[Editorial] From Worst To Best: Tool

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Tool is by no means meant for the casual listener. Their music defies traditional songwriting, dynamically surges from crushing distortion to soft beauty, plays with time signatures, bears some of the most interesting lyrics available, and doesn’t give a damn about song length to ensure radio play. Add to this list the band’s love of the occult and teasing fans with the possibilities that their lyrics and music hide a deeper meaning. Everything combined makes Tool one of the most challenging, well-respected and fascinating bands releasing music these days.

And so I decided that my love of the band should be used to rank their discography. Having listened to each album more times than I can count, I feel very comfortable in my decisions. Note that I am only doing the four full-length albums and I’m not including the Opiate EP nor the Salival release.

This is by no means an easy task. Having been a fan of Tool for more years than I can easily count, I realize that these albums each represent a different period of my life and I have certain memories associated with each one. Still, I’ll do my best to remain objective. So, join me below to find out my “From Worst To Best” with Tool.

10,000 Days

I feel almost dirty saying that this is my personal worst Tool album. I realize just how personal and meaningful it is to singer Maynard James Keenan, considering the lyrical nature of “Wings For Marie” and “10,000 Days”, which are odes to the passing of his mother. But I can’t help but feel that these tracks wander aimlessly, almost meandering about trying to find the time to coalesce.
Then there is the seemingly pointless “Lipan Conjuring”, which doesn’t match the importance or effect of AEnima’s “Intermission” or Lateralus’ “Eon Blue Apocalypse”. Those tracks at least build up and enhance the following tracks, “Jimmy” and “Patient” respectively.
The final track, “Vigniti Tres” doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose. Lateralus’ “Faaip De Oiad” had a story and a terrifying atmosphere that was very Tool-esque (much like Undertow’s “Disgustipated”), which “Vigniti Tres” lacked.
However, I must say that songs like “The Pot” and “Jambi” are incredible and “Right In Two” may very well be one of my favorite Tool songs.

Undertow

Easily Tool’s most sinister album but nowhere near as polished. This can easily be attributed to it being their debut full-length as well as the fact that the lack of polish actually serves to help the songs and their atmosphere. Definitely the angriest Tool has been.
However, it seemed like the band hadn’t really figured out exactly what possibilities there were available to them. They still played within boundaries.
A very strong album but I’m still going to have to put it third overall.

AEnima

It was incredibly difficult trying to decide between this album and Lateralus as to who gets the crown. Both albums are astonishing, defining pieces of music. So choosing between the two of them as to which gets the crown was something I agonized over for days.
It’s a complex and fierce album that mixes the long, epic songs Tool is now known for with the shorter, in-your-face heavy hitters that fans can’t get enough of at concerts. Melodic and thrilling, AEnima will always remain one of my favorite albums of all time.

Lateralus

Where AEnima is clearly the heaviest, most visceral Tool album, Lateralus is the pièce de résistance. It’s more a work of art with stellar songwriting and fascinating, heartrending lyrics. It’s also a source of great mystery and intrigue with the listeners, who devoted time and energy into creating an alternate track list based upon the Fibonacci sequence, of which they took inspiration from the lyrics themselves.
Something about this album made the band just seem to coalesce into a machine that knew how to work perfectly well with each other.
This album also features my personal favorite Tool song “Reflection”. Talk about a song that builds layer upon layer and comes to an astonishing climax. Not to mention the whole trilogy (“Disposition”, “Reflection”, and “Triad”) is an incredible journey.

Alright Tool fans, now that I’ve said my piece, what are your thoughts? What should the order be?

Got any thoughts/questions/concerns for Jonathan Barkan? Shoot him a message on Twitter or on Bloody-Disgusting!

  • MrDisgusting

    UNDERTOW 4 LYFE

  • cryocore

    Some big calls there (and no Opiate or Salival)

    For me

    Ænima is number 1 by a long shot. Its a great album, but also has a lot of personal milestones attached to it

    Undertow is number two. I love the raw nastiness of this album. Its my second ever Tool purchase as I adore every song.

    Opiate follows. It was my gateway album (yeah I know its an EP) Cold and Ugly and Hush are two of the very best Tool songs ever recorded.

    Then Lateralis. I also adore this album, but If I had to choose my top 3 releases it would miss out by a fraction.

    10,000 days next. I agree with your points for the most part, but when you remove the rubbish filler tracks the actual songs are still great.

    Salival. I am glad I own this, and enjoy every song, but it is by nature disjointed and odd, but then again it does have the awesome lyrics “Would you like to glide on. Slide a mile six inches at a time on Maynard’s dick.” That is genius.

  • changefly

    “It was incredibly difficult trying to decide between this album and Lateralus as to who gets the crown. Both albums are astonishing, defining pieces of music. So choosing between the two of them as to which gets the crown”

    Bad editing.

    5. Opiate
    4. Undertow
    3. 10,000 days
    2. Aenima
    1. Lateralus

    10,000 days could have topped the list if it weren’t for the filler and horrible track listing, because it does contain Tool’s strongest songs to date, Vicarious, The Pot, Right in Two, Rosetta Stoned. But it just unravels upon repeat listens because of the drawn out midsection and aimless filler tracks.

    Aenima packs Tool’s heaviest punches, and as a whole the album is great, but comparatively to their more recent efforts, fails to explore their more intricate and experimental songwriting efforts.

    • jimmy

      Forget “exploring their more intricate and experimental songwriting!” That’s all well and good and Lateralus is obviously a great and perhaps more cohesive album on the whole, but in my mind there is simply NO DEBATE here! Aenima is by far Tool’s best album because it contains their best songs. Eulogy could be the only song on the album and I’d still rank it #1… not to mention Stinkfist and Aenima. Why am I so angry right now?! Lol.

  • SelfishMan912

    i approve of this list.

  • DepressedUndead

    Any feelings on A Perfect Circle?

    • harknesst10

      APC is pretty awesome, not as good as Puscifer or Tool, but pretty good. APC has always seemed like Maynards more mainstream band. I would love to see either one of the three bands in concert.

    • JonathanBarkan

      I can definitely look into writing up a list for them but the problem lies in eMOTIVe. That’s simply a cover album, so I’d really only be left with Mer De Noms and Thirteenth Step. Kinda hard to do a list when there are only two options, haha! ;)

  • Milk

    I haven’t listened to these albums in over ten years but I loved undertow as a teen.

    • bfg666

      How the hell could you have skipped listening to Tool for more than a decade?!

  • markajacoby

    Astonishingly magnificent on disc, and utterly disappointing in concert, I’ve been a TOOL fan since the first time I saw the video for “Sober.” Here’s how I’d rank the discs:

    1. Lateralus – Not only the best TOOL cd, but one of my all time faves
    2. Undertow – Love the promise and possibility of things to come that came with this disc
    3. 10,000 Days – Can’t understand the dislike for this disc
    4. Aenima – Can’t understand the love for this disc
    5. Opiate – A lot of fun, but too raw to be ranked higher than this

    • jimmy

      Absolutely boggles my mind that you dont connect with Aenima. THATS whats astonishing to me. Stinkfist, aenima, and freakin Eulogy are mindblowing pieces of work. They have never, and I hate to say will never top these songs. Aenima is number one for me by a long shot.

  • huntermc

    My personal order:

    1. Aenima
    2. Undertow
    3. Opiate
    4. Salival
    5. Lateralus
    6. 10,000 Days

  • Rip_ride

    The fact that you disregarded Opiate right off the bat makes me question the whole point to this article. It’s their most raw and probably hardest album of them all. Obviously they evolved with their sound but Opiate is their roots and it’s ridiculous to over look it. It’s like overlooking the original Terminator and going right to T2. Opiate is at least 3rd spot in my books.

    • JonathanBarkan

      I disregarded it for the purpose of this article as it is an EP and I wanted to focus on their full length albums. I don’t deny the impact it had and I do enjoy it a lot. But it didn’t fit into here, at least not for what I was going for.

  • Samaras_Madness

    An interesting talking point about 10,000 Days; some fans have placed “Vigniti Tres” before “Wings for Marie” and simultaneously played “10,000 Days” to make an entirely new track. It’s a common Google search and you’re likely to find it all put together if you want to take a listen. It has not been confirmed or denied by the band that they intended them to be played that way, but once you hear it, it’s hard to dismiss as coincidental.

  • trephi

    Good list and #1 and #2 are tough but ultimately i would go with Aenima as #1.

    I always knew Sober..but didnt appreciate Undertow until later. Great album but you hit it on the head. They took the great of that album and just expanded on it.

    I LOVE Lateralus. The Grudge is just an amazing opening..but it “suffers” from being second. When i was really introduced to Tool..i got STINKFIST and then EULOGY (my favorite Tool song) played to me on an amazing CD walkman with sick headphones..and something LITERALLY opened up in my brain that wasnt there before. THATS how intense it was..so thats why i give it the nod.

  • harknesst10

    1. Aenima
    2. Lateralus
    3. 10,000 Days
    4. Undertow
    5. Opiate
    6. Salival

    Aenima is the first tool cd I owned. Stinkfist is fucking incredible, especially towards the end of the song. That whole album is one hit after another. Lateralus is awesome due to is complexity and a less heavier overall tone. I’m glad tool is getting recognition, their songs appeal to the intellectuals through their content and artistic abilities along with the rough neck bastards that just like to rock out

  • Nothing333

    I completely agree with the list as is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=22417159 Kyle Peacy

    Agree! By far my favorite band. They put on one hell of a concert as well! Tool fans, check out Puscifer

    • markajacoby

      I was very disappointed with Tool in concert. The thing I like most about Tool are the subtle moments… Those moments where the music almost disappears – and then comes thundering back at you with deafening precision. I found the concert to be just that – a rock concert – and that’s not what I like about Tool.

  • Snoogans

    I would put the albums in the same order! Though, my most favorite Tool song is ‘Lateralus’. It truly is one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard.

  • Atiffarooqi

    It is as if i had written this article myself.

    I felt the same about Lateralus; i could quite put my finger on it, but there was a word i had always kept feeling on the tip of my tongue to describe the album until it finally came out…and I think that word is orchestral.