Photo Credit: Travis Shinn

Alternative/progressive metal act Tool have pushed their sound into murky and progressive metal waters for many years now since the band's formation. Creating sonic soundscapes, blending elements of heavy metal, art rock, alternative, post metal and progressive metal with each album. Along with matching visuals, showcasing the macabre and the trans-dimensional throughout their album's lyrics and artwork. Winning multiple Grammy awards and selling out venues with their bigger than life stage show, cloaked in impressive visuals and effects.

Photo Credit: Travis Shinn

So, why is this trendsetting and influential alternative metal band appearing in an edition of Why The Hate? you may be asking? Well, the band has garnered some backlash and vitriol from its fanbase and the metal community over the band's twenty-plus year career. From long gaps in-between album releases, the band's STRICT no photography at their shows and their infamous fan base. I will dive into the band's history, the fans issues with the band live, and their very vocal fanbase.

The band's original lineup with original bassist (from left, Jones, D'Amour, Keenan, Carey)


Tool was formed in 1989 with the original lineup of bassist Paul D'Amour, guitarist Adam Jones, vocalist Maynard James Keenan and drummer Danny Carey. After performing in the L.A. area for a couple years, the band would be signed to Zoo Entertainment, and release their debut E.P. Opiate in 1992. After the release, the band would tour in support of popular 90's acts Rollins Band, Rage Against The Machine, White Zombie and Corrosion of Conformity.

The band would then enter the studio to record their debut album. Undertow would be released in 1993. The album would receive positive reviews from critics and fans, drawing huge success for the band. This would also be the only album to feature D'Amour on bass. He would leave the band in 1995. Many journalists at the time would cite the album as an album that helped keep heavy metal relevant during the peak of Seattle grunge during the 90's. Along with the popularity of the band's debut music video for the song "Sober". Rollins Band front man Henry Rollins would appear on the song "Bottom".  

Note provided from the band with the censored artwork version of the album.

The album would face controversy due to the artwork featured in the inner sleeve. The album art, designed by Jones, contained photos of a nude obese woman, a nude thin man, and the band members with pins in the sides of their heads. Major retailers of the time Kmart and WalMart would remove it from their store shelves. The band would re-release the album for those retailers with the album's artwork changed to a barcode on the cover with a note from the band in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

In 1995, the band would hit the studio and began working on it's second album. With new bassist Justin Chancellor, the band drove themselves to push their sound artistically, musically and lyrically. One year later, the band would release Ænima. The album would debut at number two on the Billboard 200 and sold over 140,000 copies in it's first week. Ænima would be a groundbreaking record for not only the band, but the genre of alternative metal. With deep lyrical themes such as drug use and the teachings of Timothy Leary, comedian Bill Hicks, and the state of human evolution. With singles "Stinkfist", "H.", "Ænima" and "Forty Six & 2", the album would go triple platinum as of 2003 and the band would win a Grammy for Best Metal Performance for the album's title track. The band would also be nominated for Best Recording Package for the album's lenticular jewel case, which created sequential animation through the case for different pieces of artwork in the inner sleeve of the album.

After the success of Ænima and before the band could begin work on their next album, the band ran into legal issues regarding contract violations with their successor label Volcano Entertainment. After the case was settled, another lawsuit was aimed at the band from their former manager regarding his commission. In the meantime, the band members pursued other projects. Famously, Keenan started a new project with Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel called A Perfect Circle. That project would release their debut album Mer De Noms in 2000.

After a long six-year gap and their legal battles over, the band would return with their third album Lateralus in 2001. Helping prevent album leaks on file-sharing websites like Napster and Limewire, the band would announce the album as Systema Encéphale and list fake track titles to throw the scent off of downloaders before eventually announcing the official album title and track listing. Lateralus debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling over 550,000 copies in its first week. Following the success of popular lead singles and artistic music videos for "Schism" and "Parabola". The album's complex theme of the Fibonacci sequence on the album's title track showed off the band's technicality and attention to detail with the band's music. Artwork by artist Alex Grey would dawn the album cover, inner sleeve and many of the band's merchandise. Becoming an almost unofficial identifier of the band.  

The band would return again five years later with the release of 10,000 Days in 2006. Led by the success of the album's opening track and lead single "Vicarious", the album would debut at number one and sell over 550,000 copies in its first week, eventually going double platinum. The band released the second single "The Pot", which is a live staple in the band's setlist today. With the success of this album, the band would tour in support of the record through 2012. Then, legal troubles and family commitments were become key factors for the band's delay in working on a follow-up to 10,000 Days.

During the lull period and legal issues, Keenan would become very busy with other musical projects. He would release more music with A Perfect Circle, the band would release their most recent forth album Eat The Elephant in 2018, receiving positive reviews and would tour in support of the album. He would also start a new project, Puscifer, in 2003. With the downtime, Keenan would push Puscifer more predominately, with the project releasing it's debut album "V" Is for Vagina in 2007. Very different than Tool or A Perfect Circle, the project would play around with elements of trip-hop, industrial music, alternative and rock music. While also creating a unique stage-show experience that Keenan would continue to tour and release music consistently amidst the Tool hiatus and forward.

After thirteen years, spanning all the legal troubles and side projects, Tool returned in 2019 with Fear Inoculum. Debuting again at number one, though selling only 270,000 copies. The album marked the band at their most progressive and atmospheric. With only seven songs, most of the songs over ten-minutes, the album was divisive with the fans. Wanting the Tool of previous records, not quite sure if they are ok with this "longer and more progressive" evolution of the band. Also debating if this album was worth the wait after a decade long hiatus. Only time will tell if this album will grow on fans or if this is the first misstep in the band's discography. It was announced in early 2022 that the band is planning to hit the studio to begin work on a new album, with many band members stating in interviews that it should not be another long wait in-between albums.

Musically, does Tool deserve the hate? Many critics of the band have said that the albums are very one-note or repetitive, almost accusing the band of "phoning it in" or "adding bloat to pad album lengths", citing Fear Inoculum as their example. I disagree with this statement and I don't think their music deserves any hate. Though they have taken their time in-between releases, when they do release an album, the albums are strong in my honest opinion. They are different compared to a lot of the music you hear on modern rock radio (both local and satellite), as well as a sound that is 100% their own. With the band changing and evolving their sound with each album, you never truly know what the next album will sound like. For the band's discography and sound, they do not deserve the hate.

SECOND TOPIC: The Band's Performance

A lot of the hate towards the band as a whole has come towards two main gripes with the band, but let's start with a short but obvious one. The gap in-between releases. With fans pointing out that the band has been around for almost thirty-five years and there has only been five albums. Pointing some of the blame towards Keenan for focusing too much of his time on Puscifer. With fans arrogantly demanding him to focus on Tool and only Tool. Keenan hasn't eased or comforted the fans, in his own sarcastic, some call it asshole-ish demeanor regarding it. Telling fans to lighten up, get over it and it'll come out when the band wants it to come out. Which the fanbase did not take with any grain of salt and a bitter pill they refuse to swallow. I can see the fans not happy with that response, but as a musician, I'd want the music to be right and what I want before I release it. And if that takes too long, I'm sorry that you feel that way, but it's my music at the end of the day and I have to stand by it.

The main gripes are aimed towards the band's live performances. One issue is the band's STRICT no camera/video of the band's concerts. With even professional photographers only allowed to take pictures on the first song or two and then not allowed after. Many fans have even told stories about getting kicked out of the concert for violating the request. The band's justification actually makes sense, especially in today's smartphone heavy society. Here is Jones' explanation of it in an interview with Metal Injection:

"Yeah, i mean, for us, we've actually seen it changing and more and more big acts are asking their fans respectfully to enjoy the show, rather than looking at their camera the whole time. I think one of the problems is you get a lot of lights because people don't know how to use their cameras correctly, which makes it very blinding onstage. It's just…it's that connection. You lose something without that connection, and you just want people to be in their own world rather than getting the whole show on their phone and then never looking at it again."

In today's digital culture, I completely agree with Jones and the rest of the band with this. Concerts need to be enjoyed through the eyes and not through a screen. Flash and flashlights would take away the aesthetics of the band's visual imagery throughout the band's performance. That it DOES take you out of it by seeing those things in concert. I can see fans arguing that if I'm in the nosebleed seats, why does it matter, so I can agree with their argument there. I saw the band on their 2023 tour, and even though they did enforce the no photography/video rule, Keenan did let fans record and take pictures on the band's final song "Stinkfist" and I didn't hear any complaints from fans in attendance during the concert or after regarding the rule. In my opinion, I think people are just blowing that out of proportion and the band is telling the world what we need to do at a concert...enjoy the show as it is.

Photo Credit: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

The other issue fans bring up with the band is the songs on the band's setlist. On the band's 2023 tour, the band played the song "Intolerance" off of Undertow, which hadn't been played live before, which was a real treat. The problem fans had was that a lot of classic songs from the band were not played live on that tour. Except for one song, they played almost the entire album of Fear Inoculum. Don't get me wrong, I like Fear Inoculum, but they have SO many good songs in their discography, that they could have played INSTEAD of the entire album. And the songs people want to hear like "Sober", "Forty Six & 2" and anything off Lateralus, are not played live. It is unclear if the band doesn't like playing those songs anymore or if Keenan can't sing those songs, either vocally or emotionally anymore. With the fans feeling like the band is ignoring what the fans want to hear and that is completely up to the band. It's their music and if they want to play what they want, they have the right to. Regarding both of these issues, I don't think the no picture/video at their shows deserve the hate, but I think the song choice for me I can see why there is hate towards the band and I slightly agree with it.

A popular meme parodying the fanbase of the band


The fanbase of the band has become a cliché toxic fanbase in the metal community. Many people and critics of the fans think the fans take the band's music WAAAAYYY too seriously and critical. Claiming the fanbase as being too pretentious, snooty, insufferable and grating on the praise and promotion of the band themselves. Some list the band as being overrated and overhyped, which causes the Tool fanbase to attack people quicker then a Taylor Swift or Beyoncé fanbase would. I have come across a fan like this, where he said Tool is the best metal band of all time. They would say better than Metallica, better than Dream Theater. I told them that was their opinion, and he would say "No! They ARE the best metal band" and would not hear any arguments, opinions, facts or notes stating otherwise. I am a Tool fan myself, but I also know that Tool isn't perfect, no band is perfect. I know there are other bands better than Tool, and I know they have not-so-great albums, but that's my opinion, which may differ from you. It is the typical point of a couple bad fans ruining it for the entire fanbase, a similar trend I brought up during my Five Finger Death Punch edition of Why The Hate?. I think those particular kind of fans deserve the hate, but I think the fanbase as a whole doesn't deserve it.

Photo Credit: Travis Shinn

Tool is a unique band with a very passionate fanbase behind them. Musically, Tool is a definitive band that has pushed what alternative and progressive metal can be made into. I don't think the band deserves all the hate that gets thrown at them. Trying to deep dive and understand every little nuance with their music and lyrics is just something people are passionate about and that's ok. To hold the band to such a high level of grandeur and greatness from some of the fanbase, that can be a little much and I can see where some of the disgust and annoyance comes from towards that. With even the band commenting on their own fanbase and wishing they weren't as bad as they are. At the end of the day, Tool is Tool. They will put on a great live show visually, and make strong and unique records no matter how long it takes them to do it. And I will be excited with every album, because like I mentioned earlier, we sometimes don't know what their records will sound like. They have come a long way from Undertow to Fear Inoculum. I don't care if there is no pictures or video during a set from them, I want to see the band to SEE the band, not to re-watch them later or try to record them to get views or social media points. That shouldn't be why you go to concerts. And if you can't put your phone away to enjoy a concert, especially with a band like them, you shouldn't be going to concerts.

Do you think Tool deserves the hate? Let us know in our comments if you agree or disagree with me and why. You can also put your suggestions in the comments for who we should tackle next in this series. I'm Justin, You're Friendly Neighborhood Metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been another edition of Why The Hate? .

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