Tool

Record labels treat most bands like sweatshop workers, pushing them to produce, produce, produce. Tool has been an exception. Having released only four albums since it exploded into the grunge-dominated scene 13 years ago with Undertow, the band enjoys complete creative control. Of course, between 2001's Lateralus and this year's well-received 10,000 Days, there have been live DVDs to tide fans over. But there hasn't been any pressure on vocalist Maynard James Keenan and Co. to constantly release records, much to the chagrin of their most rabid fans. The group has used its time out of the studio to perfect its constantly evolving progressive metal sound. Tool has always been both artful and masterful in technique; with drummer Danny Carey's complex timing and rapid-action fills, Justin Chancellor's turbulent bass lines and Adam Jones's searing licks, its sound has been dubbed "the most difficult music in modern rock." On 10,000 Days, only two of the 11 tracks fall under five minutes ("Lipan Conjuring" and "Lost Keys"). The nine others extend into mini-saga multilayered prog jams stretching as long as 11 minutes and change (17 minutes, if you're including the two-part "Wings for Marie/10,000 Days"). It makes you wonder what was so great about those meager six-minute songs other metal bands put out. Simply put, Tool -- today's technical metal wizard -- has nothing to prove to its label, or its fans. Both are under its spell. Must obey Tool/must see Tool.
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Travis Ritter