Surrealistic imagery, lyrical lunacy, and musical fanaticism will always be the staples of Tool. Floating vocals amongst flares of guitars and some of the best drumming this side of Keith Moon's infamous demise. Tool albums all have the inescapable fact that they are Tool albums; they don't sound the same, but that they all sound like Tool. That Tool's brand of intelligent metal and the compulsion of perfection that has been the backbone of everything they've ever created has always carried through and above the vicissitudes and progressions in the many years that pass between each release.
And, true to form, 10,000 Days is a Tool album that is, unmistakably, a Tool album, but just doesn't sound like any other Tool album. The song constructs, even the vocal tones and instrumental effects are unambiguously Tool. The lyrics are obviously Tool, yet there is something impalpable about 10,000 Days that makes it interesting. Both as a Tool album and as a magnum opus against the backdrop of the trite and uninspired bands that have tried, and failed to bask in Tool's reflected glory.
Opening with "Vicarious", a song dominated by radio friendly overtones, comparable to "Schism", 10,000 Days moves through every mood and disposition every other Tool album does. Through the long instrumental movements of "10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)" and the more buoyant tapestry of "The Pot". Flowing through the nigh Gregorian chants of "Lipan Conjuring" and the tranquility of "Lost Keys (Blame Hofman)", the album closes through downtrodden emotives, artistic license, and constructs of white noise.
10,000 Days carries with it neither the expansion of the drab and unnecessary, nor the ostentatious excess that has been a basis of Tool since Tool first patented their mix of instrumental vision and melodic destruction. It exists without the inclusion of fantastical flights of noise, without the predictable excerpts by the same important figures that seemed to exist only to reinforce the acumen of the music that never really needed to be reinforced, and without the pseudo-philosophy of Lateralus. It is a much more mature record, a self-assured record, not fraught with the insecurity and timidity that have become expected and redundant additions to Tool albums past.
Similar and intangibly different to everything Tool have managed before. The same flux of aptitude, brilliance and psychosis as always. The same movements, structures and even production effects as always. The same buoyant vocals, waving over the dirges beneath. Yet, at the same time, something new. Something that explores the realms of obscurity. More commercial and more acceptable to mainstream audiences, but never really in a bad way. More intelligent and more radio friendly, all at the same time. Self-contradictory and secure in itself all at once.
10,000 Days is easily the most complete and most mature masterpiece in the Tool back catalogue. It is an album without the superfluity of its predecessors, an album of understatement that becomes more powerful than its genealogy, an unadulterated evolution held back neither by exorbitant pretension, nor the self-created cliches Tool have moved within since Aenema. Imagine Lateralus with maturity. Lateralus with all of the parabiotica, trimmed off and tossed away. Lateralus with style. Tool with style. Tool with the knowledge that they no longer have anything to prove.
9.5 / 10
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