To borrow from Chuck Klosterman: Metal bands come in two forms -- those that model Led Zeppelin, and those that model Black Sabbath. (He recently proposed this thesis in the exhaustive, four-hour VH1 documentary Heavy: A History of Metal.) Tool, who plays Friday at the BankAtlantic Center, falls into the latter category. In a typical Tool song, a barrage of bass lines bombards the air. Drumbeats fall like an avalanche. Guitar riffs slash down like chainsaws from the dark. The lyrics cry of sinking, darkness, and regression, of dredging up anger from the inside (frontman Maynard James Keenan likes to pick at the things within us that we would prefer to conceal). The refrains charge ahead unrestrained, racing around a riff that won't end where you think it should, and then picking up the pace again.
Although always among the darkest of the contemporary metal bands able to penetrate the mainstream, Tool still gives Led Zeppelin props. In a 1994 interview with Moon Unit Zappa for RayGun magazine, then-bassist Paul D'Amour revealed that the beat of "Sober," the band's breakout hit from the 1993 album Undertow, was an ode to Zeppelin's classic "Kashmir." On the 2000 box set, Salival, Tool also included an eleven-minute cover of "No Quarter."
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Now two albums on from that release, Tool is still reclusive as ever, another Zeppelin trait. The band has appeared only briefly in just two of its seven videos, which mostly feature stop-motion animation. If you want to understand Tool, you'll have to attend. When you get there, close your two eyes, and tell us what you see. -- Kenneth Scott