I'm not new to Tool. I've been well aware of their reputation for many years but never found my way into their music. With a Download Festival show looming and a probable fifth album In the works its time to really give them a go! Working in chronological order we start with their demo tape 72826, a name which decodes to Satan. It feels like an excellent choice as I hear some clear links to sounds of other bands in the early 90s Alternative music era and I'm already picking up on some unique themes and concepts in their sound and identity.
On the lyrical front a majority of songs stem from personal relationship struggles manifesting into venting agitation yet most often with a streak of underlying intelligence. It rises to the forefront with Hush, its words challenge the ideas and norms of freedom of speach from a grounded, thoughtful position rather than that of rebellion. That perspective may be shaped by the more artistic and intentional construct of their sound. The words frequently blossom with clarity and wisdom as Maynard James Keenan cries out "I can say what I want to, even if I'm not serious. I can say what I want to, even if I'm just kidding". Its a thought provoking statement when juxtaposed with shouts of "kill yourself" which may initially seem thoughtless.
The music reminds me a lot of Post-Punk in some ways, just within the realm of Rock and Metal. Tool shape up their aesthetics and musical constructs with an ear for opposites, striking balances of melody and demonstrative groove with the guitars leaving space for big prowling baselines to clank and rattle in behind the animated drumming of Danny Carey. Its all comes together without a cheap trick of trope. Every track, although varying in quality, has a set of riffs that firmly establish the tone of the song without an over reliance on any particular instrumental approach or style.
The production for a demo in 91 is alarmingly decent yet objectively its aesthetic is brittle and colorless. The guitars are a dulled by their fuzzy distortion, the bass guitar clanks for volume like a Primus record and the drums lack depth, sounding metallic, especially the tom rolls. Despite all this the charm firmly emerges. Keenan establishes himself upfront with a great performance that reminds me on Eddie Vedder when he boards on a similar flamboyance. Its a great demo and has actually got me excited for the next few records as they will undoubtedly evolve to a Progressive behemoth.
Favorite Tracks: Hush, Sober