10,000 Days

Tool

Volcano / Tool Dissectional Records, 2006

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/05/2006

In 2002, I eagerly waited for the Village Voice to release its results for the best album of 2001 in its yearly "Pazz and Jop" poll (a compilation of about 120 critics' 'best of' list). After listening to Lateralus, I just thought it was a given that Tool's album would get the honor not necessarily for 'album of the year,' but certainly best heavy metal album of the year. But that honor went to System Of A Down's Toxicity. I was disappointed, but not crushed. If anything, it illuminated the glaring differences between both bands.

First off, I am not trying to imply there's a System Of A Down/Tool rivalry. Both bands have helped raise hard rock and heavy metal to new artistic heights. But the way each band does this couldn't be more different. System Of A Down does it by incorporating Frank Zappa-like weirdness with breakneck, punkish pacing and incendiary lyrics. Tool elevates heavy metal by making metal unsettling again through creepy multimedia packaging (videos and album art) and even creepier atmospherics to their songs, courtesy of their phenomenal musicianship. Yet, both bands could take some valuable pointers from each other.

Listening to System Of A Down's scalpel-like dissection of what's wrong with the corrections system in the United States ("Prison Song") and their impassioned rantings about the war in Iraq make me wonder if it's the same band that includes the equivalent of musical fart jokes in songs like "Cigaro" and settle for easy targets like Hollywood and Tony Danza (see the final few songs in my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Mezmerize). But at least with System Of A Down, you are done with one of their albums in about the same time you hit Track 4 of the ultra-serious Tool (only ten more tracks to go!).

Tool's latest album 10,000 Days already comes with its own joke: It takes 10,000 days to get through. Fans have already flooded discussion groups stating this album was the first major screw-up for the band. Other fans who believe Tool can do no wrong lament "You really aren't going to get into the album until about the 37th listen!" Unfortunately, many of us don't have time to listen to a 70-plus-minute album for 30 times in hopes of finally "getting it."

It may be fatigue from trying to juggle A Perfect Circle with Tool, but one major letdown I encountered with 10,000 Days was its first song. With all of Tool's other albums, from the incredible jugular strike of "Stinkfist" from Aenima to Danny Carey's amazing drumming on "Schism" (from Lateralus), the first song Tool releases has usually been a reason to celebrate the band's return. With "Vicarious," Tool attack is focused on voyeurism that is television pop culture. "We all feed on tragedy / like blood to a vampire," Maynard James Keenan sings. True, Keenan proves why he's one of the best singers in rock on this song, but the topic is such an easy target, the song really isn't effective until Keenan's last cathartic scream "Vicariously I live while the whole world does / Much better you -- you than I." The band definitely brings the heavy artillery with this song, but it seems like it's just another one of Tool's heavier songs, nothing more, nothing less.

With the exception of "The Pot" and "Right in Two," Tool relies heavily on brooding, often plodding arrangements. "Wings For Marie (Pt. 1)" and "10,000 Days (Wings Pt. 2)" are both heartfelt dedications to Keenan's late mother, but sadly the music isn't compelling enough to justify the combined length of almost 20 minutes. The closing song "Viginiti Tres" rates up there with Pearl Jam's "Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me" or the Beatles' "Revolution 9" as a song that will test the limits of even the most dedicated fan.

Still, Tool is one of the few bands that can take five years to record an album, and that's OK, because it practically takes five years to digest the density of their material. But 10,000 Days is missing that indefinable "creepiness" that made Tool's best albums so compelling. It may be the because this is the first Tool album to go sans "Parental Advisory," or it just may come with the territory of being on the scene for almost 15 years, but 10,000 Days is the first time a Tool album has been called predictable. Will that stop myself or several perplexed fans from trying to figure out what's missing from 10,000 Days by giving it a twentieth chance to sink in? Hell no.

Rating: C+

User Rating: A


Comments

Good job Sean, but I think you're overblowing the density, and maybe the superficiality of the album. I could make the same argument (about the time it takes to digest an album) with "American Idiot". Yes 'Vicarious' is not deep, but that doesn't mean it's not a good song. Hell, 'Schism' is equally if not more mainstream, it's just a song about lost love, nothing deep there, and instrumentally it's a very simplistic, mid-tempo exercise. I'd put up Vicarious against it in terms of greater energy, and a better vocal performance. I only took one listen to 10K Days to impress me, and I enjoyed relistening so, win-win in my book. Just sayin...








© 2006 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Volcano / Tool Dissectional Records, and is used for informational purposes only.