"10,000 days" pre-review 1,336 words actually
[04/14/06] - 10,000 Days, 1 Word - Outstanding.
Wow. Five years later, a new Tool record, about to be let out of its cage.
I had the extremely good fortune to hear the new record tonight, April 14th, thanks to a good friend who I will leave anonymous. I'm going to do my best to not include any/many "spoilers" that will ruin your experience of hearing "10,000 Days" for the first time yourself. That said, if you read this, be warned you might find out more than you want to. I'm also going to try my best not to make this too much of a "the record is good / bad" sort of review, because I think we've all seen those already.
I'll do my best to leave it experiential. Hopefully I will succeed.
It has been about six hours since I heard it, and I was much more interested in feeling it than in writing it down; plus the clandestine location wasn't the sort of place you take notes. So when I get lyrics slightly wrong, I hope you'll forgive me. Also, out of respect for the band, I will be a little vague at times. You know, about not biting the hand that feeds you, etc.
Also, I want you all to know, especially those of you who waited up late, that I'm sorry if I created an artificially high expectation by posting that I would have "some info" tonight. At least we broke the record for simultaneous users on the forums. (And I got to see lots of people say lots of extremely impolite things about me. Good work, folks.)
So there I was, at a listening party ostensibly designed, very graciously, and at essentially no notice, for one. And then, in our hilariously clandestine "relocateable listening booth", the CD started.
The album does not wait. Unlike the past four Tool records ("Opiate", "Undertow", "Ænima", "Lateralus"), this one does not feature white space at the top. "Vicarious" hits you immediately. I am pretty sure that everyone is going to think it is entirely outstanding, a perfect way to get back into Tool. It seemed to be in 10/4, and for that and other reasons reminded me of "The Grudge." I'm sure radio will try to cut it down, but do not give in to them. This is one of the best tracks I've heard in a long long time.
All we have heard about guitars being more out in front and vocals a little subdued has been accurate. Guitar is the dominant sound through much of the record, but this is only when it is in full force; the record does get quiet quite often, and all four players are definitely playing an equal role.
As track 1 ended I relaxed a little, and actually laughed because I was so excited. I hadn't finished a quick chuckle before "Jambi" started, and I was so completely taken aback by how fantastic "Vicarious" is that I could not absorb or remember a thing about "Jambi" except that I liked it. Sorry.
"Wings for Marie" is really incredible. I was struck by the thought that it picks up right where "Reflection" left off. My host graciously explained to me, as it tailed off, that "that was part 1, this is part 2" -- and then turned the bass down a little because it was getting deeper. "10,000 Days" was also incredible. They remind of "Third Eye", "No Quarter", "Reflection", but in an entirely more intricate way. Ten years ago we all thought "Third Eye" was really really intense. I am pretty sure these two will rewrite your expectations of future epics.
By the way, one line posted among a snippet of leaked lyrics was "10,000 days in the fire is long enough." I don't want to ruin your fun, so I will say just this - the meaning of "10,000 Days" was immediately clear to me, especially from the line which follows that line. (I did cheat later and confirm by doing a little math, but I remain convinced.)
Now, up until this point the record felt like what I was expecting. Layered, intense, a straight progression from its forebears. Track 5, "The Pot", was not what I was expecting. Vocals here start off by taking a different approach than previous albums, but mainly only at the beginning. After the initial "what the..." it became like an old friend who had just walked in wearing something totally unexpected. Perhaps the best way to sum this up is to say that if you liked "Hooker with a Penis", you will like this song a lot as well. And yes, the title accurately reflects the subject matter.
To this point, I had noticed many little sprinkles from previous albums, callbacks to other themes and other progressions, perhaps tying these new tracks sonically and thematically to their older siblings. I continued to notice them throughout the record. Allusions to various songs kept appearing, though I rapidly lost track of where they all were. It will be fun to go through again and hear them, before you stop thinking of them as allusions to old songs and start thinking of them as parts of new ones.
"Lipan Conjuring", as you have all probably guessed from it's length (approx. one minute), is a segue. "Mantra" with spoons.
Interestingly, "Lost Keys (Blame Hoffman)" is also a segue of sorts, though it's three minutes or so long. Vaguely "Faaip de Oiad"-like. An instrumental soundscape with a long dialogue sample (from a movie?) buried within. The doctor, the patient, the visitor, all interacting.
"Rosetta Stoned" really took me on a ride. From what I recall, it sort of blended out of the previous track, and out of nowhere there were machine-gun-style vocals. Very percussive, snarly, distorted. For the first time, I started to think "hey there seem to be explicit lyrics here." Sudafed? Sunkist? Other S words? I think fans of Tool's earlier work will be into this one also. After one listen, I felt it to be simultaneously plainspoken and full of depth, simultaneously smooth and rough. I felt like parts of it likened to "H." but in a much faster way. I was really moved.
After that, it was hard to retain much about "Intension." Sorry.
But I think the flame becomes the fire.
"Right in Two" was one of my favorites. And not just all the monkey references. Lots of fantastically frenetic building. Great melodies. Oh and it was in 11, for much of the time anyway. "Cutting our love ..."
And so, it was time for "Viginti Tres." But my host was running late for dinner, and I was as well. It's another segue, I was told. I'll hear it soon, I said. We left the ... booth.
The guitars sound really sharp and loud. The bass sounds fantastically punchy, and sometime sounds like it does in the opening seconds of "Forty-Six & 2." Drums keep on trying new things, new instrumentations, new voices, new synths even; and keep on sounding incredible. Vocals seem to be pulled down a little overall, but this does add an element of "Undertow"-esque "what is he saying" fun.
I do think this album may not be one you just put on and rock out to. It's a much more satisfying meal than a snack. The downside of that is that it may not be as tailgate-worthy as "Opiate"; but that is probably the upside too. I think you will all find it immediately very striking, and you will all be pretty happy with it after one listen. But I do think that while you will definitely fall in love with it, it will take many people a little while to really get there.
I, however, loved it immediately. I can't believe I have to wait 19 days to hear it again.
You will want to buy this the day it comes out. Trust me. It may not be exactly what you are expecting, but it is exactly what you are waiting for. §