With each passing month, Tool divvies out another breadcrumb of news about their long-in-the-works fifth LP. And we fans eat up that shit with a prog-plated spoon, savoring the headlines about Danny Carey's productive drum sessions and Maynard James Keenan's proclamation that we're "gonna see some new music" in 2019. But we still need a soundtrack to our patient thumb-twiddling.
In a June interview, art-pop artist St. Vincent revealed her metalhead credentials by cranking out two of her favorite guitar riffs, Pantera's "Cowboys From Hell" and Tool's "Forty Six and 2." That made us want to dive deeper and dig up some of the most bizarre and creative Tool covers on the Internet.
Everyone from pre-teen music students to Japanese koto ensembles have opened their "Third Eye." Let's dive in.
In its original form, Ænima's rattling opener is more like an exorcism or than a eulogy. But YouTube user "Ginarae" offered a mournful spin on the song in her bedroom-filmed clip, crooning soulful, Amy Lee-ish lines over a sparse electronic keyboard. "There's more to a song than just a badass rhythm, you know?" she wrote in the caption. Indeed: Her performance extracts the bitterness in Maynard's lyric and leaves only sadness.
Like Ginarae, Kris Vessuer uses a simple, meditative approach to expose a vulnerability in Keenan's lyrics. "The snake behind me hisses/What my damage could have been," she sings over plaintive piano, cello, and electric guitar atmospherics. "My blood before me begs me/Open up my heart again."
Who says you can't headbang behind a cello? Break of Reality bring an almost painful tension to their version of "Lateralus," building from quiet pizzicato lines to violent full-band sawing. The live drums keep the song grounded in rock, but the unsettling darkness of those cellos take the piece somewhere new.
This brass ensemble's take on "The Pot" is one of the most original Tool covers ever, mingling baritone sax honks and dissonant horn crescendos into an arrangement both nightmarish and funky. This could be the first time you feel like dancing to a Tool song.
After hearing the Koto Ensemble deconstruct and reassemble "Lateralus," it's almost hard to accept that Tool didn't actually compose the song for the koto, the Japanese stringed instrument. As they crescendo, the octet employs every possible trick: strums and plucks and drones and and bent notes that whisper like wind.
Covering Tool on an acoustic guitar is probably a bad idea — the band's prog-metal pyrotechnics don't translate well to just six strings and no distortion. Unless, of course, you're Australian percussive guitarist Sam Westphalen, who manages to distill all of the song's riffs, melodies and beats into a thrilling one-man-band busking adventure.
Curtis is god, all hail Curtis. The young drummer for this ragtag crew bashes his kit with such unrestrained joy, you almost envy him. (That's to say nothing of his chops. Check out those expertly placed tom fills at the 4:34 mark.) These kids add subtle new layers to the Ænima anthem, from piano to softly clicking claves. To all the 3,600 losers who voted thumbs down on this video: Are you happy with your life choices?
The dual male-female singer approach here is a stroke of genius, with Fabian's alternatingly gruff and operatic vocals playing off Anna's soothing, Keenan-like harmonies. (Special shout-out to the former for his growing delivery of the "dissonance" section.) Interesting touches everywhere else, including the ambient synth tones on the bridge. Faith in the future of music restored.
In another life, Tool were clearly orchestral composers. Their music is so out of step with modern popular music — even the vast majority of rock and metal — in its scope, its sense of dynamics and drama, of tension and release. The proof: Nick Proch's sublime arrangement of "Schism," available on his album Tantamount. It's breathtaking alone to hear Justin Chancellor's opening, harmonized bass expanded for orchestra, but the full nine-minute piece will make you appreciate Tool's melodic and harmonic gifts in ways you never have.
Indian trio Beard of Harmony's take on "Right in Two" is both faithful and radically new — the trickiest of cover songs tasks. The trio (singer/guitarists Sreejith the Beard and Ruben Simon, double-bassist Yann Phayphet) rearrange the song for three instruments and two voices, adding a soulful softness and warmth to the 10,000 Days epic. The barking dogs and honking car horns only add to the ambiance.