A psycho-drama of technical riffing and atmospheric gloom.
Tool blaze a trail of glory on "10, 000 Days" with raucous metal riffing precision and powerful song structures. The riffs are like machines in factories churning out iconic metal prog, check out that machine gun attacks on 'Jambi' for example.
It begins with a blast of riffing elegance on 'Vicarious' with the Tool signature sound, razor edge riffs and emotive raspy vocals that echo more anger than the average screamer. The attitude of the band has always been to attack at the jugular vein of society and reveal the uglier side of humanity. The lead breaks are as well executed as the distorted riffs, such as the wah-wah vocoder effects of Adam Jones' lead guitar on 'Jambi'. Tool have a relentless rhythmic pace that is familiar to all Toolaholics, from previous albums "Aenima" and "Lateralus." The angular guitar phrases and odd time signatures are a key feature and the dark lyrics sung with so much passion by Maynard James Keenan.
On 'Wings for Marie (Pt 1)' the droning ambience of layered guitars and extended vocal intonations are ethereal and atmospheric. Justin Chancellor's bass drones menacingly and then the percussion explosion of Danny Carey augments the chilling soundscape.
'10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)' is where the complex musicianship really comes into effect and all in 11 glorious minutes. This is a masterful track beginning with stormy distant thunder and a guitar picking phrase. The clean low key vocals speak of a river, the tales of a saviour, trials and tribulations, "a congregation gather round spewing sympathy, spare me", and "blinded by choices" you are "safely on your way". It builds with looming menace as the thunder gets closer and some violining guitar swirls, sounding like Pink Floyd's 'Empty Spaces'.
Eventually loud thunder crashes lead to a fast hypnotic motif and some more forced vocals. It kind of sits on the one note musically but is very effective with its brooding atmosphere. It breaks into a loud instrumental break powered by phased guitar and a vibrant bassline. The lead break has sustained feedback and some wonderful string bends with soaring elegance. It gets heavier at the end until the whispered portentous vocals "never lived a life, never took a life", capping of a masterful track.
'The Pot' is next beginning with a capella vocals "who are you to wave your finger you must have been out of your head". The tribal percussion and strange guitar effect is soon joined by a chugging riff, as heavy as distortion can get. The melody on this is more accessible than previous track and has the repeated phrase "you must have been high". I like the pulsing riff that locks in at the end as a snarling guitar blasts over; it is an enduring track. Keenan's guitar is interminably locked into a D minor pentatonic scale but it is recognizable as trademark Tool, and the sound really haunts well after the album is over.
'Lipan Conjuring' is one of the short Tool tracks with tribal vocal intonations and a mystical percussion feel with some guitar. It is a transition into 'Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)', a track that really made me sit up and take notice when I first heard this album years ago. It is dominated with sustained lead notes feeling very dark and downbeat. A nurse's voice converses with a doctor about a situation of concern. They have a patient who is experiencing some kind of catatonic state. We hear his breathing and then the band launch into 'Rosetta Stoned'.
This is an 11 minute prog metal blaster, with chunky riffs and speed rapping. A very weird vocal is soon heard, overlayed growls and phased vocals enhance the ominous atmosphere. It builds eventually to the zinging guitar effects done by slashing a pick over the strings, and an excellent time sig change moves the track into a new direction. The polyrhythmic riffs are mesmirising and inspiring, and the bassline solo on this is incredible. One of the best tracks on the album without a doubt.
The last three tracks are linked well making the album culminate in some intricate riffs and time sigs. 'Intension' follows on with a weird intro of shifting glass and leaves with an stoned atmosphere of loneliness, and the air is intense with whispered rage. The bass emanates nicely and there are harmonised vocals, so effectively layered over. It is one of the quietest moments on the album, but threatens to break out any moment. When the rhythms stop a lone guitar echoes in the night, before a bass joins and then percussion. It builds to more power until the melodic vocals return. The guitar is beautiful on this song, understated and melodic.
'Right In Two' has a similar rhythm, slow and patient with soft vocals. I like Tool when they are in their melancholic mood but at times I long for a blast of distortion to keep things interesting. This one has some psychedelic textures but is overall replete with chilling lyrics such as the "2001: A Space Odyssey" inspired verse; "Monkey killing monkey killing monkey over pieces of the ground, Silly monkeys give them thumbs, they make a club, and beat their brother down, How they survive so misguided is a mystery, Repugnant is a Creature who would squander the ability, To lift an eye to heaven, conscious of his fleeting time here." It builds to a heavier section, with the repeated "cut and divide it right in two."
Tool finish albums with disturbing material, such as the Area 51 rant on "Lateralus", and here is no exception with the esoteric 'Viginti Tres', Latin for 23. After a cosmic pulse sounding like a planetary signal, a deep voice is heard uttering a mystical phrase, and then it emanates into oblivion. As scary as Tool like to get and one that has been interpreted over the years as leaving the body into some state of transcendental realm. The uttered phrase "asisco" apparently means to "take-in" or "accept", spoken in the angelic language known as Enochian. It makes more sense understanding that the album was dedicated to Maynard James Keenan's mother, who died prior to its recording, and the voice may be taken as a means of God inducting his mother into Heaven. The pulse then may be the life machine she was plugged into prior to passing over. Interestingly enough if one syncs this track up to 'Wings For Marie (part 1)' it makes even more sense, as many have discovered. This form of syncing two tracks also has significant meaning along with the stereographic album artwork with the use of the special stereogram binoculars. The track has developed a cult following for all these reasons.
Tool again have produced an intriguing album with masterclass musicianship, driven by angular guitar riffs and powerful vocals. It has some of the most innovative album design art ever, complete with those unique glasses making everything jump out in real 3D. The psycho-drama concept is heavy and hard to grasp as always but it is the music that really makes Tool such an endearing act. "10, 000 Days" is as good as "Lateralus", forever my favourite of theirs, and this is well worth a visit now and then; a wonderful example of the band as inventive metal geniuses.