Tool's music is complex and multi-layered, all atmosphere and dynamics with a minimum of cheap hooks.
Oh, let’s just come right out and say it:
Tool is just about the weirdest, creepiest, most difficult-to-define rock band ever. Coming across musically like King Crimson’s avant garde juvenile delinquent sons, Tool combines pseudo-intellectual lyrics and concepts with bone-crushing alternative metal. The term "thinking man’s metal" gets tossed at them frequently, but the band can also be scatological to the point of blatant obscenity and there’s a feeling that sometimes the uber-serious nature of their act is a bit of a put-on.
After all, this is a group that considers issuing a bogus statement on its Web site that three of the band members have been seriously injured in a car accident as a funny April Fool’s prank. And some of the band’s scabrous anti-organized religion rants such as "Degustipated" and "Opiate" are so over-the-top that a little irony seems to creep in around the edges.
Or maybe not, because Tool’s not the kind of band that gives frequent interviews to explain itself to the mainstream press, partly because the members don’t have to. Tuesday’s concert at the Huntington Center sold out in less than 24 hours so this isn’t a band that has to play the usual promotion game to sell tickets.
Their shows are marked by an intense light show, disturbing video images that accent the songs, and a truly unique stage set-up. Lead singer Maynard James Keenan generally stands in back with drummer Danny Carey while bassist Justin Chancellor and lead guitarist Adam Jones stand up front.
Tool was formed in the early ’90s when grunge music was at its prominence. The band fused the nihilistic ambitions and dark subject matter of death metal with progressive rock stylings that resemble Pink Floyd more than a garden variety thrash band. The bass is elastic and pulsing, guitar figures linger on themes, and the rhythms are complex and shifting while Keenan attacks hypocrisy, religion, child abuse, and any number of shadowy topics.
It’s all packaged in songs that can stretch up to 15 minutes long, requiring listeners to wait for the musical pay-offs, which come in the form of extended, hypnotic catharsis and release. Tool’s music is complex and multi-layered, all atmosphere and dynamics with a minimum of cheap hooks.
The band was successful immediately after its 1993 major label debut, "Undertow," which sold more than a million copies and helped secure a spot on the third Lollapalooza tour. A cult-like following was created that never dissipated.
The follow-up in 1996, "Aenima," was equally successful and as alt-metal and grunge began to fade, Tool already had a foothold with a style that is best described as progressive metal. In 2001 the group released "Lateralus," and "10,000 Days" followed in 2006.
Obviously, with only four albums in 18 years, the band isn’t in the record/tour/record/tour cycle, and reports that they’re working on a fifth album are sketchy. Keenan, by virtue of his status as lead singer and lyricist, is generally the face of the band, but his interests extend far beyond Tool.
A native of Ravenna, Ohio, he is leader of the rock/comedy outfit Puscifer and frontman for A Perfect Circle, both of which tour sporadically and record during Tool’s down time. He also owns a winery in Arizona and is as likely to turn up in a story about vintners as he is in a story about rock stars.
In a previous interview he admitted he’s "not a people person," which makes him an unlikely lead singer and a bit of an odd bird. On one tour, as he stood on stage before 10,000 people in an arena that he found out was owned by L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology, he spent almost the entire show bleating like a sheep.
Fortunately, that shouldn’t be a problem here.
Tool’s 8 p.m. show Tuesday at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo is sold out.
Contact Rod Lockwood at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6159.
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