Tool are probably the biggest cult act on the planet. Since forming in the early 90s they have garnered an obsessively hardcore fanbase that worship their every utterance. Some of those fans have gone on to form their own bands, inspired by and borrowing heavily from the dense, mystic, polyrhythmic blueprint Tool created. So wide-ranging is their influence that even Justin Bieber is a fan. He’s not in this list, but here are 10 bands that wouldn’t exist in their current form if it were not for the influence of Maynard James Keenan and co.
Deftones were there at the ground level, before realising how creatively stifling that could be, and starting to explore the space between metallic riffs and vast progressive soundscapes on their magnum opus White Pony. The influence of Tool on that period of their career can’t be understated, and it’s almost as if Deftones were more than happy to admit that themselves by roping in Maynard James Keenan to perform on the song Passenger.
More a case of mutual admiration rather than outright influence. LA’s Failure formed the same year as Tool, shared many of the same sonic touchstones, and toured with Maynard and co on numerous occasions, without having the same level of success. But Failure have benefitted from their friends’ patronage over the years: after their split in 1997 their connection to the Tool camp helped to keep their work relevant for younger fans or those who may have missed them first time around. Maynard James Keenan’s A Perfect Circle roped in former Failure members Troy Van Leeuwen and Greg Edwards to join the band, and even covered their song The Nurse Who Loved Me on their 2003 album Thirteenth Step. When Failure reformed in 2015, an entirely new fanbase were waiting from them, many of whom had checked out their world class 1996 effort Fantastic Planet thanks to their association with Tool and Maynard’s praise for the band.
Mudvayne: nu-metal chancers with silly make-up, right? Actually, there was far more to the Illinois outfit than that. Their debut album, L.D. 50, was more ambitious and musically dextrous than many of their contemporaries. Juddering, rubbery riffs? Check. Unusual song structures? Check. Occasionally melancholic, mournful vocals? Check. Sounds familiar? Of course it does.
Mastodon started out as a sludge metal band but gradually eased themselves into the realms of esoteric prog metal, peaking on 2009’s head-spinning masterpiece Crack The Skye – an album that undoubtedly drew influences from Tool. The respect is mutual – the Atlanta band have opened for Maynard and co in the past, while Tool’s Danny Carey and Mastodon’s Brent Hinds formed one-off side project Legend Of The Seagullmen in a gigantic prog-metal love-in.
Between The Buried And Me
Beginning life as a fairly straightahead metallic hardcore band, Between The Buried And Me began taking a turn for the proggy around 2005’s Alaska – something that fully blossomed into sci-fi fixated, conceptual brilliance with 2011’s The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues EP and its full-length follow-up The Parallax II: Future Sequence a year later. Many of their influences come from the deep well of old school prog rock, but their heavier and more contemporary edge owes an acknowledged debt to you-know-who.
Another band who started out playing something completely different, but the Australian mavericks soon swapped the nu metal bounce of their 2007 debut album Themata for something altogether more challenging and bewildering on the follow-up Sound Awake two years later, suggesting they’d immersed themselves in Lateralus and 10,000 Days. It worked for them, bagging a No.2 album in their homeland and the Australian equivalent of a Brit or a Grammy.
Animals As Leaders
Animals As Leaders are known for two things: the jaw-dropping technical prowess of guitarist Tosin Abasi and the fact that they were one of the few djent bands who didn’t shamelessly nick their entire schtick from Meshuggah. While the Swedes are undeniably an influence – as are Oympic-level shredders Steve Vai and Joe Satriani – AAL’s sense of space and dynamics evoke Tool, making them one of the more interesting bands to emerge from the djent boom.
Another band who transcended the djent scene, TesseracT ditched the last remaining tech metal tropes on 2018’s Sonder album. Listen to the way the 11-minute Beneath My Skin/Mirror Image builds from quiet, graceful soundscapes into a propulsive riff and try telling us they’re not following a trail blazed by Tool.
The Brighton band are hardly shy of admitting the influence of Tool and their extended musical family: they described the chance to open for Maynard’s other band, A Perfect Circle, on their Eat The Elephant tour as “a dream come true”. Certainly, the their second album, 2018’s All That Divides, amplified the proggier elements that hid in the shadows of 2016’s debut Statues, and sounded all the better for it.
Tame Impala mainman Kevin Parker is a fan of psychedelia, prog and what he calls “fucked up, explosive music”, and while his band have transformed from woozy-headed psych rockers to sleek, disco-loving synth-poppers their sense of adventure is still there. But it’s in their live show that the inspiration of Tool is most apparent: rather than concentrate on the musicians onstage, a Tame Impala show instead focusses on filling the stage with trippy, seductive images and hypnotic visuals, lulling the audience into a trance-like state. It’s a trick Tool have been doing better than anyone for decades, and there’s no doubt that this is the benchmark which Parker is aiming for.