It's going to be heavier. It's going to sound just like Meshuggah
. They're dabbling in numerology. Danny Carey's taken his drumming to a new level entirely. It's going to be like nothing you've ever heard before from Tool.
So much talk. So many questions. So perhaps it's inevitable that 10,000 Days
showcases a band in stasis. This is still the exact same band who made Lateralus
, and to an extent, Aenima
. Tool haven't changed at all in the four years between this and its predecessor. Disappointing? Not really. Who bought into all the talk, anyway? Surely we've all learnt by now that the majority of the talk surrounding Tool is guff. If we hadn't, then all the cries that the leak was a fake surely proved it. Seemingly, some Tool fans will do anything to prove that they know the band better than every other Tool fan does. Turns out the band aren't so unique and mysterious after all. Lateralus
was a runaway success, both commercially and artistically. Any band would at least use it as a blueprint for their next release.
"Vicarious" was proof enough of that. Much has been made of how similar it is to the mighty "Schism". Yeah, it's similar. So what? "Schism" was a great song, and so is "Vicarious". Those who listen to Tool for the lyrics will find a lot of joy in this song - Maynard's writing here is fantastic. Those who deride the song on first hearing it, just because it wasn't the giant leap forward they expected, are clearly guilty of expecting too much from what is, don't forget, just four guys with guitars, drums, and a few ideas. In any case, the bottom line is that "Vicarious" is fantastic, and a more than worthy addition to the Tool canon.
For a while, it doesn't look like the album is going to be able to keep that form up. "Jambi" does sport a very nice, talk-box aided guitar solo, which serves as proof that while Adam Jones is by no means the best guitarist in the world, he remains greatly overlooked by a lot of people. But, for a song that stands at 7 and a half minutes, you expect a little more interest, especially from a band like Tool, who've managed better than this over 13 minutes before. For pretty much the whole song, it's just basic chugga-chugga hard rock. Tool still do that sort of thing better than anyone else, but that doesn't stop it being a little underwhelming, especially when Maynard fluffs a golden opportunity to stamp a truly great melody over the song by repeating a handful of strained notes over and over.
The big story of 10,000 Days
, of course, is Maynard's desire to deal with his mother Judith Marie's death. Roughly 10,000 days passed between his mother having a stroke and dying, which explains the title and (lack of) concept quite simply (no need for the conceptual bollocks that weighed down Lateralus
, then). "Wings For Marie (Part 1)" and "10,000 Days", the two songs that explicitly refer to her, stand as highlights, the latter being far more gripping over 11 minutes than "Jambi" was at 7. It's Justin Chancellor who really impresses here, laying down one of the best basslines of his career on "10,000 Days". Far from being as angry and disaffected with her condition as the one previously MJK song that was definitely a reference to Judith - A Perfect Circle
's "Judith", naturally - these are more introverted and emotional. Hey, with lyrics like 'None of them can hold a candle to you', and 'This little light of mine.....I'm gonna let it shine to guide you safely on your way', this isn't really that far away from any typical top 10 hit love song. Nor is the conclusion that his mother is an angel - '10,000 Days in the fire is long enough/You're coming home'. This, at least, is new ground for Tool. In a discography where something as guarded and layered as "Jimmy" can be considered deeply emotional, this is a revelation.
And from there, it gets BETTER. "The Pot" is easily the equal (musically, at least) of "Vicarious". Justin Chancellor again stakes his claim as one of the best bassists in the world - he sounds like a a man on a mission on this record. The rest of the band respond in kind - the band haven't rocked this hard and powered forward this directly since "Prison Sex". Chancellor and Jones again pull off their now-trademark 'is that a bass or a guitar?' aural illusions, but here, it's used as a weapon against the listener rather than as another layer of sonic sludge. And that's a very good thing. If another single is released from this album, expect it to be this.
Which makes "Lipan Conjuring" all the more disappointing. So far, Tool were on course to release their first completely consistent album. And this ***s on that notion - not only is it filler, but it's probably the worst Tool filler track ever. Monks chanting. Yay. Honestly, Maynard squeezing his cat was a more satisfying listening experience. And it's followed by what? More filler. "Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)" is as uninspired as the title suggests. After such a stunning opening, this feels like being on a train that's come to a grinding halt just seconds after attaining full speed.
The album never recovers. "Rosetta Stoned"'s lyrics about ***ting the bed are terrible (and so is Maynard's delivery), and only serve to distract the listener from the following section, which is lifted almost entirely from "Third Eye". Needless to say, "Third Eye" is going to come off better in any contest between the two songs. With the appearance of some unusual percussion instruments aside, once AGAIN it's Chancellor and Jones who come off looking like the stars of the band here. This is something that must be noted - for so long, these two have been ignored in favour of Maynard James Keenan and Danny Carey. While both Kennan and Carey are basically only doing the same things they've been doing for an age (particularly in the case of the latter, who recycles several fills and drum patterns from earlier albums here), both Justin Chancellor and Adam Jones have really stepped up their game on this record. That, ultimately, is what keeps you coming back to 10,000 Days
for more, even when the songs aren't up to par.
The last three tracks seem something of a non-event after the wheels have fallen off so bitterly, but they're actually not bad at all. "Intension" is a continuation of "Disposition", and while it's not as good as its Lateralus
equivalent, it's still decent. "Right In Two" is another straight-ahead rocker, but much like "Rosetta Stoned", it sees Maynard letting the side down again with some decidedly dodgy lyrics (apparently free will is a bad thing and we're all monkeys, or something). The section at roughly 6.45 is just a little too similar to "Forty-Six & Two" for it to go un-noticed, too. And "Viginti Tres" is just a soundscape. Not a particularly interesting one, either.
So 10,000 Days
is a Tool album. That's all there is to it. It conforms to exactly the same highs (great musicianship, unique songwriting) and lows (useless filler, over-ambitious conceits) as every other Tool album. As usual, the longer songs have their bad moments and good moments, but overall, are pretty good considering. The only difference is that, here, the strike rate of good songs to bad ones is moving in the wrong direction (not by much, mind), and most of the good stuff is bunched at the start of the album. Is it inferior to Lateralus
? Yes, clearly. But so are a lot of things. So what if Tool have done better? There's still nobody out there who sounds quite like them, and a good record is a good record no matter who made it.
The reaction to it in some quarters, then, is probably more symptomatic of Tool as a concept rather than 10,000 Days
as an album. The problem with being a band that survives on intrigue, mystique, and mystery is that it's pretty much impossible to keep that up for long as a mainstream concern without either alienating or annoying a large body of people. And don't forget - Tool have been around for 15 years now, and for the last 10 years of that, they've been at the forefront of American metal. Perhaps it's understandable that so many people now are anti-Tool. What once came across as stand-offish cool has now come to be viewed as arrogance by a number of people. Tool aren't the first act to face that, of course - just look at how many people ended up hating Morrissey and Jim Morrison.
At least we can say that, if this is the case, then Tool are one step ahead - 10,000 Days
IS a noticeably more personal and direct record than any previous Tool outing, and there's far more for the teeth to sink into for people who are more interested in feeling their music rather than thinking about it. Maybe we should see this as a transitional album, then. For now, this album is good enough. Their next step, however, should be very interesting.
And as an aside, the packaging alone is worth the price of the album. Stereoscopic lenses? Get in!
Within The Genre - 4/5
Outside The Genre - 3/5
Recommended Downloads -
Wings For Marie (Part 1)
10,000 Days (Wings Part 2)