Earlier this month one of the last major acts on a dwindling list of artists, and one of the very last on my personal “do want”-list, finally made their discography available on most streaming services. That band is the Rock and Metal non-conforming conundrum of awesomeness that is TOOL.
In addition beside having their (almost) entire back catalog available on streaming service’s TOOL fans had another reason to rejoice as earlier this month the band also released their first new material, the single “Fear Inoculum“. And not only that, they also confirmed the release date of their long awaited album follow-up to their last album, which has been in development hell for over a decade for numerous of legal and personal reasons. The album which also bear the same name as the single is slated for released later this week.
Ever heard of TOOL? No? Then you are in a very convenient time to get yourself acquainted with the band. But beware, your mind may be blown and your perception of what music could be may be changed forever. In a good way though, trust me.
When I lately revisited parts of TOOL’s discography I hadn’t heard in a while and decided that I would write about the band on this here blog I thought to myself; while this is so immersive and awesome, how would you describe in words what you are hearing and what the band sound like?
I like Patrick Donovan of Australian newspaper The Age description of the band as “The thinking man’s Metal”, but it’s still not encompassing enough for what I’m concerned. They certainly play with Metal sounds and instrumental tropes, and therefore are often slotted in this genre like when in talks for awards at like The Grammy’s, their musical reach goes far and beyond “simply” Metal. At their core they walk a thin zig-zag line between Metal, 90s style of (Alternative) Hard Rock and Progressive stuff, but they frequently pull from styles and themes from all over the world. You will hear a lot cool of Eastern musical scales, for someone with a Western palette weird odd time signatures and percussion elements from all over the corners of the musical world. And all on top of this main vocalist and lyricist Maynard James Keenan often puts complex, introspective themes that makes sink reeeal deep into their music.
Does this sound compelling? The new single “Fear Inoculum” isn’t a bad starting point for a new listener, but when I recommend someone who has never heard of TOOL where to start I always offer”Lateralus” from their 2001 album with the same name. That was the song that really got me hooked on the band.
On “Lateralus” TOOL really well displays the core 3 aspects and elements I mentioned earlier. There is some really cool sounding guitars and instrumentals on the track that will get you grooving. However what really make the song memorable is how the song is structured around a mathematical device often known as the Fibonacci number series.
Too avoid getting this piece to math-nerdy and instead let those of you who want to know more to research on your own, here is the crash course. The Fibonacci number series is a series of numbers that describes a natural occurring series that almost mystically can be found in several aspects of nature. It gains it’s name by not the inventor, as the number series has been known by humans for well over a millennia, but the person who is credited to introducing to Western society during the 13th century. At the time he was primarily known as Leonardo of Pisa, whom we today more commonly refer to his epithet Fibonacci. While Fibonacci is arguably most famous for the number series he is often credited as the person driving the introduction of Arabic-Indian numerical system to Western society, which we still use today in the Western world, via his book “Liber Abaci”. Ergo not a big deal whatsoever.
Back to “Lateralus”, how do the Fibonacci number series related with the song? Well, it’s everywhere! The overall arrangement and time signature are derived or otherwise play into the number series. And what a listener probably first notice is how Keenan’s lyrics flows through out the song, which do appear a bit random at a first listen. They actually flows with the number series in terms of syllables, why the verses of the song are uneven and grows over time during the song. This in conjunction of the introspective, reflective lyrics of change, growth and metamorphosis TOOL sets up the listener for a mental ride like few others.
I hope I haven’t scared anyone now from listening to TOOL for them being a too heavy band, not by sound but mentally. But don’t worry about that, or rather don’t think too much about it. TOOL is an extraordinaire listening experience as a background music too, so there is no need to get into the band feeling like you are jumping head first into the deep end of the pool. Like “Lateralus” itself, let the band music grow on you.
Are you already a TOOL fan? Why are you still here? Go space out to “Lateralus”, “Schism”, “Forty Six And Two” or their extensive discography of sublime tunes. That’s what I’m currently doing.