Monday, May 01, 2006

Tool - 10,000 Days

Ever since the release of Lateralus in 2001, the rabid fans of Tool have been anxiously awaiting for their next fix. Musical maestro Maynard James Keenan has, among other things, managed to release more material through his other projects A Perfect Circle and Puscifier but Tool has been quietly waiting in the background all the while. The year is now 2006 and amidst a flurry of excitement, rumors, and speculation, the fifth album from Tool hits the streets on May 2nd, entitled 10,000 Days. A few tracks, including the title, are an homage to Maynard's mother, partially paralyzed as the result of a stroke for roughly the last 10,000 days of her life. So was it worth the five-year wait for this new volume? With such a complex work, it's difficult to make a firm conclusion so soon, but my initial impressions of the album are mostly positive.

The album opens up with the now-familiar track Vicarious—red hot on the request lists of radio stations nationwide for the past two weeks—and the hard, energetic romp doesn't let up with the second track Jambi either. The tempo slows down for Wings for Marie, which takes over two minutes before those wings pick up speed and blossoms into a hauntingly ethereal melody before slowing down for a landing at six minutes. Track four is the title track, clocking in at over eleven minutes and continuing the drawn-out otherworldly atmosphere. An amazing thing happens about three-and-a-half minutes in when cracks of thunder usher in subtle Celtic rhythms and influences that work beautifully with everything else going on. Things build to a delicate and well-tended crescendo until things quiet down after the nine minute mark for a somber and peaceful "goodbye" verse (see lyrics in the sidebar). The Pot follows next, jarringly out of place at first with Maynard's a cappella intro and then swiftly moving into what will probably end up as the next radio cut with it's more easily-accessible style for the masses, not to mention the obvious drug references. Segue into Lipan Conjuring, a minute-long track of Native American chanting with a few guitar sound effects thrown in here and there. As if in another far away world, Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann) opens up with an undulating whining sound against a simple and slow guitar riff for about two and a half minutes before a doctor and a nurse start talking, presumably about the listener after a drug overdose (as a reference to Dr. Hofmann, creator of LSD). Seamlessly transitioning into distorted vocals backed with guitars, Rosetta Stoned has grown to be my favorite track on the whole album so far musically. This is Tool at their best, in my opinion. Intricate sounds layered on top of each other, grinding guitars, constantly shifting tempos, and even a few spots infused with modified guitar riffs from Aenima, all in eleven-plus minutes of top-notch Tool goodness. Track nine, Intension, was a slow track that seemed to just pass in one of my ears and then out the other without stopping. Right in Two has it's ups and downs accented with fantastic drums and pulls a few modified riffs from the band's back catalog like Rosetta Stoned did, only this time from Lateralus. Finally, Viginti Tres quietly closes the album with a few sound effects and a severe lack of fanfare, leaving me feeling a bit let down after Aenima's stellar closing of Third Eye and the uniquely quirky Faaip De Oiad on Lateralus.

All in all, there are quite a few awesome tracks to be found and I don't mind having waited five years for them because of their sheer length and quality. There are nods to previous albums sprinkled here and there so as not to sound completely foreign and alien from the rest of their albums yet avoiding sounding like a cheap rehash. Unfortunately, even after a few listens, the lulls amidst the chaos still haven't fit fully into place yet for me in the bigger scheme of this album. Admittedly, Tool albums aren't very easy to digest—it took me many months before fully appreciating Lateralus and now it's one of my favorite albums of all time—so given some more quiet time to relax and really experience it all on a good sound system in one continuous sitting, the album may finally reveal it's bigger picture to me (hopefully in much less than 10,000 days).

Currently listening to:
10,000 Days
By Tool
Release date: 02 May, 2006


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