"What is this band about? I’m not sure. I like that it’s a mystery to me.” Meet five excellent young bands inspired by Tool

Ou, Hawxx and Mountain Caller
(Image credit: Press (OU: Zhang Xin; Mountain Caller: Tom Le Bon))

This month, enigmatic progressive metal legends Tool grace the cover of Metal Hammer as we delve into their mysterious world like never before. Over thirty years into their career, Maynard et al's unique influence looms larger than ever, so we spoke to five of the most exciting young bands on the scene today who are carrying their spirit forwards in new and unpredictable ways. 

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Teenage rebellion looked very different for Hawxx vocalist and guitarist Anna Papadimitriou. “Some people join punk bands, shave their heads or take drugs,” she says. “My thing was becoming a Christian. I would tell my mum that I was going out clubbing, but actually I'd be going to all night prayer meetings.” Raised in Athens, Greece as an atheist, in her late teens she joined a Nigerian religious cult. “I unfortunately got involved with the wrong people,” Anna continues. “There was a lot of abuse and corruption, so I was part of the few people that decided to expose that and shut it down. I ended up being the person that they said, ‘You were sent by Satan to destroy us all.’”

While Anna is reluctant to get into specifics, she alludes to them on hell-for-leather thrasher Bite (Holiness In Fuck) from Hawxx’s 2023 album, Earth, Spit, Blood And Bones. It sees Anna screaming the lyrics: “You defend this myth/You're not living in sin, you're the sin's bitch.” It’s one of many experiences fuelling Hawxx’s unapologetic wrath. Their blistering progressive metal, which blends rhythmic grooves and visceral hard rock with hooks sharp enough to draw blood, is a turbulent backdrop to a ferocious statement of intent that calls out the patriarchy injustice and inequality. The album’s lead single, Death Makes Sisters Of Us All, rails against male violence. Written following the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa in 2021, Anna says the band were aiming to turn pain into power.

“I went to Sarah Everard's vigil, and I also went to Sabina’s vigil. It's a testament to the women that have been named and unnamed, and about rage, our collective rage. But it's more than that, it's also about the sisterhood between women and in the queer community. The grief and rage we share, generates this force that is unstoppable.”

In 2022, the band played their biggest shows to date supporting Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti on his solo UK tour. After a show at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire, Anna received a text from Patsy Stevenson, the activist who had been detained by police at Sarah Everard’s Clapham Common vigil. “She said, ‘I just want to say thanks for talking about us and our rights.’”

During the band’s adrenaline-fuelled gigs, that sense of righteous anger bubbles over into something primal. “Women and queer people would usually be physically sidelined and sidelined in terms of who the artist speaks to,” says Anna. “If you come to a Hawxx show, I want those members of the audience to feel prioritized and centred.”

Inspired by bands and peers such as doom punks Witch Fever and post-hardcore quartet Petrol Girls, who are blazing their own abrasive, outspoken trail, Hawxx want to be a voice for change. “The best pit I've ever been in was at a Petrol Girls show,” says Anna. “Me and all these other women were just going for it, and it was more than just cathartic, it was healing. And that just made me think, ‘God, that's what I want to be doing at our shows, to direct this intensity somewhere specific.”

Of Tool's influence on her band, Anna notes: “They’re the wise Godfathers. They've done whatever the fuck they want forever, and it’s paid off. They haven't subscribed to any of the things the music industry tells you that you need to do. They are an example to cut out the bullshit, and remember what's important about making music.”


China has famously given the world many things during its millennia-long history: paper, gunpowder, banknotes, a great big wall among them. But prog metal? Not so much. Ou are out to change that. The Beijing four-piece put a unique spin on this most tried-and-tested of genres. Their upcoming second album, II: Frailty, combines knotty heaviness and glitchy electronics with an air of ethereal otherworldliness, the latter courtesy of singer Lynn Wu. It’s like Tool jamming with Aphex Twin while Björk sings in Mandarin Chinese over the top.

“There’s a lot of really interesting traditional Chinese instruments and Chinese music,” says drummer Anthony Vanacore, Ou’s lone American, of the band’s magnetic sound. “I haven’t borrowed any of that stuff as such, but it’s had some influence on me subconsciously. And Lynn’s voice obviously brings a different element to it.” 

Anthony grew up in New Jersey, falling in love with the culture of his soon-to-be-adopted homeland when he was living in an area with a large Chinese community. The opportunity to tour China with an orchestra at the very end of 2009 eventually led to him moving to the city of Guangzhou and, later, Beijing. It was in the Chinese capital that he met Ou guitarist Jing Zhang and bassist Chris Cui (the band’s name is pronounced ‘O’, like the letter). Lynn joined later, after they asked her to add vocals to the instrumental music they’d written. “Lynn comes from more of a pop background, she hadn’t really heard much metal,” says Anthony of the vocalist, who sings in her native Mandarin Chinese. “But the way she approached it just fit like a glove.”

Ou’s debut album, one, was released in 2022. It attracted the attention of Devin Townsend, who co-produced the follow-up (“Seeing how he worked was inspirational”). The lyrics on II: Frailty may be impenetrable to non-Chinese speakers, but the drummer promises English-language translations will be posted on the band’s Instagram and YouTube channel. “It’s about the frailty of the human condition and everything that comes with that,” he says. “It’s pretty universal.”

As well as planning their very first live shows, Ou also have a 10-episode animated online series in the works, based on a cyborg character that shares the band’s name. The series will tie in with the themes of the album, albeit loosely. “I’m a big David Lynch fan,” says Anthony, referencing the cult filmmaker. “His approach is: ‘Why do we need to be spoon-fed a plot?’ I love leaving things open to interpretation. People ask me, ‘What is this band about?’ And my response is, ‘I’m not sure.’ I like that it’s a mystery to me.” 

“I remember when Aenima came out, it just blew my mind," adds Anthony of his love of all things Tool. "It was this rare instance of a band breaking into the commercial world without compromising who they were. There aren’t too many bands who have done that.”


Life can sometimes take a strange turn. Wheel frontman/guitarist James Lascelles’s musical tastes were forever warped when he heard Tool’s Aenima while working in a studio. Yet despite this early love of heavy music, he would end up in a Finnish acoustic pop-rock band named Flute Of Shame, alongside a former winner of TV contest Finnish Idol. “I didn't enjoy how controlled everything felt in terms of the production of the art itself,” the British-born James says now. “I wanted to create things. In Wheel, by contrast, we've got an almost terrifying amount of creative control.”

It’s working for them. The Anglo-Finnish trio have established themselves as one of the most engrossing new prog metal bands around. Their third album Charismatic Leaders brings a heavier metallic foundation to Wheel’s off-kilter time signatures, elaborate structures and psychedelic edges.

Lyrically, Charismatic Leaders is a not-quite-concept album that deals with real-world issues in an often oblique way. James says that while he has been experimenting with more abstract subjects, the song Empire, about Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, is among the most political he’s written so far. “The whole point of art is to hold up a mirror. Sometimes I'll have an opinion to go with it, but sometimes it's holding a mirror with no fucking idea or answers, just because it needs to be done.” 

Of Tool's influence, James adds: “What they do better than anyone is structure and arrangement. The building blocks are very simple but they're put together in extremely interesting ways. They’re the best in the world at it.”

Mountain Caller

The best instrumental acts are adept at using their music to tease out emotions and conjure different atmospheres. London three-piece Mountain Caller go several steps further, with a whole accompanying narrative best described as an epic feminist sci-fi allegory. The recently released Chronicle II: Hypergenesis picks up where debut album Chronicle I: The Truthseeker left off, with an unnamed protagonist seeking the meaning behind her extraordinary powers. Cue sky libraries, mysterious tomes, a council of owls and a large dose of self-actualisation.

“It taps into the experience of anyone who is marginalised or misunderstood or different. I think the nature of the story is about discovering your own unique power: finding beauty in something the world has condemned you for,” explains drummer Max Maxwell. The story plays out through song titles, musical movements and, with the new album, a certain amount of contextualisation, but the band are happy for people to reach their own conclusions.  “We're very keen not to restrict the listener in how they interpret and react to the story. If someone is picturing something in their head, then that's what it is,” says Max.

Musically, the band achieve an expansive vision despite their starting palette containing only three instruments and minimal vocals. There are driving metallic riffs aplenty but these are accompanied by lush post-metal swirls and atmospheric soundscapes that combine to paint vivid scenes in the mind’s eye. 

“Because we have only three musical voices to use, we do have to think a little bit differently in how to add a bit of variation. El [Reeve, bass] particularly goes out of her way to not do just what a bassist traditionally does,” Max says, adding that he and guitarist Claire Simson  have previously told their bandmate – the only non-Tool fan of the three – that her playing reminds them in some ways of Justin Chancellor’s.

“One of my favourite things about Tool is that all four musical voices, have a really distinct quality to them,” the drummer continues. “It feels like a real band, like a meeting of equal quarters that come together to form this thing that is more than the sum of its parts. I’d like to think that with us it’s a similar thing. We each take precedence at different stages. It's a meeting of different individual voices that makes something new when they bounce off each other.

“I love the crescendos they build, it takes you into another world," he adds. At the end of The Patient, in Vicarious and 10,000 Days...there are so many points where they build up to this huge release. People think of them as very cerebral but they’re visceral and primal as well.”

Every Hell

The end of Brighton post-metallers Black Peaks was understandably painful for Will Gardner. “It hurt for a long time afterwards,” says the singer and guitarist of the demise of his former band in 2021. “And lockdown down completely drove me insane.”

With both of those events receding the rear view mirror, Will is pouring his energy into Every Hell. Black Peaks are part of the new band’s DNA – inevitable, given the presence of both Will and original Peaks bassist Andrew Gosden (the line-up is completed by keyboard player/guitarist Evelyn May and drummer Mark Roberts). “Having Andrew is a big part of what we’re doing,” he says. “That heavy bass is at the core of everything.”

But Every Hell take Will’s old outfit as a jumping off point to explore different musical avenues – “a continuation and an evolution,” as he puts it. The two tracks they’ve released so far, Freaking Out and The Watcher, strip back the proggy complexity in favour of a rawer and more direct approach. “We’re inspired by a lot of Converge, Tool, Mastodon, but also [garage rockers] Death From Above 1979 and even Twenty One Pilots,” he says. “It’s using melody and pop chord sequences, but playing them in a heavy fashion.”

The plan for the immediate future is to drop two more tracks and package them all together as an EP ahead of Every Hell’s appearance at Arctangent in August “They’re more proggy,” says Will of the new songs. “Much closer to that Peaks sound. But it’s early days. We’ve only been out in the world for five or six months now, we’re still exploring.”

So Will's another lifelong Tool diehard, right? Er, not quite. “I hated Tool for fucking years, until 10,000 Days came out," he admits. "The first two tracks, Vicarious and Jambi, they just changed my life. I became obsessed with Maynard’s voice and just the perfection they were aiming for.” 

Read Metal Hammer's exclusive interview with Tool in their latest issue, out now. Hawxx's Earth, Spit, Blood and Bones is out now. Ou's II: Frailty is out April 26 via Inside Out. Wheel's Charismatic Leaders is out May 3 via Inside Ou t. Mountain Caller's Chronicle II: Hypergenesis is out now via Church Road. Every Hell play 2,000 Trees and Arctangent this summer

Tool on the cover of Metal Hammer

(Image credit: Future)
Dannii Leivers

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.

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