From the opening notes of Vicarious, it is clear that Tool, a band whose monumental success in the past 5 years is almost unparalleled by any other metal band, are anything if not Confident. Fueled by an over-enthusiastic rumor mill and a long gap since their last album (2001's Lateralus), 10,000 Days is easily one of the most anticipated releases of the decade.
Like each album before it, 10K Days has its own feel separate to its predecessors. While the rythm section of Justin Chancellor and Danny Carey is a solid as ever, the real change on 10K Days comes from the forefront of the sound: Keenan and Jones are both pushing themselves to do something unique on this album.
Keenan's usually commanding and outright vocals remain as righeous and creepy as ever, but as opposed to Lateralus (where vocals were written after the music), he fits his melodies into the contours created by Jones lead parts and Chancellor's bass counterpoint, most notably on The Pot, which starts painfully but gives way to some of his most original, memorable parts to date. The lyrics, too, are notably angrier than on the rather optimistic Lateralus.
Jones, on the other hand, makes his riffs less accessible if anything. Jambi starts with a chugga-chugga speed-metal riff stylistically similar to Meshuggah, while on Rosetta Stoned he tears new rythyms before you can get settled into them.
The main thing that keeps 10K Days from sounding like a bad Lateralus clone, though, is a the presence of undeniable, head-banging, grooves. Swing bars between the hammering choruses provide a plausible audio hand-hold to keep the Tool onslaught from being too intense to listen through.
10K days moves cyclically for a Tool album. The two openers, Vicarious and Jambi, are fairly run-of-the-mill Tool numbers (not necessarily a bad thing) at about 7 minutes each, each with a hammering, double-kicking climax, while Keenan snarls over the tidal wave. The only other song on this album vaguely similar to those is the swaggering pestilence of The Pot.
The dual-song avatar is present again on 10K Days, with Wings For Marie and 10,000 Days being interlocking concept tracks, bearing a slow, plodding build-up to an ethereally melodic and forceful peak, clocking in at a combined 17 minutes.
While Tool are known for their interlude tracks, the only ones that make appearances on 10K Days are needless at best, but dont detract from the album as a whole.
The best way to describe the difference between the violent thrashings on tracks like The Patient and the violent thrashings on 10K Days is to say that its like the difference between being caught in a storm and being chased by a T-Rex: On Lateralus, something is happening around you. On 10K Days, that something is determined on hammering every single perfectly-formed note of its riffs straight into your skull. This is precision Tool.
The second half of 10K Days is calmer than the first, with the exception of the bad-trip epic Rosetta Stoned worthy of the title of "The New Ticks and Leeches". Intension sounds like Aphex Twin on downers remixing A Perfect Circle, with minimalist tribal dronings buried below scratchy electronic drums.
The last "real" song on the album, Right In Two, recalls the fan- favourite version of Pu*** from Tool's Salival live album. Delay-laden guitars play softly against bass harmonics, until a predictable but nonetheless enjoyable climax.
Following up two of the most critically acclaimed and experimental pieces of heavy music of the past two decades is a steep challenge, but Tool, of course, pull it off flawlessly. Unique, melodically infectious, rollocking and epic, and with endless replay value, 10,000 Days is a strong candidate for best album of 06 so far, and can certainly be proudly place on any fans top shelf next to Lateralus or Aenima.