10,000 Days, Tool
Two years old now but no less impressive than when it first appeared, Tool's most recent masterpiece remains one of my favorite albums of all time. The name, according to lead singer Maynard James Keenan, is a reference to the length of time that his mother spent paralyzed in a wheelchair after she suffered a stroke (27 years). The two centerpieces of the album in my opinion are "Wings for Marie (Part 1)" and "10,000 Days (Wings Part 2)", which are both named for her and flow together as one song (though the first track, "Vicarious", received the most airplay and the best reviews). The album features the "usual" Tool stylings which include scorching and lightning-fast guitar harmonies, high precision drumming by drummer Danny Carey (who also triggered all the sound effects on the album using a drum machine called a Mandala), and Maynard's poignant and often scathing lyrics. During their 2002 tour the band premiered "Wings for Marie (Part 1)" instrumentally and as a sort of funeral rite and honorarium for the singer's dying mother, ending the song with the sound of a coffin closing. For those unfamiliar with Tool, this may seem a bit morbid. However, for those that know and love the band (and in my experience fans are rabid, no lukewarm feelings there), the various allusions to family bonds and spiritual, shamanic and archetypal themes are many and varied. Truly, the album hearkens back to the earlier Undertow (mixed by the same sound engineer) in its tone, though not in its depth; 10,000 Days is the more spiritually developed and adult version. The second track, "Jambi", includes references to the province in Sumatra that was once part of Melayu Kingdom - which was led by a powerful and opulent sultan - and offers a colorful criticism of power and wealth in past and modern cultures. The song "Lipan Conjuring" references the Lipan Apache tribe and showcases the band members singing and chanting in haunting, indigenous tones that they make all their own. "Rosetta Stoned" is a play on the famous tablet that allowed Egyptologists to first decipher hieroglyphs, and "Intension" is a further play on words alluding to "intention," a foundational concept to Shamanic and spiritual work in general, "intension" in evolution which can refer to interbreeding, or simply the idea of "intensification." The last track, "Vigniti Tres", is Latin for the number 23, traditionally a mystical prime number and the source of much rumination in the recent (and not very impressive) Jim Carrey movie. You can see where I'm going with this: Tool offers listeners mysterious lyrics that reference ancient cultures and ancient concepts while offering a possible re-mystifyication of our modern, left-brained culture in a hard-rock, artistic way. And now for the best part - the album artwork, which received a Grammy Award. Alex Grey of Chapel of Sacred Mirrors fame was brought back for the bulk of the design work (he designed the majority of the earlier Lateralus) and the album features an interactive jacket which comes complete with stereoscopic lenses and about 20 individual pieces of art that can be viewed so as to appear three-dimensional. Novel in concept, masterful in exhibition and rife with symbolic meaning, the cover of 10,000 Days' can provide many hours of entertainment. The actual face of the jacket is decorated with a face that logarithmically spirals in on itself, taken from Grey's earlier painting titled "Collective Vision". The band has always been one to tease its listeners with half-hidden meanings and shaded references and this is certainly true here. Portraits of the band members holding sacred objects and surrounded by animals, birds and other artifacts are interwoven with Alex Grey's visionary and beautiful paintings, creating a mysterious counterpoint to the music itself. A complete work of art, and in my opinion a masterpiece.
10,000 Days, Tool