
- Madness Mantra: The "Don't know, won't know..." chant at the end of "Rosetta Stoned", as the narrator bemoans his inability to convey the aliens' message.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Did the narrator of "Rosetta Stoned" just have a particularly bad trip, or did he really have a sanity-shattering encounter with aliens?
- Metal Scream: Type 1. Maynard really likes this, particularly the 25-second scream in "The Grudge" and pretty much all of his singing in "Ticks & Leeches".
- Mind Screw: A lot of their songs, and just about all of their videos ("Hush" being the notable exception), employ this.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Generally a 6 or 7, but they can also go as low as 4/5. Or as high as an 8, on a few occasions. Not often, though.
- "Lateralus" is all over the place with just one song. It starts calmly, as a 1. Then, once the guitar kicks in, it becomes around a 7, before tuning down to 5-6 range with the vocals. The chorus is about a 7 again, twisting down to a 2, and building up again all the way to 8. It fades out at 7 again.
- "Schism" is also a little wacky when it comes to this, bouncing between 1, 7, and every level in between; it's a high 3 or a low 4 overall.
- Mood Whiplash: Can be induced by the middle tracks of Ænima, transitioning from the introspective "Forty Six & 2" to the head-scratching "Message to Harry Manback" to the venomously snarky "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.
- Mushroom Samba: ZigZagged in "Rosetta Stoned". The subject first attributes seeing the aliens to "the Deadhead chemistry", but later in the song he says "See, the Dead ain't touring / And this wasn't all in my head".
- Music to Invade Poland To: "Die Eier von Satan" seems to invoke and satirize this.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Tool is notoriously difficult to classify due to the sheer number of genres their music falls into. Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, post-hardcore, Math Rock, Post-Rock, Noise Rock, ambient, Alternative Metal, art rock, and more all blend together to create something that really can't be conveniently labeled. "Progressive rock" and "progressive metal" are the most common labels applied to them, but even those are spotty at best.
- Nice Hat: Maynard's white cowboy hat, which he is occasionally seen wearing in photos and in the page image.
- No Pronunciation Guide: "Faaip De Oiad", anyone? (It's Enochian for "The Voice of God".)
- Non-Appearing Title: "H", "Jambi", "Ænema", "Hooker With A Penis", "Lateralus", and many other songs.
- Parental Abandonment: Several of Tool's songs are about Keenan's mother, who suffered an aneurysm and was partially paralyzed when he was still a child, and about his parents' divorce and the stress he dealt with when his mother re-married. Just about all of his endeavors reference her at some point, "Jimmy" is essentially Maynard's angst about his parents' divorce, and the A Perfect Circle song "Judith" is a scathing indictment of his mother keeping her Christian faith in spite of her predicament. She died in between Lateralus and 10,000 Days, and "Wings for Marie" and "10,000 Days (Wings pt. 2)" are essentially his eulogy to her, praising her for being essentially the bedrock of his life and saying that after all she endured while still keeping her faith, it would be an outrage for her to not enter heaven.
- Precision F-Strike: "Pushit"note , "Ticks and Leeches"note (it's actually the only song on Lateralus that has any cursing) and "The Pot"note
- Protest Song: "Right in Two," which is essentially two angels looking at humanity and pondering how such a fundamentally nasty race gained such favor with God, and "Hush", which is broadly about censorship.
- Pun-Based Title:
- Ænima is an allusion to Jungian psychology (the "anima" archetype, or the feminine unconscious). The song "Ænema" is a pun on this, referring to the medical procedure, which is what the singer wishes would happen to L.A. (getting irrigated with water and flushing out all the crap).
- "Rosetta Stoned" on, well, the Rosetta Stone and being stoned.
- Punny Name: Harry Manback.
- Quicksand Sucks: "Swamp Song".My warning meant nothing
You're dancing in quicksand [...]
I hope it sucks you down
- Rearrange the Song: The verse melody and some of the lyrics to "Sober" can be traced back to "Burn About Out" by C.A.D, a group Maynard James Keenan was singing with in the late eighties. The C.A.D. song has a very different, almost early Post-Hardcore feel due to having a much faster tempo and a much looser structure than "Sober".
- Reincarnation: Arguably a theme to "H".
- Religion Rant Song: Several, most prominently "Opiate", which takes its name from Karl Marx's frequently misunderstood dictum that religion is the opiate of the masses.
- Rock Me, Asmodeus!:
- "The Gaping Lotus Experience" features Maynard singing "Satan, Satan" (foregoing any backmasking at all), although the song itself is about people doing strange things while high.
- "Die Eier von Satan" may also be considered an example, though it's actually a recipe for hash cookies. The title translates as "The Eggs of Satan" or "Satan's Balls".
- The title of the band's demo, 72826, spells out Satan on a telephone keypad.
- Sarcastic Clapping: Used tongue-in-cheek as the applause dies down at the end of "Pushit" on Salival.
- Schmuck Bait: "Hooker with a Penis" contains the line: "I sold my soul to make a record, dipshit / Then you bought one!" This can be interpreted to mean that no true fan would ever believe in the band's stance against overt consumerism — because in order to have heard the song, (presumably, as this was before YouTube) one would have first had to have bought the album!
- 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 and also the first person to isolate and synthesise the psychoactive components of psilocybin mushrooms. The doctor in the song is named Dr. Watson after, well, the narrator of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
- "The Grudge" contains a reference to The Scarlet Letter.
- "Rosetta Stoned" refers to The Grateful Dead, The X-Files, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Peanuts, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, My Favorite Martian ("Uncle Martin"), The Matrix, Jackie Chan, Isabella Rossellini, L. Ron Hubbard (whom the band are vocally not fond of), and a story told by Ray Manzarek of The Doors about his first acid trip ("And after calming me down with some orange slices and some fetal spooning"), as well as, well, the Rosetta Stone.
- "Jambi" is named after the genie from Pee-wee's Playhouse.
- Signature Style: Complex (and often polyrhythmic) drumming, heavy guitars and bass, and the Perishing Alt-Rock Voice of Maynard James Keenan make up a lot of the band's songs, making them one of the most distinctive bands in the metal community.
- Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: The final lines of "Vicarious" are a very on-the-nose example of this.Credulous at best your desire to believe in
Angels in the hearts of men
Pull your head on out your hippie haze, give a listen
Shouldn't have to say this all again
The universe is hostile, so impersonal
Devour to survive, so it is
So it's always been
- 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.
- Surreal Music Video: Among the reigning kings of this trope. With the exception of "Hush", all of their videos contain trippy, Mind Screwy images and scenarios that the viewer is left to interpret.
- Take That!:
- A good chunk of their earlier catalogue is built on this, such as "Hush"note , "Eulogy"note , "Hooker with a Penis"note , "Ænema"note .
- The Church of Happyology gets several direct shots: The sheep bleating in "Disgustipated" references Maynard doing the same on-stage when Tool played at their Celebrity Centre in 1993, "Ænema" contains "Fuck L. Ron Hubbard and fuck all his clones", and Word of God indicates that "Eulogy" is also directed at Hubbard.
- Title Drop: Very few of their songs do this, but the ones that do make it mean something, such as "Eulogy:"You've claimed all this time that you would die for me.
Why then are you so surprised when you hear your own eulogy?
- Too Dumb to Live: Not the band members 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. Starting around Ænima, it's very rare for a Tool song not to contain at least one instance of this trope (and even before then, they used it a lot). See the trope page for a list of other songs that use it (though not an exhaustive one).
- The Walrus Was Paul: This is a fundamental tenet of the band's output, and one of the main reasons why they don't release lyrics with the albums.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Most of their songs mean something, but it's usually pretty oblique.
- You Won't Feel a Thing: "Stinkfist," which uses fisting as a metaphor for desensitization.Knuckle deep inside the borderline
This may hurt a little, but it's something you'll get used to
Relax, slip away