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Tool: 10,000 Days - Album Of The Week Club review

Years in the making, Tool's 10,000 Days is as long as it is challenging, and is never an easy listen. As one of our reviewers says, it's "intense, dense and immense"

Tool: 10,000 Days artwork
(Image: © Volcano)
Tool: 10,000 Days

Tool: 10,000 Days artwork

(Image credit: Volcano)

Vicarious
Jambi
Wings for Marie (Pt 1)
10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)
The Pot
Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)
Rosetta Stoned
Intension
Right in Two
Viginti Tres

On its release in 2006, Tool's fourth album 10,000 Days was viewed as a disappointment by some, for no other reason than it took so long to arrive (five years - little did we know what was to come) and because of the album it had to follow, the band's 2001 masterpiece Lateralus

It’s a more approachable album than Lateralus: there are tunes, the pace is slower and the songs more expansive. If Lateralus was Tool's Atom Heart Mother, then 10,000 Days is their Meddle

It's also seen as the album where Tool took their cues from the technical fluidity of Meshuggah, but listen to the cinematic journey of Lost Keys (Blame Hofman) into Rosetta Stoned and you’ll hear there's much more going on than mere rhythmic adventure, and the song titles are packed with significance. 

According to some sources, the name 10,000 Days refers to Keenan’s mother, Judith Marie Keenan, who suffered a stroke that left her in a wheelchair for the last 27 years of her life (there are roughly 10,000 days in 27 years). 

Wings For Marie (Pt 1) also refers to Maynard’s mother. The song Lost Keys (Blame Hoffmann) refers to Albert Hoffman, the chemist who synthesised LSD. Lipan Conjuring uses an Apache chant. Viginti Tres is Latin for 23, a number with a lot of occult significance. There was so much there for the real fanatic to spend the next decade and more tearing apart for significance. Which is lucky, because that's how long it took for album number five to arrive. 

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in May 2006

  • Gary Moore - Old New Ballads Blues
  • Ministry - Rio Grande Blood
  • Neil Young - Living with War
  • Enslaved - Ruun
  • Hoobastank - Every Man for Himself
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium
  • The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
  • Def Leppard - Yeah!
  • House of Lords - World Upside Down
  • Kansas - Works in Progress
  • Less Than Jake - In with the Out Crowd
  • Celtic Frost - Monotheist
  • Alien Ant Farm - Up in the Attic
  • George Thorogood & The Destroyers - Hard Stuff
  • Les Claypool - Of Whales and Woe

What they said...

"'Progressive' doesn’t mean clocking in at over seven minutes no matter what. It doesn’t mean hitting every goddamn skin, tom-tom, and cowbell on your drum set. Being Progressive' doesn’t justify an album cover that looks like a stoner stumbled upon a documentary on Mayan civilization. I’m not sure, but I think 'Progressive' is about growth and change." (Stylus Magazine)

"Depending upon which Tool you are looking for, you're either going to love or hate 10,000 Days. If it's the hard-driving band with an intellectually driven existential anger and fits of Hot Topic-laden angst, they've fled for other pastures (probably to Arizona Bay). But if you're looking for the Tool whose passion and introspection is complemented by intense emotion, brutal honesty, and musical maturity, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better metal album in 2006." (AllMusic)

"It's worth remembering that when Lateralus was released, it confounded and infuriated as many as it attracted and converted. After five years of waiting 10,000 Days may need a longer gestation period before a final verdict is reached. For now, savour it; it's probably the most engagingly brilliant heavy metal album that'll be released on a major label all year." (Drowned In Sound)

What you said...

Marco LG: Around the turn of the millennium King Crimson were playing some of the heaviest music they ever played. Around that time they published the album The ConstruKCtion of Light and I am not sure if it was the band or its fans that started to describe the music as "nuovo metal" ("nuovo" being Italian for "new"), as opposed to the "nu metal" label that was taking the world by storm at the time. 

What made that incarnation of King Crimson so heavy was the influence of Tool, a band itself influenced by King Crimon to start with. This cross-pollination has always fascinated me; as a metal fan that incarnation of King Crimson remains my favourite, even more so than the band who gave us Red in 1974. But Tool took Fripp's ideas and concepts and developed them in even heavier music. This is unmistakably heavy metal, and yet is progressive.

All that however was happening at the time of Lateralus, and culminated in the two bands touring together (something I will regret to have missed for the rest of my life). The album we are reviewing this week came out five years later and is undoubtedly more accessible than Lateralus, retaining however that King Crimson influence. 

The result is a surprisingly easy listen, even though some of the more melodic arrangements are not quite fully focused, and will be developed a lot better in Fear Incoculum. The soundscapes experiments (another King Crimson analogy) will also become better in Fear Inoculum, even though album closer Viginti Trees is definitely more menacing than Chocolate Chip Trip!

Overall, this is a transitional album by one of the most daring bands currently active. It is not their best, but remains worthy of a high score in my opinion.

Carl Black: When releasing this album I didn't realise that the title of the album was how long we'd have to wait for another one. These guys are one of the best bands on the planet at the moment. They can do very little wrong in my eyes, and when they do get things wrong they get a pass. You could have picked any of the Tool albums because they are of such extreme high quality that the reviews will pretty much be the same from me. The songs are beautiful soundscapes that get the imagination going.

Each part appears to build up to something. You are rewarded by hearing a magnificent section, however they always make you wait just a little bit longer than any other band before you get your rewards. It is a very rare case of the catch being better than the chase.

You are awarded again for your patience with another shift in gear and another brilliant section waiting for you in an already brilliant song. This is true of the first two songs and Rosetta Stoned. At times they make you wait just a little bit too long. This is very evident on the title track. They do have a couple of arty-farty noise type songs and I have no idea why they are included. They serve a purpose to someone I'm sure. 

Live, however, even these songs can be elevated to another plane of brilliance. I have been extremely fortunate to see this band in all kinds of live settings and situations. I've seen them headline small clubs, support in academies, headline arenas and open and close festivals. Tool never disappoint, and the songs from this album are highlights in the live set. Maybe not the best Tool album, but you could throw a blanket over them as far as marks a concerned.

Very few bands have the consistency of Tool. I just wish they were a little more regular in terms of output.

Roland Bearne: I love what most perceive as prog metal: Dream Theater, Vanden Plas, Conception, Evergrey, Threshold, Fates Warning, Subsignal et al but for some reason I never entered the world of Tool. 

I think simply, no one I knew ever really mentioned them and the "Alt-" tag was never a big draw for me. Fast forward to Fear Inoculum and I was hooked, the first time I had experienced Tool's unique, jarring yet melodic polyrhythmic soundscapes. Extraordinary, they seem to find mix balances and frequencies that use even the back of the throat as a resonator, the textures swirl and evolve in almost mystical ways! 

So to 10,000 days. A similar experience, I love the that the voice is used really as part of the instrumentation most of the time, the bass is to the fore and Danny Carey's drumming evokes a musicality which I have not really experienced apart for the late and very lamented Neil Peart. Having ponced my way thus far, I must confess I really have very little idea what is going on other that it sounds amazing! 

I don't think that an album of this density can really open itself up in the space of one week and a few spins. This is very much a positive observation, albums where you really need to put in some work yourself often end up being perennials!! My listens left me with the impression of textures, abstract environments, feelings of dystopian angst yet tempered with dark humour. 

The word 'impressionistic' came immediately to mind. If some bands are tellers of stories (Rush) here we have a band who seem to be create musical abstracts and impressions evoking the dark haze of a Monet or the swirling angst of a Munch or darker Van Gogh. So here perhaps is a band truly driven to create sonic works of art (hence perhaps the lack of haste in putting out material.) Definitely a great pick and one to which I shall continue to listen, probably without ever knowing what's occurring but enjoying the ride! Okay, having got all proper arty-farty and ponce-tastic, I'm going to drink coffee and listen to Motorhead!

John Davidson: When I think of prog metal I think of Dream Theater, Threshold and Symphony X. Bands with big guitars, swirling keyboards and squealing solos, so it's odd that Tool are named in the same ‘sub genre’ of music as they are nothing like those.

Whereas the bands mentioned deal in melodramatic vocals, flashy guitars and soaring keyboards, Tool are dense, intense and dramatic. Their music is complex and intricate, but in no way delicate.

On this album the songs are largely dominated by crunching bass riffs and hypnotic rhythms. The guitars and vocals orbit these centres of mass like the accretion disc around a neutron star, providing light and colour (however dim) among the pulsing gravity at the centre.

In my house this is definitely headphones music, though you need good over-ear headphones that can cope with the bass and the distorted guitars & vocals. For me it demands listening to without the distractions of everyday noise and it needs to be played quite loudly to achieve the immersion that the music requires.

It’s an album that rewards the listener with complexity that doesn’t seem extravagant or self indulgent, indeed if it wasn’t so heavy it would remind me more of ambient music where phrases are repeated and modified then morph into new sections. This allows the music to unfold in interesting ways, and without being faux oriental in any way it has that trance like eastern mandala like quality.

The discordant aspects of previous album Lateralus are largely abandoned and this has more in common with Fear Innoculum, though they never sound like anyone but themselves.

That said, some sections have melodies reminiscent of singer Maynard James Keenan's other band A Perfect Circle . It is not, however, an album with sing-along goth-pop lyrics, and because of the structure of the songs it isn’t always obvious when one song ends and the next starts. As a lifelong prog fan, I don't really have a problem with that.

There are also a couple of songs that perhaps reflect the 70s tastes of the band members. 10,000 Days (the track) builds up to a crescendo with a One Of These Days vibe and softer interlude Intension has hints of Planet Caravan in the drumming and vocal distortions.

Never an easy listen, but for me a rewarding one. It is intense, dense and immense.

I don't want to listen to it every day, but when the mood takes me this is a place where melancholy gets ground into meditation and there is comfort and pleasure in that.

Mike Canoe: It's been a while since I worked this hard to like an album. I like alternative metal, I like long proggy and/or trancey songs, I like weirdness in general; but I've never really liked Tool beyond the occasional hit single like Fear Inoculum or Schism. Songs that good make me think there must be a way into "getting" Tool, but I haven't found it yet.

And so it goes with 10,000 Days. My main impression is 75 minutes of rumble and mumble, aside from a guitar solo here or percussion clatter there. With the exception of The Pot, Maynard Keenan's voice is buried deep in the mix. On a few tracks like Rosetta Stoned, Right In Two, or the (mostly) title track, a lyric will bubble up out of the murk and I'll Google the lyrics and think they are pretty good.

I think there are glimpses of humour too. I sincerely hope that Jambi, a song about wishing it all away, is referencing the genie from the '80's kids' show, Pee-wee's Playhouse. But if someone has a better explanation for Viginti Tres other than filling up every available moment on the CD with something, I'd like to read it.

10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2) will go on my scrapbook playlist for the year. Otherwise, Tool, for me, is still primarily a singles band.

Uli Hassinger: So this was not my first serious contact with Tool. I listened to them long ago at a friend's place. But you know how it is, you're debating, discussing, chatting, cursing and so on. After that experience I wasn't convinced and never listened to them again. I don't recall which album it was, but it was definitely more then 10 years ago.

So this is my second approach, and to make it clear the only way you can understand this album is to listen closely, concentrated and focused, at best on your own. Furthermore it's necessary to give the record some time. After three spins I have to say that my rating is getting better every time.

I was surprised that half of the album is very calm and mellow. I expect it to be much heavier. But the mix of rough riffs and smooth melodies is what makes the album great. No track, even the ones over 10 minutes, gets boring. In the slow parts I hear a lot of grunge influences like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. But they manage it to keep the tension up over the album.

The musicians are all over the top, but it is the rhythm section which has the most influence and shapes the album. A very convincing album, and I'm already looking forward to listening to Lateralus. 9/10

Kevin Miller: I absolutely love Tool and two of my favourite Tool songs are on this album, so I’m going to score it high.

However, there are really only four songs on the album, and while Tool does the odd little noises song better than maybe anyone else, there’s a ton of it on this album, and that will keep me from giving it a perfect 10.

Even if you don’t like Tool and you haven’t taken the time to listen to Justin Chancellor and Danny Carey play bass and drums in detail before, give Vicarious, Jambi, The Pot, and Rosetta Stoned a spin. I think you’ll really appreciate their talent.

Cameron Gillespie: In the past I'd never managed to get round to listening to much of Tool, so this has been very insightful. Unfortunately the album hasn't done a whole lot for me, not because it is bad, but I just can't seem to get on board with their style sometimes. What I do like is some of their slower and less distorted stuff like Wings For Marie Pt 1. I think that has a more powerful effect and makes their sound a little more suspenseful and daunting.

I'm giving it a 7 as I think for it's genre it is a good album, it just doesn't fit my taste.

Steve Bennett: This album came out on the exact same day as Pearl Jam’s self titled album. I was so into the Pearl Jam record that this one sort of got lost in the shuffle to me. It’s the Tool CD I’ve listened to the least. I just never found a groove with it. Also, the case it came in was goofy and never fit on my shelf right. Relative to the other Tool records it’s a 5.8 out of 10. Relative to all records I would give it a 6.5.

Iain Macaulay: Yes it’s dense. Yes it’s long. Yes the musicianship is way up there. Yes the songs are intricate. But it is also such an easy album to listen to. There is melody, there is power, and there are touches of delicate beauty.

This album gets ranked third or fourth in lists that rank Tools albums, but taken on its own it is magnificent. It’s a hell of a ride that delivers more on each listen and covers so much emotion and musical ability. Call it a musicians album if you want but it’s so much more than that if you want to take the time and delve into it.

Alex Hayes: It's not the most pleasant of analogies, but listening to this music for the first couple of times put an imaginary scenario in my head. In it, I'm actually present in an operating theatre watching highly skilled surgeons perform delicate open-heart surgery on a patient.

As fictitious experiences go, that is one that I definitely wouldn't enjoy. However, bearing close witness to such high levels of expertise and professionalism would, of course, generate feelings of enormous admiration and respect regardless. Which brings me to Tool and 2006's 10,000 Days.

This album really did nothing for me. That's odd, and a little unexpected, considering how big a fan I am of progressive rock and metal in general. Two words spring to mind here, clinical and sterile, adjectives that pretty much sum up my personal feelings towards the album.

I will say though, it's certainly angst-ridden enough. I'm not exactly sure what it is that Maynard James Keenan's so upset about here but he's plainly got some kind of 'bee in his bonnet'. The album is certainly generous when dealing out its anger quotient. Great, if you like that kind of thing.

Tool are obviously an extremely talented band. The level of musicianship and craft that they've put into this album really is outstanding. I will not be awarding 10,000 Days a low score, even though I admire the album from a creative standpoint far more than I actually enjoy it. Overall, I'm sorry to say that it left me a little cold. Superbly executed, but not for me.

Final Score: 8.04⁄10 (111 votes cast, with a total score of 893)

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