Tool Or A Perfect Circle?
2018 promises brand new albums from both Tool (well, we hope and it does finally look likely) and A Perfect Circle. That’s two of the most eagerly anticipated records from two of the most beloved bands in the rock and metal world. It’s fair to say that’s a pretty huge deal and we’re all ridiculously excited about hearing both albums when they do eventually drop. Each band are close to the hearts of all at Kerrang! and the debate about which one will be best will rage on, no doubt. But we figured we’d get two K! writers to get involved early and let us know which one they’re most excited about. Because… why not?
How about you lot? TELL US!
Here’s James Hickie on A Perfect Circle…
A personal anecdote to begin: when I was about 18, I heard A Perfect Circle for the first time. It was their debut album, 2000’s Mer De Noms, and I was particularly struck by the song Magdalena, which I considered to be the most hopelessly romantic thing I’d ever heard (I was, of course, yet to hear Puddle Of Mudd’s She Hates Me, which came out in 2002, so what did I know?) One day I was lying in my room listening to Mer De Noms, on the verge of doing what most teenagers do, sleeping, but eager to not miss the pinnacle of the song: the bridge in which singer Maynard James Keenan seductively declares: ‘I bear witness/To this place, this prayer, so long forgotten/So pure/So rare/To witness such an earthly goddess’. Sadly, I didn’t quite make it, dropping off just shy of it, before awaking with a start seconds later, in the midst of this magical moment. It was so intense, in fact, I briefly believed I was levitating. Now you can, quite reasonably, deem this story to be bollocks, but you surely can’t tell me that any music able to make you feel like that, if only for a second, isn’t worth holding on to. It was almost spiritual, maaaaaaan…
It’s testament to the aggressive ardour Maynard seems to inspire that fans view a year without a new album from one of his bands as some sort of an affront. Obviously that’s most true of Tool, who haven’t released a record since 10,000 Days, 12 years ago. It was once realistic to think we might never get another A Perfect Circle album, however. Their last album was 2004, after all. A Perfect Circle’s guitarist/songwriter Billy Howerdel told K! last year that even he’d started to think it might never happen.
“I’ve always been writing with the thought that’s it’s going to happen anyway,” he added with a smile.
He’s certainly had a lot of writing time. The last album, 2004’s eMOTIVe, was predominantly a covers record, with only two original recordings – Passive and Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums – and even the latter was a riff on the song Pet from their previous album, 2003’s Thirteenth Step.
It was on the tour for that album that I first saw A Perfect Circle live – several times. In fact, I essentially followed them across the UK; given my frustration at not having seen them touring Mer De Noms, I didn’t take any chances second time around and traversed the length and breadth of the country to see a band I could safely say were, and still are, in my top five (yes, alongside Tool). My stalking sojourn culminated with launching myself into the back of a people carrier around the back of the now-demolished London Astoria to get an autograph from the band’s then-drummer Josh Freese. I was 20 years old. Given that A Perfect Circle’s three forthcoming shows in June are the first time they’ve returned to these shores since then, I’m glad I did.
Hearing brand new A Perfect Circle songs after such a lengthy absence, and given the sky high regard with which I hold their existing albums, was a strange experience. It’s like meeting a friend you haven’t seen for years – they’re the same, but they’re different. Listening to both The Doomed and Disillusioned there was an instant sense of recognition, largely because of Josh and former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha’s textured, Cure-like guitars, and Maynard’s ethereal vocals (is it possible to discuss A Perfect Circle without using the ‘e’ word?).
There is, however, something different about A Perfect Circle circa 2017/18, and that’s not just the latest iteration of their revolving door line up – today completed by bassist Matt McJunkins and drummer Jeff Friedl. The songs sound bigger and fuller, no doubt a result of Billy sharing production duties with Dave Sardy (“I felt like this was going to be a bigger record,” reasoned Billy last year, causing excitement levels to spike).
There was something else in those songs, too. They suggest a greater maturity, a more orchestral bent; not as angry as some of their material of yore – it’s interesting to note that Judith, their fiery musical calling card, has recently been dropped from sets – but they’re still bleak, and they’re still beautiful. I cannot wait to hear the new album. Tell me: is 34 too old to jump in the back of people carriers?
Oh, and here’s an exciting coda: during K!’s chat with Billy Howerdel last year, he suggested he’d never heard Maynard, a man widely considered to be one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time, sounding better.
“And I don’t say that lightly,” added Josh, clearly weary of hyperbole. Now if that admission doesn’t get you excited, nothing will. It’s time to levitate, people…
Now, over to Amit Sharma, on Tool…
There’s a perfectly valid reason behind the Internet being flooded with memes of skeletons ‘waiting for the new Tool album’ in recent years. Even more than the will-they-won’t-they speculation amid conflicting reports on that long-awaited follow-up to 2006’s 10,000 Days, continally fanning the flames of feverish excitement, it’s the fact that the GRAMMY-winning LA progressive metal quartet have never compromised in the slightest on their creative endeavours. Everything they’ve put their name to has been of the utmost artistic integrity, challenging the listener in ways no artist has ever done before.
From the grungey atmospherics heard on 1992’s debut Opiate EP to the cerebral metal crunch adopted on their latter recordings, each and every body of work has genuinely felt like a true one-of-its-kind. They’ve managed to encrypt their sonic jigsaw puzzles with references to sacred geometry and the occult, self-direct some of the most jaw-dropping videos by any rock band and dream up the very best in mind-melting live experiences, though truth be told, their music - even at surface level - has always stood tall of its own accord.
Admittedly, the output ratio has certainly been minimal for a band of their vintage, but that very doctrine of quality before quantity is precisely what has served them so well over nearly three decades. Few possess such an indisputable track record. But even with this golden assurance that the new album will undoubtedly be a masterpiece, 12 years is a very long time. For the converted, the sheer amount of faith on how good the album will be is what makes the wait that much more unbearable.
What we do know is this: Danny Carey has told Kerrang! the long-delayed fifth studio album will be arriving in 2018, during which singer Maynard James Keenan will also be busy resurfacing with other group A Perfect Circle.
The only clue as to how the new Tool record might sound came via guitarist Adam Jones’ Instagram page, where he posted a video of himself making noises with a Tremoloa [a Hawaiian slide instrument, in case you were wondering] in producer Joe Barresi’s studio. Even once reversed back to its original speed - which Tool fans seemingly have ample time for - it makes for an eerie 15 seconds and a tantalising taster that keeps the cards close to their chests, revealing little in the way of artistic direction.
“You can’t make music in a test tube and do the math,” Adam admitted when he last spoke to this K! writer. “There has to be spontaneity with a little planning and a lot of mistakes – that’s how you get good results. Sometimes you really have to push, to even unreasonable levels… to even the point of failing! That’s how we find good things within ourselves.”
And as the old adage goes, good things come to those who wait…
A Perfect Circle return to the UK for the following dates later this year:
12: 02 Academy Manchester
13: London 02 Academy Brixton
14: London O2 Academy Brixton
Tool bassist Justin Chancellor has been working on new music for the band during quarantine.
Why the music industry is uniting to take part in a day of silence to show solidarity to the black community #BlackLivesMatter