UPDATE: Yesterday (September 10th), Maynard James Keenan broke the heavy-music internet by tweeting the headline-making news that — wait for it — he had recorded scratch vocals "awhile ago," final vocals were up next and there was still "a long way 2 go" on a new album. "Step back. Adjust. Mix. Adjust. Re-Adjust. Master. Adjust. Re-Adjust," he described the process to come. Until we get our next excruciating update from the studio, below is everything we know about the album so far.
ORIGINAL STORY, 3/19/18: Maynard James Keenan sees your Chinese Democracy jokes, impatient memes and geeky Reddit threads – and he'll raise you a "Burp." For the past 12 years, Tool fans have turned restlessness into an art form, obsessing over when — and if — the band's fifth album will enter the world. Meanwhile, the quartet has continued to jam, tweak, arrange, jam some more, debut snippets of new material onstage and field endless interview questions about its creative progress.
Earlier this month, when Tool announced they'd finally entered the recording studio, it was easy to write off the news as a prank. We've been duped before, goddammit, and it always hurt. But with the near-mythical album officially in go-mode, it's a perfect time to recap everything we know about the most widely anticipated metal LP since, well, their last one.
Tool is finally, no-kidding, legitimately in the recording studio
In a March Instagram post, guitarist Adam Jones broke the Internet with two words ("Day 1") and a CD emoji. (He also added a weird, woozy GIF of a guitar amp.) The message was clear: The era of begging Tool to enter the studio is behind us. Two days later, he posted an in-studio photo featuring producer Joe Barresi, who previously engineered and mixed 2006's 10,000 Days. "Excited to be working again [with Barresi]," the guitarist wrote, jokingly adding, "Our first choice was Phil Spector – but he has other conflicting work obligations."
The band's webmaster later confirmed that the quartet had "moved into a major studio where the recording process for the next album is about to begin in earnest." After "getting sonically adjusted to their new surroundings," they planned to start off by recording Danny Carey's drum tracks.
With Tool now in the studio, questions about their progress will probably only escalate throughout the year. But Keenan is clearly annoyed with the speculation and wants to maintain some element of mystery.
The singer even hilariously fired back at excited fans on social media. In January, one Twitter user created a poll asking fans if the album would arrive in 2018. Sixty-six percent of the 714 voters tallied "No." Keenan, in classic form, responded, "Stfu." Another fan enthused about the band's live show, adding that "it's been confirmed" the album will be out this summer. "Not. Coming out this summer," Keenan deadpanned in reply. "Not."
While Tool's three instrumentalists have experimented on music, Keenan has kept busy in other bands (A Perfect Circle, Puscifer) and business ventures (his Caduceus Cellars winery). But his voice will still be an integral part of how the arrangements are built.
Keenan is one of heavy music's signature vocalists, and his parts add a melodic center through the complex riffs and rhythms. "Adam and Justin [Chancellor, bass] aren't musically educated, so they just come up with the weirdest shit," Carey recently told Kerrang! (via Alternative Nation). "I just try to anchor it down and make it simple. The cool thing is every time I think I've simplified it as much as I can, we'll give it to Maynard and he'll do something even more simplified — to the point where practically anyone can sing it!"
The music is finished, and the lyrics are (at least) extremely close
Given the sheer complexity of Tool's music — and the frequency with which they re-arrange it — it's wise not to consider the album "finished" until you see the track listing. But in a January tweet that has (to the horror of fans across the world) since been deleted, Keenan suggested they were toeing the finish line.
"Started getting music files from the boys [with] the word 'FINAL' in the title a few months ago after 11 years of begging," he wrote. "That in theory means the tracks won't change out from under me while I'm trying to write stories and melodies to them. In theory. Still waiting for the 'FINAL' on 1, but way ahead. Words and melodies 100% DONE on all but 1. Someday we'll track them. Long way from the finish line, but at least we're closer."
Better news: That same month, Jones dropped a knowledge bomb during a random Instagram live stream of his family's dinner. "Music is done," he wrote in the comments section. "Lyrics coming in hard."
Since his bandmates have taken years to finish the music, Keenan — as anyone would — has grown a bit frustrated by their snail-like speed. But he's learned to accept this drawn-out process over time.
Last year, in a wide-ranging interview with Joe Rogan, the singer noted that he no longer takes the delay personally. "I like to release records and write things a little more quickly than those guys like to write," he said. "Their process is very analytical. As far as the way Danny, Adam, and Justin write, it's a very tedious and long process, and they're always going back over things and questioning what they did and stepping back and going back further."
He compared that process to "laying a foundation [for a house]," adding, "[With] my desire to move forward and get things done, I'm always butting heads with the guys in the band. It's just not their process. It took me a while for me to go, 'This is not personal. This is just the way they have to do it, and I have to respect it, and I have to take my time and they take their time."
Yes, you can blame the delay partly on the band's obsessive, perfectionist approach. But we probably would've heard the album a lot sooner were it not for some insane legal troubles and health scares.
In 2007, one of Jones' friends sued Tool, claiming he'd created artwork for the band and never received credit. They handed over the matter to their insurance company — but the insurer refused to handle the claim, and when Tool contested said refusal, the company filed its own lawsuit against the group. Tool, naturally, counter-sued, entangling the legal battle even further.
It's a miracle Tool made any music during that time, as the L.A. court system repeatedly delayed the case, ultimately draining their focus and finances. "When you try to be ethical and sleep well at night and try to do the right thing, and people around you are not doing the right thing and trying to take advantage of you, it really affects your creativity and your sleep and your relationships with people and everything you do," Jones told Yahoo! Music in March 2015, with the case then resolved in their favor. "We would have had an album out a long time ago; we would have been taking more tours. But we've been discouraged and distracted by this major lawsuit, which is the worst thing that's ever happened to us. It reminds me of one of those ads you see on TV where a guy goes, 'Have you been in a car wreck? Call us!'"
Jones also noted that the band was distracted by a health issue, though he chose not to get specific. "I'd rather let the person who dealt with the illness talk about it out of respect," he said. "But one thing was a really scary do-or-die, serious illness and that was really scary."
Adding to the difficulty, both Carey and another, unspecified person in the Tool camp suffered injuries after separate scooter accidents in 2013. The drummer endured several broken ribs, hindering their jamming progress at the time.
While we don't know exactly what the new LP will sound like, it's probably going to feel like classic Tool
"While riding with Danny to Chili John's yesterday, I heard a lot of new Tool music (sans Maynard)," the band's webmaster wrote in 2012 (via Metal Insider). "Dare I say it sounded like Tool (some of it reminiscent to earlier Tool stuff, with other parts pushing the envelope), and I assume that it will sound even more like Tool once the vocal melodies, etc. have been added."
And given that they've brought on Barresi for their latest sessions, it's unlikely we'll be hearing any detours into disco or hip-hop. This isn't like Queens of the Stone Age shaking things up with Mark Ronson — from all accounts, Tool want to make a very Tool-sounding album. And I think we're all more than cool with that.
"Descending" is only a tease of a more epic finished product
Tool stunned audiences on their 2015 tour by sneaking a new instrumental into their set. The winding, psychedelic track — known under the working title "Descending" — is already a miniature monster, but it's apparently only a snippet of what's to come. "We have a song that's probably about 13 or 14 minutes long," Jones told Rolling Stone. "It's a shortened, different approach to it. It is a new song. It's like a vague movie trailer to the real movie."
Carey is confident the album will be out in 2018
Of all the band members, Carey seems to be the most optimistic about the album coming out this year, saying he "definitely" predicts a 2018 release. "We'll probably have it done in the first half [of the year] if things go as planned," he told Loudwire in December. "There's setup times and manufacturing — I can never predict all that, it seems like it's constantly evolving. [What time of year it will be out] I can't tell you."
Given how long it's taken Tool to write the currently untitled LP, all bets are off.
If the band's famous friends are to be believed, the album is going to exceed our expectations — and be worthy of numerous adjectives
In December, Rage Against the Machine/Prophets of Rage guitarist Tom Morello became the first "outsider" to hear Tool's in-progress instrumentals. It's safe to say he enjoyed them. "Sounded epic, majestic, symphonic, brutal, beautiful, tribal, mysterious, deep, sexy and VERY Tool," he wrote on Instagram. "Really great. So excited to hear the record when it's finished."
The following month, Behemoth frontman Nergal, joined by drummer Morgan Ågren (Morgan Band, Kaipa) and guitarist Paul De Main (Entertain the Beast), dropped by for their own private rehearsal. And former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach visited the band's practice space in February, accompanied by the Melvins' Buzz Osborne. He vividly described the new music on Instagram, writing, "This is progressive metal at its most atmospheric and right when you get into a groovy trance you get beat over the head with riffs so heavy it feels like a TOOL. Some tunes were so pummeling it felt like I was getting a deep tissue massage! In fact, they could call the record that. No song was shorter than 7 minutes, and some were 20 minutes long!"
How lucky am I? Spent yesterday getting my face melted by 3/4 of TOOL at the TOOL headquarters / rehearsal Studio. My very own private Tool show just missing the vocals! This is not just your average simple rock and roll music. This is progressive metal at its most atmospheric and right when you get into a groovy trance you get beat over the head with riffs so heavy it feels like a TOOL. Some tunes were so pummelling it felt like I was getting a deep tissue massage! in fact they could call the record that. No song was shorter than 7 minutes and some were 20 minutes long! Just my idea of how to spend the perfect day! Thank you so much to my great friend Adam Jones and Justin Chancellor on bass for your hospitality! Danny Carey you are one of the most talented drummers I have ever seen in my life and such a nice fun dude! You are all inspirations to me & thank you so much for the great preview! I can only Imagine what the Majestic vocals of Maynard James Keenan would sound like on top of this music. If it's as delicious as his wine is, then I am buying this record for sure! cheers guys ! It was also great to see Buzz Osbourne the guitar player for The Melvins, who I last saw backstage in Seattle (I think) when we were drinking beers with Chris Cornell decades ago. Always good to see someone still doing great so many years down the line! #Melvins #Tool #MathRock #Rehearsal #rock #survivors