Tool goes Rush (circa late ’70s/early ’80s)!
I always have the same experience with every Tool album I’ve ever listened to (except maybe 10,000 Days, which was the first one): I don’t love it the first few times, then later I love it. Maybe this will happen this time too, but I kind of doubt it.
This is the Tooliest of Tool albums, most of what we associate with this band – Carey’s excellent, interesting drum patterns, Chancellor’s intricate bass parts, Jones’ riffs and full chords, and Keenan’s powerful but usually restrained singing (with overdubs) – which is exactly what I think most Tool fans probably want. After all, it has been years and years, so an album that sounds exactly like the band sounds (with a few notable exceptions) should please everyone, right?
But the thing is, it often sounds so much like Tool that it reminds you of other, better Tool albums and songs. It’s like an imitation of the real thing, at times, or an echo of the past, or something like that. I can detect two reasons that I can think of for this feeling I’m getting: The first is that the riffs are less knotty because the time signatures are way more conventional. The music is therefore more accessible but also ess interesting and compelling. The other thing is that Chancellor is just mixed way too low, at least as far as I can hear. (Or he is mostly playing really boring parts doubling Jones.) Chancellor is one of the two best parts of this band and I want to hear him as much as I can hear Carey. Maybe it’s my headphones – could very well be – but there’s like one song that I really hear a classic Chancellor bass part. (And folks, this is a long album.)
I am listening to the digital version, not the CD/LP and so my experience is considerably different, which is why I led with the Rush joke. The bonus tracks on the digital version – added into the sequencing instead of tacked on the end = are almost entirely Carey fooling around with synthesizers (and some drums) and sound, at times, very much like Rush circa Permanent Waves. (Well, maybe it’s Carey’s limited synthesizer parts on the regular tracks that sound like that. Either way.) These tracks feel like basically the only new thing in the band, but the band isn’t playing on most of them (as far as I can tell). They add to the length, though they don’t necessarily take away from the experience just because they don’t sound much like Tool, but they also aren’t really integrated into Tool’s sound.
I like this enough because I am a fan of the band and I like what they do. Even imitation Tool still appeals to me. But this album feels to me as much like a disappointing reunion album as I could imagine without me actually hating that album (if that makes sense).
Kind of meh. (And absurdly long.)
PS: Their concert tickets were absurdly expensive and I didn’t see them. I wonder how much that factored into this review.