Greatest Tool Songs of All Time for Poetic Mayhem – The Thinking Man’s Metal Band.
It has been 30 years since Tool released their debut EP ‘Opiate‘ in March 1992 and opened the flood gates for a new wave of progressive rock or prog rock. Tool’s songs have a cult following as their music is a vortex of intricate musicianship and ambiguous lyrical concepts that immerses the listener into a thought-provoking musical experience.
Maynard James Keenan on vocals, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Paul D’Amour, and drummer Danny Carey formed Tool in the late 1980s. Tool songs have a distinct blend of prog metal, progressive rock, art rock, alternative rock/metal, psychedelic rock, and post-metal.
During the recording of Ænima in 1995, Paul D’Amour stepped away from Tool. According to drummer Danny Carey, D’Amour departed the band because he preferred to play guitar over the bass (chick magnet alert).
However, in 2020, the bassist offered a different explanation, claiming that being in Tool was confining and that the creative process was “excruciating and monotonous.” Justin Chancellor took over for D’Amour and continues to play bass for Tool.
Paul is still creating ‘slam bang‘ in your face baselines with his new band “Lesser Key”
We ourselves are a huge fan of Tool’s intricate musical craftmanship, their iconic odd-time signatures, and dark lyrics in tool songs that transport you into another realm. Simply put, we just admire their balls to rock ‘n’ roll.
We bring you a list of top tool songs that are famous for their larger than loud sound and the poetic mayhem caused by their lyrics.
Best Tool Songs of All Time for Poetic Mayhem
1. Right in Two (10,000 Days 2006)
Angels on the sideline, Puzzled and amused. Why did Father give these humans free will? Now they’re all confused.
Don’t these talking monkeys know thatRight in Two
Eden has enough to go around?
This tool song starts with a BAM!! Maynard is a genius when it comes to songwriting, and Right in Two is a perfect example of this. There are a lot of biblical references in the song that Maynard has beautifully sown right into the lyrics.
Right in two song mocks evolution. Monkeys evolve thumbs to create knives and weapons, “monkey killing monkey” is a straight-up slap in the face of humans.
This tool song talks about the world’s fallen nature of dichotomy and what it takes to escape the illusion of duality to oneness. It hits us hard in the gut and points out human greed to divide everything ‘right in two’.
The Gods and Angels have watched humanity evolve, cultivate culture, & civilization, but they haven’t progressed at all. Instead, we see them fighting over possession. The song ends with humans challenging God itself.
We would highly recommend you to watch the official video for a visual treat.
2. Lateralus (Lateralus, 2001)
Black then white are all I see in my infancy. Red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me. Lets me see.
Overthinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.Lateralus
Withering my intuition, missing opportunities, and I must
Feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines
“Lateralus” is the self-titled track for Lateralus, a 2001 album. The Fibonacci Sequence, in which each number equals the sum of the two numbers before it, was used as the title track of an already complex album, upping the art-rock approach.
Phi (π), the golden ratio, which describes spirals in nature, has a relationship with that math formula. In the lyrics, Keenan mentions spirals, and the chorus’s time signatures vary from 9/8 to 8/8 to 7/8 to represent a spiral.
The Fibonacci Sequence includes the number 987.) What makes “Lateralus” so amazing is that, despite its complexity, it doesn’t get swallowed up. Instead, the music expertly supports a song about overcoming obstacles on the path to enlightenment.
3. The Pot (10,000 Days 2006)
Who are you to wave your finger?The Pot
You must have been outta your head.
Liar, lawyer; mirror for ya’, what’s the difference?
Kangaroo be stoned. He’s guilty as the government.
You must’ve been High
This song is about America’s drug culture. Everyone does it… the difference is that people like Maynard confess it, whereas cops and government officials do it and then blame everyone else for doing it while pretending that they don’t.
He employs many metaphors, such as “Pot calling the pot black,” which inspired the song’s title. The police/government are the black kettles, and Maynard is the pot. The government feeds you lies he says with their weeping shades of indigo and lemon juice in your eye.
When the lyrics are applied to that context, they are just as appropriate as marijuana prohibition. As an example, “Who are you to point your finger?” (Patriot Act, Real ID, TSA checks, domestic espionage, police state).
“Kangaroo did hung the jury” (the Patriot Act, like a rigged “kangaroo court,” didn’t review all evidence on purpose, and many believe it let the guilty escape).
“He’s as culpable as the government” (many people are aware that bin Laden was formerly supported by the CIA, and that when they look at the government, they see more evidence of culpability in 9/11 than when they look at bin Laden).
Maynard is calling out all the hypocrites who condemn stoners while being just as lazy and worthless themselves. There isn’t much difference between drug addicts and lawyers when it comes to lying.
4. Vicarious (10,000 Days 2006)
‘Cause I need to watch things dieVicarious
From a distance
Vicariously I, live while the whole world dies
You all need it too, don’t lie
Why can’t we just admit it?
Why can’t we just admit it?
Vicariously I, live while the whole world dies
Much better you than I
This song is about the American obsession with television and “Living Vicariously” through fictional people on television.
It also discusses the American obsession with violence on television, a psychological perspective on how, as a culture, we need to watch other people or things die in order to feel good about our own lives, and how, when a war occurs (such as the Iraq War), we need to watch “while the whole world dies.”
Contextually, this song is similar to Tool’s “Stinkfist.” Depending on how you understand “Stinkfist,” it has something to do with greed and consumption, presumably of goods like television. “Vicarious” refers to consuming information from the television (whatever that information maybe). This “devouring” is viewed as a means of survival in both of these songs.
In many respects, Tool was ahead of its time. One of the better examples is ‘Vicarious’. It discusses how people are drawn to their tv or mobile screens in the hopes of seeing tragedy and violence.
5. Opiate (Opiate EP 1992)
Deaf and blind and dumb and born to follow
What you need is someone strong to guide you
Deaf and blind and dumb and born to follow
Let me lay my holy hand up, hand upon you
My God’s willOpiate
When he speaks
He speaks through me
“Opiate” is the title tune on the 1992 Opiate EP. Invoking Karl Marx’s remark that religion is the “opiate of the masses,” Keenan rails against organized religion’s “direction” and harsh laws that kill the individual in order to maintain the status quo.
“Your adversary is ignorance,” he addressed the crowd at the 2017 Governors Ball before introducing the song. On subsequent albums, similar themes will reappear often.
When he introduced the song at the 2017 Governor’s Ball, he warned the audience that “your adversary is ignorance.” The tool has won multiple awards for Best Metal Performance and Top Rock Album. The most recent accolades were for 7empest’s Best Metal Performance in 2019 and Fear Inoculum’s Top Rock Album in 2020.
According to Tool drummer Danny Carey in Revolver Magazine Presents Tool, “A lot of the songs for Undertow were already written when we did Opiate, but we felt like no one would take us seriously unless we recorded only our most aggressive, in-your-face song and put them out there at one time.
And I think that got us typecast as a metal band. It’s kind of funny because the song I thought was the least aggressive, ‘Opiate,’ was the more popular on the record.”
6. Schism (Lateralus, 2001)
I know the pieces fit cuz I watched them fall awaySchism
Mildewed and smoldering. Fundamental differing.
Pure intention juxtaposed will set two lover’s souls in motion
Disintegrating as it goes testing our communication
Schism could be interpreted as a satire on religion splintering into feuding tribes, or as an attempt to rekindle a dying relationship.
In any case, the lyrics of this Grammy-winning song, like “The Grudge,” perfectly describes a band rekindling their friendship and creative partnership after Keenan’s work with A Perfect Circle caused a schism among Tool’s members.
Three years later, a DVD single with a music video made by guitarist Adam Jones was released, featuring humanoids who share a striking resemblance to the engineers from the Alien prequel Prometheus.
“Schism” is a parody of religion splintering into feuding tribes or attempts to reignite failing romance.
The true concept of Tool’s “Schism” has been the subject of various speculations. Some believe it stems from church schisms. Others believe it stems from the stress Tool was facing. Maynard Keenan, the band’s leader, was simultaneously committed to another band, and they were dealing with legal concerns.
This song features a spellbinding time signature that changes repeatedly throughout the song. The verses are divided into recurring measures of 5/8 (5 eighth-note beats per measure) and 7/8 (7 eighth-note beats per measure) that can be calculated as 12/8 (12 eighth-note beats per measure) (7 eighth-note beats to a measure).
The conventional 12/8-time signature is broken into two sections in this way, creating a “Schism,” and the music’s topic corresponds to the lyrics’ theme. It’s also worth noting that the time signature shifts for the chorus and is “reunited” back into regular 12/8.
The video was directed by guitarist Adam Jones.
7. Parabol & Parabola (Lateralus, 2001)
This body holding me reminds me of my own mortalityParabol & Parabola
Embrace this moment, remember
We are eternal, all this pain is an illusion
“Parabola” is the second single in Lateralus. The song “Parabol” opens with a vocal style that is comparable to Qawwali, a type of Sufi Islamic devotional music. Both proposed the notion that our bodies are only transient vessels and that “pain is an illusion.”
“Parabola” becomes one of Tool’s more uplifting, joyful moments as a result of this concept. Lateralus’ second single continues the band’s themes of spiritual enlightenment and the Noble Eightfold Path, particularly in terms of self-discipline, self-purification, and the cessation of suffering.
Tricky, a trip-hop music pioneer, appears in the video, and his body finally transforms into a translucent entity resembling the figure designed by visionary artist Alex Grey for the album’s artwork.
This entire album is about spiritual awakening (with the climax at the end of Reflection). The false character of the ego is addressed especially in Parabola.
“We scarcely recall who or what came before” -> Despite our limited memories, they form a story about our “selves.” The song advises us to focus on the present moment (a popular spiritual topic) and that our bodies are only a transient form of being.
The remaining tracks on Lateralus all focus on different elements of Reflection’s main spiritual truth.
The Grudge/Schism is about our interactions with other people and how pointless it is to try to remove ourselves from them. After all, we’re all of one mind.
A parabola’s graph contains two focus points, one at a finite point on the Cartesian coordinate plane and the other at infinity. This is why the majority of searchlight and flashlight optics have a parabolic shape. This is a metaphor for human existence’s duality: we exist in a finite environment while also existing in infinity.
8. Forty-Six & 2 (Ænima, 1996)
In my shadowForty-Six & 2
Change is coming through
I’ve been picking
My scabs again
If you’ve ever wondered what the shadow in “Forty-Six & 2” means, it’s a reference to a notion coined by philosopher Carl Jung, who called our deepest subconscious our “shadow.”
If you still don’t believe this is the song’s genuine meaning, consider that the title also echoes Jung’s thesis that humanity can eventually evolve to have two extra chromosomes, allowing us to reach our full potential.
Chromosomes and Jungian philosophy are two important underlying elements here. Some of the ideas in this song are based on the teachings of Drunvalo Melchizedek, a spiritual adventurer.
On Earth, there are three distinct types of humans, each of whom perceives the One reality in three distinct ways, each of which is interpreted differently. 42+2 is the chromosomal composition of the first type of human.
They are part of a unified consciousness that does not see anything outside of itself as separate. There is just one energy – one life, one beingness – to them, and it travels everywhere. Anything that is happening anywhere is also happening within them.
They function similarly to the body’s cells. They’re all linked to a single awareness that runs through them all. These are Australia’s indigenous people. There may only be a handful of African tribes like this left. Then there’s our chromosome level, which has 44+2 chromosomes.
We are a disharmonic level of consciousness that serves as a stepping stone between the 42+2 and 46+2 levels of consciousness. Everything changes because of these two extra chromosomes.
9. Fear Inoculum (Fear Inoculum, 2019)
Immunity, long overdueFear Inoculum
Contagion, I exhale you
Naive, I opened up to you
Venom and mania
Now, contagion, I exhale you
When Tool released the title of their fifth album this week, Maynard James Keenan stated that it felt like “a weight lifted off my chest.” Fear Inoculum is the long-awaited sequel to 2006’s 10,000 Days and was released on August 19, 2019.
To begin with, the literal meaning of “inoculum” is “the substance placed in a syringe to provide an inoculation,” therefore the implication is “the deliberate injection of dread.”
Inoculation is the process of introducing a bacterium to a new environment in order for that environment to respond to it; in terms of healthcare, the goal is for the human body to recognize it as a negative influence and develop antibodies to kill it, so that if it returns, the body will be ready to react and destroy any infection that results.
In the context of the Tool album, this could imply the intentional installation of dread with the goal of preparing mankind to deal with it. Perhaps it’s because we haven’t had enough time to assimilate Tool’s long-awaited and eagerly anticipated new single’s lyrics, but the lyrical direction isn’t evident.
However, the band has revealed that the album’s general idea revolves largely upon the knowledge and change that comes with age during their current press junket.
10. Jambi (10,000 Days 2006)
The devil and his had me downJambi
In love with the dark side I’d found
Dabblin’ all the way down
Up to my neck, soon to drown
But you changed that all for me
Lifted me up, turned me round
“Jambi” is an Indonesian province on the island of Sumatra that was formerly part of a great kingdom ruled by a wealthy sultan who lived a lavish lifestyle.
The setting reinforces the notion that family and friends are more important than money which is a fantastic interpretation, but it turns out that this song was inspired by the children’s television show Pee Wee’s Playhouse, which featured a genie named Jambi.
Tool drummer Danny Carey revealed at a drum seminar in Kansas that when Justin Chancellor wrote the bass part, he felt it sounded like Jambi’s chant from the show: “Mekka-lekka hi mekka hiney ho.”
The song was written by lead singer Maynard James Keenan, who wrote lyrics about a genie and making wishes. Carey believes it was just a joke, despite the fact that it appeared to have a deeper meaning.
The lyrical content of this single from ‘10,000 Days,’ despite its ostensibly light and fun name, is dark and devastating. Maynard bemoans the death of his mother and bargains with “Jambi” for just one more day with her in exchange for giving it all up.
Whether you look at it from the perspective of history, mythology, religion, psychology, or simply plain human nature, there is the underlying truth. We all want something, but we also don’t want to lose it. Those two things are frequently at odds. Metaphors are used to make the argument.
Metaphors are at the heart of Tool. The words can signify different things to different people depending on their beliefs and experiences, but human nature is universal despite our differences in experiences and beliefs, as Tool constantly points out.
Some interesting facts about Tool Songs
Because of the mathematical nature of a lot of the songs on Lateralus, they are speaking of the number Phi, which is considered the “divine proportion” -1.618. This proportion is found all over nature: In beehives, snail shells… even the human body.
Phi was derived from the Fibonacci sequence – a progression famous not only because the sum of adjacent terms = the next term, but because the quotients of adjacent terms possessed the property of approaching 1.618. A few examples:
In a honey bee community, the female bees always outnumber the male bees. No matter what, in any beehive in the world if you divide the number of female bees by the male bees you always get 1.618. Phi.
Seashells… the ratio of each spiral’s diameter to the next = Phi.
Pinecone petals, leaf arrangement on plant stalks, insect segmentation… the human body.
Da Vinci was known for his love of the divine proportion – “The Vitruvian Man” was one of many. It has been proven that the human body itself is made of building blocks whose proportional ratios = Phi.
If you take and measure the distance from the tip of your head to the floor, then divide that by the distance from your belly button to the floor, you get Phi. Shoulder to fingertip then elbow to fingertip… Phi.
It is found in the architectural dimensions of the Greek Parthenon, the pyramids of Egypt. Mozart’s sonatas, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, etc, etc, etc.
This is one of the main reasons Pagans worship mother earth – this proportion was used in everything at the beginning of time. One of the perfect examples of Phi is the 5-pointed star, pentagram – or pentacle. This symbol is thought to be magical and divine by many cultures, the ratios of line segments in a pentacle = PI.
The band released an Ultra Deluxe vinyl box set of their 2019 album Fear Inoculum, and they are presently selling autographed copies only at their shows for the somewhat exorbitant price of $810. After a concertgoer snapped a photo of the price tag placed at Tool’s merch table, a post on the vinyl subreddit page went viral.
The band announced the release via social media, along with a little unpacking video of the sumptuous 5-LP set and an explanation of its contents:
There’s some late-breaking news from the band. Having just received their allotment of the forthcoming (TBA) FEAR INOCULUM ULTRA DELUXE LP, they were inspired to offer for sale this very limited number of advance pressings to TOOLARMY VIP PACKAGE holders (taking advantage of their early merch access) beginning with tonight’s show in Philadelphia and extending to the remaining shows in Elmont, Newark, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and so forth, or until there are no more available (before the worldwide release that’s projected for sometime in April).
Furthermore, these early vinyl arrivals (only a tour item for the time being) have been AUTOGRAPHED, adding a personal touch to the cover imagery. The package contains 5 discs of industry best 180g vinyl, with audio tracks on one side and etched art on the reverse of each side of the disc. Though the quantities are very limited, should there be any remaining copies, they will be made available to concertgoers at the general merch booth.” (Source – alternativenation)
To sum up, Tool is a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma!”, and tool songs are a medium to dissociate into it.
Tool has played a big part in my personal quest for alternative and progressive music. Tool is definitely one of those bands who are capable of giving new dynamics to music, which they have proved in the course of their career.
I believe there is still more of poetic juice left in Tool.
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