A friend recently sent me one of those "What Your Favorite Band Says About You" articles, and one passage in particular stuck out to me:
"Tool: You’re either really smart or really dumb."
Tool is a little like metal's Chuck Palahniuk, an artistic, sensitive and homoerotic talent with a dedicated fanbase of bros. Radio metalheads like to sing along and like to shoot their gun, and one can almost see the band mocking their unsuspecting admirers by getting
frat boys to wear t-shirts with the word "TOOL" printed across the front. Yet Tool are also favored by nerds and Liberal Arts kids who enjoy their long, mathematical compositions, abstract lyrics and music videos modeled after the Brothers Quay. The result is a band that sells millions of records, wins Grammys and packs large venues despite barely doing any interviews and refusing to put their music on iTunes.
Another way that Tool is akin to Palahniuk is that all their art is pretty much alike. Tool devotees (and boy, are they devoted) can tell me that 10,000 Days is more conceptual than Undertow, and I'm sure that if you listen to both of them 10,000 times that's true. But for those of us who also want to make time for other bands, 1996's Ænema, featuring "Forty Six & 2," will satiate our alternative prog-metal needs just fine.
"Forty Six & 2" is inspired by the Jungian Shadow, referring to the human unconsciousness. Tool also references Jung's idea of gaining two more chromosomes in the next evolutionary stage, hence the title. But more impressively, Tool signified the next evolutionary stage in heavy music, building on Metallica's thrash symphonies, Nine Inch Nails' industrial intimacy, Neurosis' post-metal artistry and the Melvins irreverent unpredictability with their own artistic stamp. Tool may not have evolved since Ænema, but as heard in bands like Gojira, Opeth and Intronaut, they got metal to evolve for them.