So far I’ve only written articles on Tool this year (barring a few other articles) and I must humbly admit it to myself that even I (someone who only started listening to Tool 3-4 years ago) find it hard to go across every single Tool song without thinking a bit more than required. After all, they’re not just songs they’re a way of life for me (now) and to a large part I have to credit these talented musicians for literally twisting my life around its fulcrum and putting it onto a new axis. I’ve changed so much since the first time I heard Tool; I was shy, closed, scared to try new things and reach out to grab a new level of thinking/consciousness; similarly they’ve helped me grow as a musician and a songwriter. But I guess I’ve associated myself too much with Tool’s art (not just the music) that I can’t think of anything before looking at the same thing from a million other vantage points, breaking into each crevice and reading between the lines that so subtly condition the society we live in.
Pain is a theme I’ve always loved to write on. Be it Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or 500 Days of Summer or Her, pain, melancholia and the feeling of longing has always been presented to us in a way that keeps us hooked on, intrigues us and gives us goose bumps. The fact that so many superheroes are given a dark past or a weakness is because we, as a society love to see our leaders rise from their own personal hell and achieve something great. I call it the “Frankenstein Element” of every hero since reading the novel was the first time I was actually introduced to a different kind of pain, a pain that liberates, uplifts our spirits and though melancholy, it provides an amazing background to any story. Similarly, pain has always been a persistent theme in Tool albums, songs, and their music (yes all three individually).
The imagery that is most commonly associated with any Tool release is that of overcoming pain or coming to terms and realization of potential. Seems easy and too unimportant when I say it so dryly but Tool, as a band has always had the power to move people and inspire them, maybe that’s a why they’re referred to as “a thinking man’s metal band”. So, not deviating any more from our purpose I’ll start the article. The title (this time) needs no help in pronunciation it’s Ten Thousand Days…what is that you ask? 10,000 Days = roughly 27 years (calculate your 10,000th Day anniversary here). The title refers to the time period that singer Maynard James Keenan’s mother Judith Marie Keenan was paralyzed for before her death (as in she suffered for 10,000 days before being free once again). She being paralyzed has already been covered in the song ‘jimmy’ from ‘Ænima.
Also, the artwork was done by previous collaborator Alex Grey and the album also featured a very different packaging than most records. It has two stereoscopic lenses which create a 3D effect and through them you’re able to see some pretty amazing work of Alex Grey, including the album cover titled ‘Net of Being’. Just the fact that the album won the Grammy award for best packaging is witness to the fact that ‘10,000 Days’ is a treat for anyone. Just look at this awesome pic. What a treat indeed!
So the album starts with their Grammy nominated single ‘Vicarious’ which is (like always) a comment on human society and tells how humans seek the ultimate thrill of vicariously living through others in the media eyes and how the actions of a society depict the suppressed emotions and feelings we all possess. As the lines of the song say “…I need to watch things die, from a distance. Vicariously I live while the whole world dies. You all need it too don’t lie”. Humans are indeed vampires, hungry for blood, love and conspiracies, and we are what we eat, aren’t we? ‘Vicarious’ paves the way for ‘Jambi’ (call it Jam-bye or Jam-bee, your choice), well it’s one of the most awesome songs on the record and it features Adam Jones’ talkbox solo (here’s Adam doin’ it and here’s this guy rippin’ it up). The song feature pretty heavy distorted guitars and one of the best bass lines bassist Justin Chancellor can offer. Jambi has a variety of different meanings, all convincing but like always I recommend you read the lyrics and interpret something of your own, since the meaning behind most Tool songs remain unclear, they’re open to all explanations one can provide.
‘Jambi’ leads to one of the epics on this record i.e. ‘Wings for Marie (Pt 1)’ which is Maynard praising his mother for her selfless love and never ending support, she’s like an angel to him and now she’s on her deathbed and he has to say goodbye to her and eventually, let her go. ‘Wing’ is a beautiful track but what comes next is sheer blinding awesomeness, ’10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)’ is the epilogue to ‘Wings’ and is so beautiful that it can literally move you to tears and make you go hug your mom. The song is again set around her deathbed where all of Maynard’s relatives are now offering him sympathy for his loss but he knows that Judith Marie, the unconditionally loving mother has now ascended to a place she always believed in. Maynard is highly spiritual but his ideas don’t really resonate with the ideas of organized religion. The song is a simple yet powerful and extremely beautiful ode to a loving mother.
The fifth track on the album is also the first Tool song I ever heard i.e. ‘The Pot’ and according to Wikipedia “Adam Jones has confirmed that the title refers to hypocrisy. The lyrics contain metaphors and references to kangaroo courts, the phrase “pot calling the kettle black”, marijuana legislation, and finger waving. The use of the word “high” is a double entendre, referring to both drug intoxication and believing oneself to be above others, and the title itself is also a double entendre, referring both to the pot in the metaphor as well as the slang term used to refer to cannabis. Also, towards the end of the song, the line “Kangaroo be stoned he’s guilty as the government” plays on the term “stoned”, which could mean the capital punishment act of stoning, or another reference to drug intoxication.” Pretty cool, right? Well Tool has the amazing power to layer these metaphors one over the other and let each speak for itself in a distinct manner.
I still remember the first time I heard ‘The Pot’, I hated it, it was weird music that wasn’t making much sense and the vocals weren’t BRUUTAALL!!! Well, few years later, I hear it every day, heck I enjoy each second of the song and it remains my favorite Tool song precisely due to the reasons that I’ve come to love it for. The bass line of ‘The Pot’ was most probably the first time I heard a bass being slapped (I encountered Primus way later) and it was heavenly. The song is something else entirely with all the underlying themes it’s just a complete package. If Tool sold an album that only had this one song on it…I’d buy it twice, maybe thrice. Well, all drooling aside, let’s move on. ‘The Pot’ leads to ‘Lipan Conjuring’ and well there’s hasn’t been a funnier track till now, it’s a segue that separates the true-acid-trip-enlightened part of the album one enters after this track.
Up next is a song that may fool a lot of people but it features some of Adam Jones’ most simple and pretty atmospherically awesome guitar playing. I’m talking about ‘Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)’, Hofmann as in Albert Hofmann, the first person to synthesize, ingest and learn the psychedelic effects of LSD. The song is a conversation between a nurse and a doctor (most probably Robert Gordon Wasson; who coauthored a book about magic mushrooms with A. Hofmann and Carl A.P. Ruck). ‘Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)’ serves as an intro to one the most trip-inducing songs on the record i.e. ‘Rosetta Stoned’. The song is basically about an LSD trip but has some of the best (read fast) vocals Maynard has ever recorded, he uses a megaphone while performing live to sound like the troubled patient from the previous track. Aliens, LSD, a great guitar and bass assault, this 11 minute track has it all.
Well, you must be wondering I still haven’t mentioned the magician Danny Carey anywhere in this article. Well, Danny Carey’s presence is always there but it doesn’t really come to its peak till this track. He’s always been into African Polyrhythms and this track is a prime example of his presence over the album and his efficiency on the drum kit. Okay, confession time now, just like I’d never really heard ‘The Patient’ from the ‘Lateralus’ album, I had never really laid my eyes or ears upon the next track i.e. ‘Intension’. And I have to say this that it features an awesome tabla background by Danny Carey, and it’s almost as if the song just goes into another dimension musically after it reaches its halfway mark or so. The song somehow tells the story of us humans in a pretty condensed manner i.e. awakening in this world, discovering each other, knowing that we’re pure and innocent, only acting when we wish to, but slowly a poison creeps in that makes us slay our brothers and sisters, corrupts our will and makes us the killers we are today.
I never wanted to write the above lines because I thought I’d use them to explain the song that follows i.e. ‘Right in Two’. This kinda leads me to believe that ‘Intension’ acts as an intro to this track, which for a long time I’ve considered as the epitome of the beauty Tool is able to infuse into songs. ‘Right in Two’ tells the same story as ‘Intension’ but features a pretty awesome word, “monkeys” to draw parallel with humans. Considering the opposition Darwinism still gets this track is almost like a slap to the face of narrow-minded-will imposing fundamentalists. The song starts off slow telling the tale of us “monkeys” that have puzzled “angels” as why did “father” give us “freewill”, our greed and lust for power has disgusted these “angels” and they know that these “monkeys” will soon be divided “right in two for killing (other) monkeys over pieces of the ground” because after all “repugnant is a creature who’d squander the ability to lift an eye to the heaven, conscious of his fleeting time here”(pretty awesome I know).
‘Right in Two’ features a minute and half of tabla awesomeness by Danny Carey (all the more reason as to why ‘Intension’ is an intro to this song) and towards the end the song just explodes into some awesome riffage by Adam Jones, of course followed hauntingly by Justin Chancellor and Maynard James Keenan. The last track on the album is ‘Viginti Tres’ (translates into 23 in Latin) which to be true always sounds batshit scary and as a standalone track it’s kind of weird that Tool would include such a song. But then, Tool is the biggest cult band in the world and even though the track only features atmospheric sounds for 5 minutes and 2 seconds it serves a greater purpose. What’s that you ask?
Remember how ‘Disposition’, ‘Reflection’ and ‘Triad’ from the ‘Lateralus’ album were meant as a single song played one after the other? Well Tool sorta surpassed all expectations a living person can have and came up with something truly out of this world. But then, not to cause any butthurt to Tool fans, who are always so intrusive, speculative and investigating that we break apart a track listing and make a completely different record with complete different meanings (as in the ‘Lateralus’ record), this new Easter egg found in ‘10,000 Days’ left everyone astonished and amazed beyond all realms humanly possible, a straight kick in the guts is what this is.
Well, without delaying any more I’ll tell you that the tracks ‘Wings for Marie (Pt 1)’, ‘10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)’ and ‘Viginti Tres’ sync to each other. Wait a minute, wha…? Well Of course the tracks Wings Pt 1 and Pt 2 are meant to be played as a single song, right? Well, the genius that Tool is it’ll never let you off the hook so easily. A ‘Viginti Tres’ measure 5 minutes 2 seconds in length, ‘Wings Pt 1’ is of 6 minutes and 11 seconds and ‘10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)’ is 11 minutes and 13 seconds long, so what right? Wait… 5:02+6:11 = 11:13 (O.O) Great Scott!!!
Actually the tracks ‘Viginti Tres’ and ‘Wings for Marie (Pt 1)’ are meant to be played as one song which is a total of 11 minutes and 13 seconds in length. Along with this new track one is supposed to play ‘10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)’ which clocks at 11:13. The amazing part about this Easter egg is that this actually works and the tracks sync perfectly to each other (try two different renditions here and here). Pretty spooky, right? This is the magic I’ve come to know as Tool, a band like no other that constantly pushes the boundaries of what is possible and what can be achieved.
Well now, I’m finished with reviewing Tool (Woohoo!!!) and I really hope they finally release an album this year and even if they don’t I’d still be happy with these epic songs that I’ve had the chance and honor to tell you all about.
Stay Curious and keep that head banging!!!