Tool is returning to the spotlight at the perfect moment. During the '90s, when Maynard James Keenan's creation thrust its way onto the national scene, the band's hard-rock contemporaries were suffering from post-grunge depression or incorporating hip-hop elements to create that most gruesome of aural mutants, rap rock. In contrast, the men of Tool forged musical epics from the remnants of prog, a long-buried genre they resurrected by replacing its elitism with aggression. Memorable albums such as 1996's Ænima bore little resemblance to the popular sounds of the day, and if 2001's Lateralus didn't seem as distinctive, there was good reason: Bands like System of a Down had begun to emerge and were putting their own mark on the style. Five years later, with neo-prog going strong, Keenan and company are routinely hailed as innovators, and 10,000 Days, their new disc, does nothing to dispel such claims. Rather than heading in new directions, songs such as "Vicarious" and "10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)" play to the group's strengths with a dour triumphalism that's undeniably compelling -- not to mention opportune. Now, more than ever, it's Tool time.


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