Review Summary: Mediocre Tool is still worth a listen...
The interminable wait between Tool albums is something I've come to accept as the price of a rare and welcome invitation to enjoy another offering of thinking man's metal as served up by Maynard & Co. From the early days of high school to a balding middle age, each new release has arrived like a letter from a long missed friend who, while silent for years, has clearly been having an interesting time - and I always found myself more than satisfied to have been brought up to speed on their doings.
Given these expectations, Tool's 2006 release of 10,000 Days arrived and was consumed and ultimately left me wondering if my old friend hadn't finally slowed down a bit. Sure, I nearly wore out this latest missive, but repeated listenings just served to reinforce the nagging feeling that something was missing.
Lyrically, the album fell short of its predecessors. Concepts once delivered in enigmatic phrases that the mind would feed on for days or weeks are disappointingly transparent.
Musically the band still delivers. Tool still writes music that pulls the listener in and mesmerizes, punishes and devours. Filler tracks remain disappointing, but it's the sort of irritating shortcoming that you forgive in an otherwise loyal friend.
Unfortunately, it's the entire package that makes Tool the band that they are - lyrics plus the music - and when both parts are delivered in unequal measure the results are disappointing. And it kills me to write that about Tool...
Track by Track:
Vicarious - hard hitting metal, with lyrics railing against a society become numb to (while at the same time thrilled by) a culture of violence. 7/10 and a good example of overtly obvious lyric writing.
Jambi - this is what makes a 5 year wait between releases bearable. The perfect union between well crafted, growling music and lyrics that push you in a direction and leave the rest of the journey up to you. One of the better tracks on the album. 9/10
Wings for Marie - at 1/3rd the length, this would have made a great instrumental track for some filler. At full length, a wandering and mumbled ode to a lost parent that limps along until it finally ends. 5/10
10,000 Days - a bit over 11 minutes long and the conclusion of Wings for Marie. Tool's longer tracks have generally been their best work in my opinion, but this track takes a really (really) long time to build up to a short-lived crescendo which all too quickly breaks down into another limping finish ala its predecessor. 7/10
The Pot - the music is the only thing that saves this track from being an immediate skip. Great riffs and the wailing, screaming guitars that are immediately identified with Tool. Super bass work coupled with tight drums. Lyrically, a no-brainer rant about hypocrisy of whatever type get you worked up. 7/10
Lipan Conjuring - a filler track you won't be able to skip fast enough unless you're a fan of chanting. 0/10
Lost Keys / Rosetta Stoned - Lost Keys itself can be considered filler, but it's actually the prelude to Rosetta Stoned. A lot of people hate Rosetta Stoned, and if you've read this far you may be surprised to find that I am not one of them.
Lost Keys introduces us to a hospital patient suffering a mental breakdown after a drug fueled chat with some aliens. Snippets of conversation between a nurse and a doctor are played over a feedback drenched background of gentle arpeggios and ultimately lead into Rosetta Stoned where the patient tells his story.
Musically, Rosetta Stoned starts out as a steady metal prowl and continues to build until reaching an unbelievable frenzy. Lyrically, Maynard delivers the fractured and drug addled ramblings of a soon to be psych-patient desperate to convince anyone who will listen that he was given an end-of-the-world message to deliver by aliens. Silly? Sure. It's also superbly done. Remember that guy who wasn't too bright to begin with, and then smoked enough pot and dropped enough acid that they ended up being the amiable, pot-head court jester of the group? Maynard nailed just that - here's your friendly stoner buddy trying desperately to convince you the world's ending and ***ting himself because he can't even remember the details. A novel song that hits on all cylinders as far as I'm concerned - 10/10.
Intension - very mellow, ambient tune reminiscent of the last few tracks on Lateralus. Not bad, but they've done it before and done it better. 6/10.
Right In Two - Another example of hammer-to-the-forehead, overly obvious lyrics. The music is better, although some of the riffs sound like they are lifted directly from older tracks. 6/10.
Viginti Tres - If you were hoping for a big finish, you get 5 minutes of filler instead. 3/10.