Ranking Tool Albums

Ranking Tool Albums

Progressive metal icons Tool have been around and performing for over thirty years. Known for taking their time inbetween releases, the band has released only five albums in those thirty years. When they do, the band loves to play around with different musical styles and directions. With an impressive group of musicians, vocalist Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carrey, Tool test the waters of progressive music with every release and performance. A diverse band who brings unique instrumentation, dynamic and thought-provoking lyrics and themes, and a riveting live show. This band knows how to deliver a unique and original sound that no other band has been able to match or sound like. Let’s take a look at this bands eclectic discography and see which one stands at the peak of their progressive mountain.


Opiate (E.P.)

Tool released their debut E.P. Opiate in 1992. After recording and playing together for two years, the intensity and passion on this record is a shining example that this band was on to something and they were going to go places. Featuring only six songs, two of them live versions, and under thirty minutes, it is Tool before all the progressive metal tone we know of them now, leaning more towards the alternative sound the band would bring onto their debut Undertow. Still a good release to check out if you want to hear what Tool sounded like before becoming the band they became.

TRACKS TO CHECK OUT: "Jerk Off (Live)" & "Hush"

5) Fear Inoculum

Thirteen years later, from the release of 10,000 Days, the band would return with their latest release Fear Inoculum. Their longest record to date at over seventy-nine minutes, the band dives deeper into the progressive waters with longer songs with only one song under 10 minutes. Tool had many setbacks & delays with this record. From the constant side project duty of Keenan with Puscifer and a returning A Perfect Circle, as well as a lawsuit involving the band delayed recording and writing of this album. With that long of a wait and a new longer, more progressive-tinged sound than before, was this record worth the wait?

Opening the album is the title track, another unique intro track by the band. With unique percussion, a bouncing reverb effect in the speakers from the guitars, before the bass and drums pick the pace up. Keenan’s vocals, more somber and forlorn, while Jones’ guitars embellish the tone and feel of the song with the drums giving it a unique groove to the track, and is a nice mid-tempo track with random Carrey drum fills and dynamic playing. The next track “Pneuma” continues the band’s foray into unique instrumentation and building diverse sound environments and atmosphere.  Keenan’s vocals kick in at the quarter mark and as the song picks up, we get that Lateralus-esque guitar tone by Jones with a Rush-style drum fill section before returning to the main riff. Keenan’s vocals shine on tracks like “Invincible” over the light drumming and Jones’ guitar playing. The track picks up and we get thundering drums and driving guitars, into a mid-tempo section with the bass being more prominent and double bass adding a light flurry of intensity. “Culling Voices” has a great guitar tone and sound that’s reminds me of Ænima-era Tool. The song brings a nice heaviness near the end of the track with a simple but effective guitar riff and matching drums. Overall, the record is Tool at its most progressive and some have been divisive on the new longer, more progressive direction. It will take a couple listens to come around and grow on you for fans of the more traditional Tool albums, but is still a good record.

TRACKS TO CHECK OUT: “Pneuma” & “Invincible”

4) 10,000 Days

After another five year wait, Tool returned again with the release of 10,000 Days. With a much heavier sound than previous releases, which the band has credited to touring with avant-garde band Fantomas, prior to writing the record. A very personal record for Keenan, the record features two songs about his mother who suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed and wheelchair bound until she died 27 years later, which is around 10,000 days.

Opening track and leading single “Vicarious” showcases that classic Tool sound with peaks and valleys, with beautiful instrumentation leading to a pounding ending. The following track “Jambi” has a great guitar riff in the beginning and verse section until Carrey’s tom hits bring the momentum back up into Chancellor’s bass playing. With Keenan’s vocals shining in between the pauses, the band knows how to play well with each other. Letting the music speak and bring each instrument to the forefront well. With a great talk-box guitar solo section by Jones on the song, it adds to the uniqueness and new elements the band tried to bring on this record. With “Wings of Marie (Pt. 1)” and “10,000 Days (Wings Pt. 2)”, Tool starts to showcase their usage of sound mixing and musical emotion with not only layers of atmosphere and music, but in unique instrumentation, almost to an orchestrated level. “The Pot” showcases Chancellor’s bass playing and the band’s juggling of trading off the riff and letting the music hang there before building the song up and magnifying it to eleven, similar to what bands like Dream Theater do. “Rosetta Stoned” starts with an almost southern/stoner metal vocal delivery similar to Monster Magnet with a classic Tool sounding riff with a great rhythm section adding and emphasizing the chaotic vocal rambling Keenan delivers on the track. A diverse, intriguing, and personal record, 10,000 Days is Tool delving more into themselves and pouring their heart out in a moody and ominously progressive record.

TRACKS TO CHECK OUT: “Vicarious”, "The Pot” & "Jambi"

3) Lateralus

After a five year gap from their critically acclaimed second album, Lateralus marked the band’s return with better production, more musical instrumentation and progressive elements. With the artwork for the album done by Alex Grey as well as promotional material, and the music video for “Parabola”, giving the album and band the iconic imagery that fit the theme of the record as well as the style of the band.

Opening track “The Grudge” starts the album off with a great progressive opener of bass and drums building into Keenan’s start/stop pacing of the chorus into his intense scream, showcasing the great rhythm section of Carrey and Chancellor. More instrumental pieces on the record give some reprieve to the listener from the intensity and fury the band brings on the album. The chugging guitar section Jones plays on “The Patient” near the end is such a heavy riff with little drum accents by Carrey. The album’s first single “Schism” starts off with a nice opening bass riff by Chancellor into a tension build that Tool is great at doing. Keenan’s vocals are on point on the track. The band’s dynamic playing, helping build atmosphere to the song’s pummeling and intense ending shows this band is a true force of nature. Other classic songs like “Parabola” start with a short guitar lead by Jones into almost tribal drumming by Carrey mixed with chaotic distortion strikes into harmonic vocals on the chorus. Closing the album “Faaip De Oiad”, the band continues their avantgarde style of soundscape with impressive drumming and distorted electronic sections mixed with conspiracy ramblings and ravings, it’s reminiscent of the band’s closing track on their debut album. This record shows that even though it was a long wait, it is still a great Tool record.

TRACKS TO CHECK OUT: “Schism”, “Parabola” & “The Patient”

2) Undertow

With their debut album, Tool brought the intensity and progressive sound into the mainstream with the release of Undertow. Considered the band's breakthrough record, this release was one of many releases in the 1990's to help heavy metal break into the mainstream with Tool's fusion of alternative and metal with hints of progressive metal at the time of release.

With the album’s opener “Intolerance” kicking the album off with strong driving guitars matching the passion and intricacy of Carrey’s drum playing. Followed by classic Tool tracks “Prison Sex” and “Sober”, with the latter having that classic opening bass riff by Paul D’Amour, and would be his last recording with the band, leaving in 1995. The spoken word section in “Bottom”, featuring punk legend Henry Rollins, shows the band can bring mood and a feeling of downtrodden before Rollins and Keenan’s vocals kick in and bring the song to brilliant crescendo. “Swamp Song” continues the bands alternative roots into a fast-paced and catchy chorus delivery from Keenan. The album’s closer “Disgustipated” showcases the band’s foray into the avant-garde with ear-pummeling industrial drum hits and distortion over Keenan’s cries of anger and hostility. This release showed elements of what the band would ultimately perfect on the following release, but overall is a strong release from the band and an overall great mix of alternative and metal music.

TRACKS TO CHECK OUT: “Prison Sex”, “Sober” & “Bottom”

1) Ænima

The record that launched Tool into the rock and metal stratosphere. Taking their sound from Undertow, with better production and musical direction, and even some elements with tongue firmly planted in cheek, Ænima is Tool’s magnum opus. The record tackles many themes from drug use, religious fundamentalism, and the comedy and tribute of late comedian Bill Hicks, this record sums up and perfects Tool’s trademark unique lyrical topics and meanings, without the band explaining their thought process in interviews. A complex record, the band delivered an eponymous record, showcasing that they are here to set the bar on how alternative music and metal can work and this combination is perfected on this record.

Opening the album is the classic “Stinkfist”, a driving guitar and bass riff with corresponding drums adding more impact and ferocity to the song until Keenan’s vocals kick in. Bass is pounding throughout the song with a reverb-laced thud over the verses with the vocals at peak performance in both screams and singing. Followed up by “Eulogy” and “H.” the band continues the intensity and ferocity mixed with their atmospheric tone and resonance in their music. “Forty Six & Two” starts with another great bass riff by Chancellor, his first record with the band, and his musical partnership with Jones on building the band's sound and feeling on this record shines and continues on future records. Though Keenan’s vocals are somber in the delivery, they kick in hard with such vigor and showcases his dynamic vocal range with one of the best screams in metal. The record just becomes relentless with consistently great track after track. “Hooker with a Penis” shows off Carrey’s fast paced but meticulous drumming in the opening mimicking Keenan’s punching vocals. The album’s title track has one of the best opening guitar riffs in metal history, followed by a matching drum pattern that just cements this record in metal history. Tool took this record into new directions with lyrics, musicianship, production and overall, created not only one of the most iconic records of the 1990’s, but also created an amazing mix of heavy metal and alternative music that only Tool can deliver.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to This Day In Metal.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.