THE TOP TEN BEST TOOL SONGS: A retrospective (2024)

Hello everyone. I've decided to write up my thoughts on a topic I haven't really discussed at length upon the Internet. That topic...being music. I have a few bands that I would deem among my favorites, but if I were to be asked about which one ranked at the top...it would most likely be Tool.

I discovered Tool in the mid-2000's, following the release of their most recent album, 10,000 days. I have to confess that I didn't really get them as a teenager, but I was reintroduced to them again a few years later and really dived into the band's entire body of work. I'll probably write more on the topic, since there is plenty to discuss. For now, let's take a look back at the band through some of their songs.

Now, when I say top ten, I don't necessarily mean by purely technical standards, popularity or even my own personal favorites. Rather, this list is an attempt to find the songs that best capture the style, sound and soulful nature of what Tool is about.

1. Sober: Undertow (1993)

This one is a given. The interesting thing about the first two Tool efforts (the first EP and studio album) is that they are really indicative of a very interesting time in heavy metal history. In the early 90's metal was undergoing a bit of an identity crisis and struggling to compete with more mainstream music. Most bands that survived, including Tool, became at least moderately effective by the grunge movement. The fusing of punk and metal attitudes combined with a touch of experimentalismprobably helped give birth to manyalternative metal bands."Sober" is perhaps the best example of thisperiod. Sober is raw and aggressive. It's a much simpler and straightforward piece in comparison to the trippy progressive pieces of later albums. What standsout as definitive is Maynard James Keenan's hauntingvocals and accusatory lyrics wrapped around ideas of Christian symbolism and drug abuse.

2. Eulogy: Aenima (1996)

Bill Hicks seems heavily a part of early Tool discourse. His stand-up routines were born from the same period of cynicism and mistrust that Tool arose from. Like Hicks though, Tool not only attacked various aspects of society...but encouraged listeners to think critically and ask questions about themselves and the world they inhabit. Hicks died before the release of the album, but this song is essentially what it claims to be. It's a eulogy to a man of the people. It's nocoincidence that lyrics are left vaguely open enough for more religious symbolism. However you choose to classify it, this is a powerful driving force of music.

3. Forty-six & 2: Aenima (1996)

If anyone vaguely knows Tool songs, this one always seems to come up in conversation. It's here we can start talking a bit more about the technical aspects. It's in songs like these that wecan see how Tool cancreate a balancebetween the sinister and the uplifting. The precision at which Tool writes their music can befound here in the slow build up brought about byone of many hypnotic bass lines performed by Justin Chancellor. Tool is a band that is oftendriven bythe rhythm of alternating between heavy, steel bass lines and effects driven distortion. Adam Jones seems to dance around the bass lines, driving forward with the guitar as both the crux and compliment of the other works. We also have the legendary time signatures of Danny Carey, who somehow manages to keep the structure together while bouncing from segment to segment. Combine it with metaphysical themes of Jungian psychology and chromosome division, and you have a truly uplifting and thought-provoking Tool song.

4. Aenima: Aenima (1996)

This album was a huge element in Tool truly defining the sound they've best become known for. The titular song of this album is one that truly exemplifies the powerful imagery Keenan often delivers. Cruising through a driving bass line and occasionally erupting with vicious guitars, this piece plays with the dynamic between quiet, almostwhispery verses slowly building intoheavy choruses. Thestandards of basic song structure are seemingly broken down as Maynard showsoff his powerful vocal range. The lyricsattack virtually every aspect of Hollywood culture and perhaps American capitalist ideals. A transformative listen.

5. Schism: Lateralus (2001)

In terms of popularity, this might be the best known Tool song. That's really saying something, as it's easily one of their most complex works. The dynamics of the previous album are here, but it seems to have been pushed further...perhaps perfected. Some of Tool's most powerful lyrics, regarding the importance of communication, seem like both a sermon and a plea to the listener. Easily the most noticeable element is the catchy, driving bass by Chancellor. The interlockingwith Carey on drums and Jones droning in and out with his riffs seems like the perfect mathematical musical formula.

6. Ticks and Leeches: Lateralus (2001)

This album is often considered the best (at least from a technical standpoint) and it's hard to argue with the overall writing, composition and meticulous skill for the whole work. This song shows a side of Tool that is sometimes overlooked. In an album filled with thoughtful and transcending pieces such as "Parabola" or "Lateralus", this track is not really packed with spirituality, mysticism or even satire. Rather, it's driving, vicious metal that, in a rather ironic fashion, lashes out at its own fandom. It's darkly humorous, but the sting of lyrics seems rather poignant. It urges to fans to consider how they conduct themselves. It also serves as oneof the best examples of Carey's amazing drumming as apowerhouse of progressive rock.


7. Disposition: Lateralus (2001)

Hinting at the less anger driven avenues they would pursue, this track shows yet another aspect of the wide array of talent for these musicians. Soft, repetitive, simple...yet hypnotic and beautiful. Taking a break from heavier pieces, this track is still reflective and thoughtful, but allows a breather. Pieces like these can allow the listener to use Tool for a different type of catharsis. Sometimes it's not about screaming, power chords or even grand composition. Sometimes you just have to sit back...and watch the weather change....(sorry...couldn't resist).

Vicarious: 10,000 Days (2006)

This album is the only one that borders on being called "divisive". The tracks are all great, but they vary in style. It seems like that band played with elements found in previous albums,but balanced that with many accessible rock ballads. While "Jambi" and "The Pot" could be cited as obvious examples of this more radio friendly Tool, this song seems to find that balance. The song is more accessible perhaps, but still very much indicative of the band's style. The lyrics, seemingly political and damning of the media, suggest deeply personal questions while elevating the chorus to epic proportions. The band continues to play with structure, breaking it down before unifying again. Each verse and chorus seem almost indiscernible at times...yet the fluidity is never compromised. Pop? Perhaps...but still a fun ride.

9. Wings for Marie: 10,000 Days (2006)

One of the most important aspects of Keenan as a lyricist and vocalist is the intimacy of his lyrics. Most songs seem to be emotionally resonating no matter the tone. This song, regarding the sickness and death of the singer's mother, is one of the softer, sadder outings from Tool. No other piece could really be considered "sweet" but this one. The effects drive this song along with soft but extremely active drum and bass work. Religious themes come back and the empowering yet vulnerable nature of Maynard's words could stir emotions of anyone experiencing loss. This is probably one of the truly "nicest" Tool songs.

10. Right In Two: 10,000 Days (2006)

One of the last tracks on the ablum, this one simply shows how pretty Tool's melodies can be. Perhaps more that most songs, Adam Jones's steadily building of melody is astounding here. That, combined with the vocal chantings of Maynard and the interweaving transformation of the overlapping time signatures of Carey and Chancellor, and you have one of the most underrated Tool tracks. Perhaps too damning in its bleak view of humanity, the tonal shifts and elevating nature of the songs suggest hope within the turbulent imagery of violence. Beauty wrapped in turmoil and condensed into a crystalline structure of melody and driving lyrics. I can't think of anything better to exemplify the transcendent nature of the band's later efforts.

With a new tour in 2017 and hopefully a new Tool album after over a decade...this will hold fans over a bit longer...and perhaps entice some new ones. Thank you for reading. Peace.

THE TOP TEN BEST TOOL SONGS: A retrospective (2024)
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