Voodoo 2016 Preview: Tool

14:30 October 26, 2016

Altar Stage, 9:30-11:00 p.m.

Voodoo 2016 Preview: Tool

If you’ve ever seen Danny Carey, Adam Jones, Justin Chancellor and Maynard James Keenan perform under the Tool moniker, you know that the show is high on spectacle, as well as a craftsmanship that stands leagues above other music created in the realm of hard rock. In the beginning, though, Chancellor hadn’t joined, and it wasn’t until Ænima was released in 1996 that the band solidly transcended the mundane rock radio of the time. In a time when Metallica had gone short-haired and soft and Korn was becoming the next big thing, Tool had managed to join Nine inch Nails in a distinct class of heavier music that was as thoughtful as it was introspective. Their musicianship grew by leaps and bounds throughout the solid running time of 78 minutes.

Over and over again, the band has managed to create visually appealing music in a way that’s different from most others. Videos, although slow to come out and usually involving animatronics or big-scale animations or puppetry, don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with the themes of the songs. Instead, they provide a different side to this highly meticulous band. I won’t go headlong into the ideas and themes showed, but they often center on dark themes of isolation, reemerging from those same places, and reigniting the ideas of prosperity.

Musically however, the band covers vast terrain. Opiate and Undertow veer more toward immediate anger, hurt and resentment. That element changes gradually throughout the band's catalog. This foursome isn’t bound by any one way of thinking and that message bleeds easily out into the music created. For every song about being abandoned and hurt, there are songs about realizing your true potential and overcoming boundless terrain. This message is felt in a big way on their landmark album Lateralus. Ask any Tool fan and they’ll likely tell you it’s the band’s masterpiece. These people aren’t lying to you.

Lateralus isn’t just the next step in a series of complicated time signatures and heavy riffs. Songs like “Ticks and Leeches” boil with intensity and force like the Tool of old, but there’s a layer of understanding throughout the album that resonates with the idea of celebrating “the chance to be alive and breathing.” Track after track on Lateralus nails down a colorful aura in a landscape of perpetual darkness. It’s enlightening on a level that many albums, especially those by rock-oriented, heavier bands, can’t even come close to reaching. The title track isn’t just a great song. It’s overwhelming in a way that Tool hadn’t ever been before. Sure we’ve gotten the 15-minute long “Third Eye,” songs about people talking crap and Keenan mocking fans, but Lateralus, as a track and an album, rises out of the ashes and easily stands as one of the band's best works.

It was at this point where the band’s scope of stage show immensely improved. They had elaborate productions on previous tours, but the spectacle presented as part of the Lateralus tour is still one of the most visually appealing shows I’ve ever witnessed, and I would know. You see, I’m a hardcore Tool fan. At this point, I’ve seen them some 22 times. That’s not a misprint either. I wish it were, to be honest, but the power of the music is something that brings great joy and happiness to me every time I listen or witness the energy put forth by the band live.

As a unit, they work tirelessly to create music that not only hits chords inside of their rabid fanbase, but, equally as important, music that fills its inventors with positivity and the knowledge that they worked through problems by creating cathartic music.

The band’s last record, 2006’s 10,000 Days, is another reminder of how slow and thoughtful the band is at creating meaningful music. Overall, the record isn’t as intensely strong as the two previous efforts, but it’s no less interesting and fun to navigate through. The record also sees the band opening in a manner they hadn’t before, especially in the lyrical department. Named as a reference to the mother of Keenan who suffered for three decades to a disease that ultimately took her life, the album is poignant in ways the band had never been before, but it’s also eye-opening to see how they continue to evolve in their respected crafts. Take a song like “Right in Two.” It’s the last full song on the album (an outro follows it). It’s an incredible track to say the least, and it brilliantly brings the album to a close as Keenan’s voice echoes and soars over the instrumental aspects. It’s goosebump-inspiring in many ways, but Keenan’s voice is the force that makes the song remarkable.

Simply put, this is a band that knows exactly what to do in both visual areas and musical terrains. They’re a landmark of music, and if you have the chance to see this mind-blowing experience at this month’s Voodoo Fest, I highly suggest you do. 

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