Tool Albums Ranked, From Worst to Best
In the early ‘90s, a trenchant and promising band, Tool, evolved from the art scene of Los Angeles. Their pedigree was unassailable.
Drummer Danny Carey had played with Pigmy Love Circus and Held down beats for the parody metal band Green Jellÿ. Theatrical vocalist Maynard James Keenan performed for kicks in Green Jellÿ and played with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and bassist Brad Wilk and was invited to join the band that became Rage before opting to form a band with guitarist Adam Jones and Carey, instead.
As for Jones, he had extensive experience working in special effects in Hollywood and brought essential elements of perfectionism, creativity and experimentation to the new outfit. His skills were also put to good use in creating the band’s visual identity, via the Tool’s videos and album art.
“It wasn’t hard for Tool to get signed,” Keenan said in Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal. “We were four pissed-off, relatively talented musicians, and we got a record after about seven shows. Nirvana helped open the door because after they hit, most music guys around town were chasing their tails trying to find the next big thing.”
At the time Tool were signed, they were writing heavy, propulsive songs with syncopated beats and pained, melodic vocals about childhood trauma and other angst-driven subjects. Over the decades, however, they evolved into one of the most musically evolved, experimental and psychedelic hard rock/metal bands to win over the mainstream and remain one of the most evocative, inventive and – sometimes frustratingly – obsessively perfectionist bands in the genre.
As a result, Tool have only released five albums (including the 1992 platinum EP, Opiate); yet there’s something to cherish in everything Tool have released regardless of how much they have changed and/or evolved over the years. Arguably, the transformation has been all the more dramatic because of the amount of time that passed between each release. Because of this, fans have been left with a bounty of groundbreaking music to enjoy. That’s a testament to the strength, resilience and originality of Tool. But it makes it as hard for fans and critics to choose their favorite Tool albums as it is to pick the best Beatles records. Do you prioritize the band’s catchiest releases or their most adventurous?
The great thing about Tool is no matter how you rank their catalog, you really can’t go wrong. Whatever they’ve lacked in quantity (and they haven’t released a record since 2006) they’re surely made up for in quality.