|Tool's greatest breakthrough was to introduce dark, vaguely underground metal to the preening pretentiousness of art rock. Or maybe it was introducing the self-absorbed pretension of art rock to the wearing grind of post-thrash metal — the order really doesn't matter. Though Metallica wrote their multi-sectioned, layered songs as if they were composers, they kept their musical attack ferociously at street level.
Tool didn't — they embraced the artsy, faux-bohemian preoccupations of Jane's Addiction while they simultaneously paid musical homage to the dark, relentlessly bleak visions of grindcore, death metal, and thrash. Even with their post-punk influences, they executed their music with the ponderous, anti-song aesthetic of prog rock, alternating between long, detailed instrumental interludes and tuneless, pseudo-meaningful lyrical rants in their songs.
Tool, however, had a knack for conveying the strangled, oppressive angst that the alternative nation of the ea! rly '90s claimed as their own. So, the band was able to slip into the definition of alternative rock during the post-Nirvana era, landing a slot on the third Lollapalooza tour in 1993, which helped their first full length debut album, Undertow, rocket into platinum status.
By the time the band delivered their belated follow-up, Aenima, in 1996, alternative rock had lost its grip on the mainstream of America, and their audience had shaped up as essentially metal-oriented, which meant that the group and the record didn't capture as big an audience as their first album, despite debuting at number two on the charts. When their first full-length album was released in 1993 (they released an EP a year earlier), Tool won lots of fans with their grinding, post-Jane's Addiction heavy metal. With their dark, angry lyrics and numbing guitar drilling, they appealed both to metalheads and alternative rock fans. When they landed an opening spot on Lollapalooza, their audience grew by leaps! and bounds; the increased exposure helped their debut album, Undertow, go gold. Its 1996 follow-up, Aenima, was also a success.
After a co-headlining slot with Korn on Lollapalooza '97 wrapped up, Tool remained on the road, supporting Ænima until well into the next year. During their usual extended hiatus between albums, Keenan decided to use his downtime productively by forming a side project, dubbed A Perfect Circle. The band's 2000 debut, Mer de Noms, was a surprise hit, while their ensuing tour was a sold-out success as well. With Tool break-up rumors swirling, the band put the speculation to rest by re-entering the recording studio and issuing the stop-gap B-sides/DVD set Salival late the same year. May 2001 finally saw the release of Tool's third full-length release, Lateralus, which debuted at the number one position on the Billboard album chart and became the band's biggest hit.
In 2004, working hard on a new album, even though singer Maynard James Keenan is wrapping up his tour with his other band A Perfect Circle. Bassist Justin Chancellor, drummer Danny Carey, & guitarist Adam Jones have been jamming away for the past couple months while Keenan has been on tour, and they've already got the framework for 10 to 12 new songs.
They have sent the early demo's to Keenan to start the writing process on the lyric's for the new album that could be out by Christmas, but the group may wait till early 2005. The band is also working on a Live DVD from the footage taken from the Lateralus tour, with plans of a summer release for that. So never fear, new Toolage is a-comin'. Tool might not disband disband until the end of 2005 or early 2006 - you'll never know what will happen on their next big thing...
This biography was written by Greg Prato for Allmusic.com.