10 Best Tool Songs
Tool are one of heavy metal’s most eclectic and original bands, and their best songs reflect their musical ingenuity. In fact, their discography is among the hardest to narrow down to 10 individual songs, as they are more admired for their music as it’s presented on their overall albums. Whether it be the haunting vocals of Maynard James Keenan or the captivating guitar work of Adam Jones, Tool’s songs suck you in and grip you tight. While they’ve only released four full-length albums over a 20 year-period, the number of great Tool tracks to choose from is plenty. After much thought and even more debate, here is Loudwire’s list of the 10 Best Tool Songs:
Although ‘Sober’ is one of Tool’s simplest tracks, it’s also one of their most powerful. Released on the band’s debut full-length, ‘Undertow,’ ‘Sober’ was written about a friend of the band who could only hit his artistic peak while under the influence. Maynard James Keenan’s bellowing of “Why can’t we not be sober / I just want to start this over” is disturbingly electric, and ‘Sober’ succeeded to launch Tool into a more mainstream realm.
‘Forty Six & 2′
‘Forty Six & 2′ is the fifth and final single released from Tool’s sophomore classic, ‘Ænima.’ The concept of the track is full of Jungian references, including the idea that human beings will evolve in the direction of acquiring a total of 48 chromosomes, rather than the normal number of 46. The extra chromosomes would give us a total of 46 autosomes and 2 sex chromosomes, thus, ‘Forty Six & 2.’ The track’s lyrics speak of the transformation of one’s shadow, representing the path towards both physical and mental evolution, evidenced in the song’s final line, “Forty six and two are just ahead of me.”
Possibly the most popular song of Tool’s career, ‘Schism’ introduced many younger fans to the experimental Los Angeles band. ‘Schism’ is one of the most complex songs in rock and metal history to gain massive mainstream airplay, as the track constantly switches time signatures from the normal 4/4 to the odd 11/8, amongst many others. ‘Schism’ was also a critical success as well as a creative success, as the track defeated Black Sabbath, Slayer, Slipknot and System of a Down to capture the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.
“Vicariously I, live while the whole world dies.” Tool’s first single from their 2006 album, ‘10,000 Days,’ is a precise and complex seven-minute piece, though lyrically, ‘Vicarious’ is fairly straightforward. As Keenan sings through the first verse, the lyrical weaver lists off the means of death he’s experienced through the eye of his television. ‘Vicarious’ provides social commentary on the media’s sensationalism of violence as Keenan sings, “We all feed on tragedy / It’s like blood to a vampire.”
‘Pushit’ is yet another lyrical goldmine for Tool fans. The near-10 minute track is packed full of substance for hardcore fans to sift through, and also acts as one of Maynard Keenan’s greatest vocal performances put to tape. Near the end of ‘Pushit,’ the spotlight is put on Keenan as he delivers the lyrics, “If, when I say I may fade like a sigh if I stay / You minimize my movement anyway / I must persuade you another way / There’s no love in fear,” with a soaring high-register beauty. ‘Pushit’ is also home to the fan favorite line, “Remember I will always love you / As I claw your f—ing throat away.”
‘Wings For Marie / 10,000 Days’
Although technically two separate songs, ‘Wings for Marie’ and ‘10,000 Days’ are not one without each other. As one of the most emotional Tool songs within the band’s catalogue, the 17-minute double track contains the middle name of Keenan’s late mother, Judith Marie, and acts as a memorial to her passing from complications due to a brain aneurysm. Keenan’s mother suffered a stroke in 1976, roughly 10,000 days before she died in 2003. Though Keenan’s performance is heart-wrenching, the instrumental section of Tool is highly spotlit throughout the piece, creating a truly unique atmosphere throughout.
Closing out the ‘Ænima’ album, ‘Third Eye’ caps off the monumental record as a near-14-minute masterwork. Guitarist Adam Jones is truly the star of this track, offering one of the most experimental compositions of his career. The ‘calm-becomes-erratic’ whirlwind of Jones provides an all-encompassing experience of his personal style, which is found in many pieces throughout ‘Ænima.’ You can beg all you want for the track to never end, but it does, with Keenan’s distorted screams of “Prying open my third eye!“
‘Parabol / Parabola’
A beautiful mantra enters as ‘Parabol’ begins its lifespan. A euphoric sense of unity with all things enters the listener’s mind as Keenan sings, “So familiar and overwhelmingly warm.” The prelude continues for three minutes, describing the simple act of … well … cuddling! After the line, “This body makes me feel eternal / All this pain is an illusion,” the instrumental section of Tool kicks into ‘Parabola,’ with drumming phenom Danny Carey guiding Keenan through the track’s first verse. Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor keep the distorted riffs coming throughout the incredibly heavy ‘Parabola,’ before Jones caps off the nine-minute piece with a gorgeous clean tone accompanied by fret harmonics.
After the death of legendary comedian Bill Hicks, Tool wrote a phenomenal tune about Los Angeles breaking off from California and sinking into the Pacific Ocean; a bit that Hicks had conjured and injected into his album ‘Arizona Bay.’ ‘Ænema’ became a like-minded tribute to Hicks, as well as one of Tool’s signature songs. The spirit of Hicks lives on as Maynard Keenan sings, “The only way to fix it is to flush it all away / Any f—ing time, any f—ing day / Learn to swim, I’ll see you down in Arizona Bay.”
We recently named ‘Lateralus’ the greatest metal song released so far in the 21st century, and thus, it tops our list of the best Tool songs. Inspired by the Fibonacci Sequence, a mathematical pattern found in nature, Keenan chose to house the sequence within his verses, creating a syllabic pattern that aligns with the numerical code of Fibonacci’s work. The song also switches between 9/8, 8/8 and 7/8 time signatures, with the number 987 being the 17th number of the Fibonacci sequence. Each individual musician takes charge of ‘Lateralus’ at some point, helping cement the track as Tool’s most essential piece of work.