Tool is an American rock band from Los Angeles, California. The group formed in 1990 and includes Danny Carey on drums, Adam Jones on guitar, Maynard James Keenan on vocals, and, since 1995, Justin Chancellor on bass. Tool has won three Grammy Awards, performed worldwide tours, and produced albums topping the charts in several countries.
Tool is generally known as a group that produces a heavy metal sound. However, because of its incorporation of visual arts and relatively long and complex releases, the band is generally described as a style-transcending act and part of progressive rock and art rock. The band is not known to be solidly grounded in today’s music industry. This is somewhat attributable to efforts to censor the band, and the band member’s insistence on maintaining their privacy.
Tool’s first studio album, Undertow was launched in 1993. In 1996, they released their second full-length album, Ænima, which was certified triple platinum by the RIAA on March 4, 2003. With this album Tool became a dominant act in the alternative metal movement. Their efforts to unify musical experimentation, visual arts, and a message of personal evolution continued with Lateralus (2001) and the most recent album 10,000 Days (2006), gaining the band critical acclaim and success around the world.
Lateralus and the tours they went on after its release would do much to advance Tool’s exploration of art rock and progressive rock territory. Many believed that the complexities of this album would pose a challenge for listeners. However the album became a worldwide success, reaching No.1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart in its debut week. Tool received their second Grammy Award for the best metal performance of 2001 for the song “Schism”.
Tool has kept up a regular schedule of liver performances. The pop band has performed as a headline act in world tours and major festivals such as Lollapalooza (1997 and 2009), Coachella (1999 and 2006), Download Festival (2006), Roskilde (2001 and 2006), Big Day Out (2007 and 2011), Bonnaroo (2007), All Points West Music & Arts Festival (2009), and Epicenter (2009). Some of the biggest names in music have often joined the band on stages: artists such as Buzz Osborne and Scott Reeder on several occasions; Tom Morello and Zack de la Rocha during their 1991 tour; Tricky, Robert Fripp, Mike Patton, and experimental arts duo Osseus Labyrint during their 2001-02
Tool is known to incorporate an unorthodox stage setting and video display. Singer Maynard James Keenan places himself in the back with drummer Danny Carey on elevated platforms; meanwhile, guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor stand in the front toward the side edges of the stage. Keenan, despite being the vocalist, often faces the backdrop or the sides of the stage rather than the audience. Tool does not use followspots or live cameras; instead, the band employs extensive backlighting to direct the focus away from the band members and toward large screens in the back and the crowd.
The band has also had successes with its artwork. Adam Jones is responsible for most of the band’s artwork concepts. Their first album, Undertow, featured a ribcage sculpture by Jones on its cover and photos contributed by the band members. Later albums included artwork by collaborating artists: Ænima and Salival featured works by Cam de Leon; Alex Gray helped create the covers for Lateralus and 10,000 Days. Among the many positive reviews of their album covers, the AP said that the band should be recognized for their innovative album packaging. Indeed, both Ænima and 10,000 Days were nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Recording Package, but while the former failed to win in 1997, the latter did win in 2007. As art director, Adam Jones created packaging for 10,000 Days that features a pair of stereoscopic lenses for viewing 3-D artwork and photos.
Tool continues to be a major presence in the art rock and progressive rock world. Their commitment to being exploratory and innovative in all aspects of their creation has generally garnered them praise from critics and fans alike. Since the early 1990s the band has endeavored to stretch the possibilities of the rock and roll sound, and they are likely to remain a pop band to watch as the 21st century unfolds.