This is Tool, a band that formed in Los Angeles thanks to a string of coincidences, as have many bands. There's nothing unusual about that. What truly sets them apart from other bands is the music they have given birth to- something truly unusual and wondrous. It fills me with awe every time I listen to them.
Most other bands have a tendency to simply putting songs together over riffs and drums and put lyrics over them to put meaning into their songs. Tool does that too, but the music feels like an extension to the lyrics, so full of emotion that they resonate with the mood of every verse. Somehow they manage to make their songs so complex and complete, that they feel like life itself.
They started out making rather simple songs. They were crude, loud, filled with mischief and angst, just like a teenager going through puberty. Soon they began to mature. Their philosophy and style of music progressed and grew. Their songs still contained the intro-verse-chorus-outro format, but with so much more within.
The percussion has the beauty of a beating heart, softly throbbing into unusual beats and rhythms through the songs, not making its existence apparent, and yet, it remains the centre, powerful, a guiding rhythm, becoming its own unique identity of the music. The bass guitar wraps around the percussion, breathing life not only into the rhythm, but into the melody of the song, a pulsing harmony and a complexity that is ragged and beautiful at the same time. It permeates the song as the guitar flows with it, mixing and being guided by the bass with cutting rage and deep contorted pain which gives way to haunting beauty of notes that would echo through your soul. The vocals speak the darkest and clearest truth of humanity and life itself with soft lingering words, perfectly melting into the music with a gentle flow of notes with rare strength and control.
Each song weaves together all these elements with an ease that hides the intricacy within like the skin hides our muscles, organs, bones and the soul that makes us who we are. To truly understand them, one must peel aside the obvious and peer into the myriad of sounds, instruments and thoughts that makes the song whole. They usually start slowly and build up into the full strength of the song and flow into the chorus and impossible variations that fit so perfectly together. It opens up to you completely and then suddenly, softens into a melodious interlude and then, as if it were some sort of creature, peering at you from the shadows, the song poises itself, its muscles tensing, its pulse building, until it pounces on you with an explosion of sound and serrated violence. You can see it in its full glory as it rises to an unbelievable crescendo as it ravages your senses…and then….silence….
Each song is a life on its own. Each album is a new world waiting to be discovered. And with each album, comes evolution.
Of course, the creature needs to feed. Tool's music takes influences from many quarters but only keeps its essence and not the sound or genre. Their music has taken influences from heavy metal, psychedelic rock, rap metal, progressive rock, jazz, electronic and many others. They somehow manage to take these influences to make their own music grow with its own identity intact. And yet, so many bands have been influenced by Tool and have reproduced their music under their own identity, but never truly as powerful. But that in itself is a new birth. Perhaps they too, will evolve into something unique and precious, a new life that will inspire wonder in others and will be cherished.
Tool's music challenges conformity and changes the rules of music in ways no one could have imagined. There are many who aren't comfortable with that. It opens itself to the harshest ridicule and criticism and still survives. Each album has a unique identity of its own, incomparable to any other piece of music ever created. Every album of theirs is revelation in its self.
This music is alive. It took birth and has matured through adolescence and adulthood, it learns from others and through its own mistakes. It thinks and inspires thought and new philosophies. It evolves with every song; the complex weave of every element comes together as pure music. It is inspired, it feeds and reproduces. It has a soul. How else can someone describe a living thing? It's as human and as complex as you or me in the form of music. Not only is it organic music…its humanity itself.