"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Tool - "10,000 Days" (CD)

Tool - "10,000 Days" CD cover image

"10,000 Days" track listing:

1. Vicarious
2. Jambi
3. Wings For Marie (Pt 1)
4. 10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)
5. The Pot
6. Lipan Conjuring
7. Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)
8. Rosetta Stoned
9. Intension
10. Right In Two
11. Viginti Tres

Reviewed by on June 2, 2006

"Even the mighty Tool are only human"

Tool have become the Dalai Lama of rock, a band so revered by their obsessive fans and critics that each album goes unquestioned. Any drastic changes in the band’s sound are considered evolution. When songs reach the 10 minute mark and beyond they are epic, never long winded. If the vocalist is buried under the other instruments in the final mix, it is perceived as the will of Tool and accepted as such. When the band spend five years writing the followup to their spellbinding Lateralus and release an album with no less than three uneventful segues, it simply must be a metaphysical concept that is beyond the listeners grasp, right? Maybe.

10,000 Days is indeed a challenging record. There is little instant gratification to be found from the album's opening to it’s final gasp. The music itself is bass-heavy, while the guitars prevail over the mix. Both the vocals and drums have been subdued measurably since Lateralus, where both had been showcased as dominant forces previously. Maynard Keenan’s trademarked crooning and forceful snarls are augmented by a raspy whisper vocal style, seemingly delivered through clenched teeth. Unlike previous records, synthesized rhythms, samples and guitar solos are utilized more liberally creating an atmosphere not heard on any Tool album.

The album opens abruptly. There is no brooding introduction or murmurings of a machine warming up as in previous records. “Vicarious” begins with a loping guitar riff that immediately calls to mind the hypnotic “Schism” from Lateralus. The song is an indictment of those who are fixated on television rather than leading lives of their own. “Vicarious” concludes with thunderous conviction and spills immediately into the combative riffing of “Jambi”. Lyrically and musically “Jambi” sounds more like A Perfect Circle than Tool. The song is about renouncing a self indulgent lifestyle rather than lose a significant other. A mid-song breakdown paves the way for a searing guitar solo that pierces the stampeding rhythms. An entire review could be written about the albums centerpiece “Wings for Marie/10,000 Days”, a single song split between two tracks. No piece in the band’s entire catalog is as epic or emotionally candid. Clocking in at just under 18 minutes, “Wings” is Keenan’s breathtaking eulogy for his deceased mother. Far and away the albums most familiar sounding track is “The Pot”. Keenan opens the song with unnsettling falsetto vocals before the guitars drive the song into familiar territory. “The Pot” lacks the rising action or detours of other Tool pieces. Despite a crashing conclusion, the song feels like a narrow miss. “Right in Two,” however is a direct hit. Dozens of interweaving percussion rhythms cocoon Keenan’s vocals as he tells a tale of “Monkeys killing monkeys over pieces of the ground”. The album's most rewarding moment comes at the halfway mark with vindictive shredding, punishing drums and a screaming conclusion. Closing track "Viginti Tres" is obviously a test of the listener's patience. Scarcely a song at all, this slab of audio takes the listener completely out of their comfort zone with swirls of distortion and muted effects.

Taken as a whole 10,000 Days is an enjoyable listen. While lulls are evident, the full experience - segues and all, is a rewarding one. The greatest paradox of 10,000 Days is the lyrics. Deciphering meaning from a Tool album has never been easier. Only “the Pot” may leave the listener pondering. If there is a unified theme on this album; it is sacrifice and loss. Keenan addresses man’s propensity for war, American apathy and the death of a loved one with equal ardor. Musically, the album lacks the complexity of other releases and seems to rely on the band's established Tool-isms a bit too heavily. As if to counter this, the guitar solos are fantastic and should remain a fixture in the band's repertoire. The final mix simply does not compare to other Tool albums however. Even at full voice, Keenan is often overpowered by the guitar and bass. The heart and soul of Tool are very much alive throughout 10,000 Days but this is unquestionably Tool’s most flawed album to date. Perhaps the time has come for fans to learn that even the mighty Tool are only human.

Highs: “Wings For Marie” and the title track stand among Tools best work, while “Jambi” and “Right in Two” show that the band can still experiment and yield excellent results.

Lows: Two needless segues (Lipan Conjuring and Viginti Tres) add little to the feel of the album and “Intension” may be the band's least interesting song to date

Bottom line: This album will probably divide fans “Right in Two.” Some will love 10,000 Days but just as many will feel disenfranchised.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)