The 10 best Tool songs of all time

The band Tool

Tool may be awkward, reclusive bastards who at one point didn't make an album in over a decade, but Tool had already made some of the greatest albums of all time, so their tardiness ought to be forgiven. 

Regardless, and without further ado, here are the ten best songs from Tool's utterly unique and mysterious story so far…

10) Hooker With A Penis (Ænima, 1996)

Just edging it over the more commonly celebrated Stinkfist, Hooker With A Penis is the most brutish and raging moment on Aenima, an album full of dark glowering. From its censor-baiting title to Maynard Keenan’s incensed delivery, it’s a snarling takedown of fakes and fools that reminded the band’s fanbase that for all their progressive urges, Tool remained an outfit propelled along by punk rock spirit and a genuine love of subverting the norm.

9) Rosetta Stoned (10,000 Days, 2006)

The excitement surrounding the now fairly credible expectation that Tool will release a new album soon stems in part from not knowing where the band’s music will go next. Rosetta Stoned was 10,000 Days' most wilfully adventurous epic: 11 minutes of amorphous but considered real-time evolution, with giant riffs in abundance and plenty of those heart-stopping moments of fragile quiet that the band have always used with such intelligence and soul. An amazing piece of music. An amazing band.

8) Prison Sex (Undertow, 1993)

All the potential that Tool showcased on their debut EP Opiate came to glorious fruition on their first full-length, and Prison Sex was the first song that most people heard from it. A thrilling, five-minute synopsis of the rapidly evolving Tool sound, it’s a blur of angular riffing and skewed hooks, the band’s inherent eccentricity setting them immediately apart from just about everything else that was happening at the time. A gold-plated ‘90s anthem.

7) Forty Six & 2 (Aenima, 1996)

The expansion of Tool’s sound between Undertow and its stratospheric follow-up Aenima was breathtaking to behold. Forty Six & 2 remains one of the latter album’s most spine-tingling and dynamic tunes; with its hypnotic bass intro and slow burning gait, it still sounds like metal re-imagined by ancient, alien observers. Still a live favourite today – when Tool intermittently manage to drag themselves from the sofa – it’s an immaculate synopsis of what made this band great in the first place.

6) Ticks & Leeches (Lateralus, 2001)

Vicious, muscular and (predictably) brimming with inspirational moments, Ticks & Leeches is Tool at their heaviest and most venomous. It’s also a glorious showcase for Danny Carey’s extraordinary percussive skills; his incisive, lolloping grooves underpin the miasmic scree of Adam Jones’ riffs with pinpoint accuracy and several fucktons of intuitive swing. It’s not entirely clear who Maynard is railing against, but by Christ, he sounds fucking livid.

5) Vicarious (10,000 Days, 2006)

Another sublime opening track from what proved to be the final Tool album for OVER A DECADE, Vicarious was nominated for a Grammy. Not that anyone sensible cares, of course, but it’s worth noting that even the notoriously tone-deaf Grammy organisers noticed how reliably mind-blowing Tool’s music had become over the years. 10,000 Days may not be most people’s favourite album, but its finest moments are as exhilarating as anything in the band’s illustrious canon and Vicarious is a gleaming gem.

4) The Grudge (Lateralus, 2001)

Masters of the jaw-dropping album opener, Tool cemented their reputation as one of heavy music’s most aggressively creative forces with this nine-minute kick-start to third album Lateralus. There are so many brilliant ideas crammed into The Grudge that it almost seems more than just a song: the interplay between guitarist Adam Jones, drummer Danny Carey and bassist Justin Chancellor is simply magical, and Maynard’s commanding proclamations make the whole thing sound like a furious message from the prog rock gods.

3) Schism (Lateralus, 2001)

Perhaps the most beautiful song in Tool’s small but magnificent catalogue, Schism begins with a quintessentially Tool-esque, twinkling, fluid bass riff and then continues through heart-rending, ethereal textures and moments of precise but untamed bombast, Maynard’s melodies erupting from the melee like cautionary tales from a benevolent cosmos. Prog was still a fairly dirty word when Lateralus was released, but the positive fightback started right here.

2) Aenima (Aenima, 1996)

Quite possibly the finest song Tool have ever recorded, the title track from their second album daydreams blearily about California floating off into the Pacific (or Arizona Bay, if you prefer) and all those soulless LA bellshiners suddenly finding they need to swim for their lives. The underlying rage in Maynard Keenan’s stunning vocal performance is startling enough, but the song’s many crescendos and pay-offs are simultaneously mesmerising and devastating. Wow.

1) Third Eye (Aenima, 1996)

If Tool fans’ jaws weren’t already on the floor by the time their first reached the end of Aenima, the album’s closing track will have ensured that no mind was left unboggled. A towering, exploratory and fervently lysergic journey through oppressive, squalling progressive metal nightmares, Third Eye is terrifying and irresistible in equal measure. The opening sample from a Bill Hicks monologue was a typically mischievous and revealing touch, too.

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.