23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: 10,000 Days (Audio CD)
5 years after the release of Lateralus and 3 and a half since they last performed a live show, Tool finally has a new album out. And it's about damn time. As usual, the wait is more than worth it, and while, like many of my favorite albums, I didn't quite get it upon the first listen, subsequent, repeated listenings have revealed not only a more structurally complex record than anything in the bands catalog to date, but also lyrically one of vocalist Maynard Keenan's most personal offerings. So many influences have come together to form this sonically unique album that it becomes hard to pinpoint exactly what these guys were on, and/or listening to when they recorded it. 10,000 Days is still an expansion of the bands first four albums, the psychedelic edginess, hammering rhythmic full band attacks, long melodic solos that cut straight to the heart, and overall atmospheric nostalgic touch giving it that distinct Tool signature. The songs are now even more progressive than on the epic Lateralus, the structures rarely depending on repeating any one part of the song, no matter how good it is, but never lacking in hooks despite this and the truly heavy quality of the material, giving the songs an almost Opethian writing quality not present on any previous release, all of which still depended heavily on choruses to grab the listeners ear. The sometimes Middle Eastern feel of the instrumental passages stay true to drummer Danny Carey's tribal tom assaults with a flair for tabla and exotic percussion, and Adam Jones use of a talk box for his guitar solo on Jambi is exceptionally prog-rock-ish and hints at a (if very slight) Frampton influence. However many childish fans still upset at this great bands fame cry and moan, it simply doesn't change the always undeniable fact about Tool: they simply keep getting better and better, all members united more structurally and rhythmically than ever before. This is, I might add, bassist Justin Chanellor's shining moment with the band, whom he has been with since AEnima, and his truly exceptional melodic bass playing strays from the typical path followed by his instrument of choice, his sense of melody and unique skill probably being enough to supplement the need for a guitar player in any other band that didn't have Adam Jones on the axe. Jones and Carey truly seem to see eye to eye on this album, guitar stroke matching every single rhythmic blast from Carey's monstrous drum set.
And of course there is Maynard James Keenan, the man himself. He has always been a master lyricist, from the humorous satiric debut of Opiate through the mind-opening pschedelic enlightenment of Lateralus and throughout his second band A Perfect Circle, the influence of which is also undeniable through Keenan's political yet intensely personal lyrics. While I may be wrong in my interpretation, the album seems to follow two vastly end of the spectrum themes, one being the state of humanity and politics in the world, which has always been the target of not only hope, but also machine-gun scrutiny in coming from MJK. The album's opening track and first single, Vicarious takes a well-deserved crack at fast-food fed, TV-droned Americans and their lust for televised violence, while Right In Two openly condemns the state of the Middle East, Keenan comparing humans to "monkey killing monkey killing monkey over pieces of the ground."
Of equally powerful, if drastically different, importance is the presence of Keenan's mothers ghost throughout the record, whose time in a wheelchair (the years of which add up to 10,000 days) and eventual death has had a profound effect on the singer, painfully crooning on the title song "10,000 days in the fire is long enough...you're going home." The effect is tear-jerking, being the closest this man has ever let his fans get to his soul. This is not the first time his mother has been the subject matter for his songwriting techniques, drawing namesake in the angry Perfect Circle anthem titled Judith, upon which Keenan rebukes her for her faith in a God who has left her "broken down and paralyzed." 10,000 Days seems to be the cure and elevated perspective needed for him on this very personal subject.
I am reluctant to go into a song by song analysis for two reasons, one being how cohesively well the songs flow together to make the album as a whole truly a listening experience, while secondly it was just released yesterday and I haven't had quite enough time to let the subtleties of each sink in yet. But the 20 or so listens I have already had have shown me enough to know that my favorite band has failed to let me down again. Many will insult this album, as many ignorant "fans" do in terms of any good piece of art, but as 311 says "F the naysayers 'cause they don't mean a thing." If you have remotely enjoyed anything by this band in the past, 10,000 Days will only serve its purpose in opening your mind to their message that much more. Give it a chance.