ROP Throwback: Five Songs That Every Tool Fan Should Hear

The widely famous prog rock band Tool recently confirmed all their fans’ hopes and dreams: after a 13 year hiatus, they will be releasing a new album at the end of August. This announcement was paired with the drop of the first single and title track to the upcoming project, “Fear Inoculum.” 

The progressive alternative rock band Tool formed in 1990 and released their debut EP Opiate in 1992. From that time to now, they have only issued four full-length studio albums. But what makes Tool so monumental is that each release was received with smashing critical success, making them a key player in the prog rock genre. Often mentioned in the same breath as legends like Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and Rush, their musicality has been imitated but never matched. Their fan base is fueled by the four masterpieces that have come before Fear Inoculum. But now the wait is over—Tool is back!

Though you’re likely listening to Tool’s albums on repeat in preparation for the upcoming release, I thought I’d compile a short list of songs by other artists—many of which were recording music at the same time as Tool—that may have taken some flair and influence from the incomparable prog group. 

“Use Me” by GS Megaphone 
One of the biggest things artists take away from listening to Tool is Maynard James Keenan’s extraordinary vocal range and tone. Though the wailing guitars of GS Megaphone’s “Use Me” do reflect bits and pieces of the group, it’s lead singer Benjamin Del Shreve’s voice that brings to light the inspiration pulled from Tool’s signature sound. Though we don’t know for sure if GS Megaphone was getting direct influence from Keenan, it’s pretty obvious what was drifting into the ears of a wide variety of artists that would go on to emulate one of Tool’s most memorable attributes.  


“Pain” by Grammatrain

Grammatrain’s 1997 album
Flying has influence from Tool sprinkled all across its track listing, but “Pain” has a few key characteristics that make it a particularly good example. Not only is lead singer Pete Stewart channeling a Tool-like vocal performance, but their use of sound dynamics throughout the song really mirrors a pattern found in Tool’s music. Lastly, the distortion on the guitar in “Pain” sounds similar to something done in a tune by Tool. Once again, there’s no certainty that Grammatrain was listening to Tool while writing and recording Flying, but whether they realize it or not, the similarities are palpable.


“Never Enough” by The Prayer Chain

Though The Prayer Chain is a bit more pure alternative rock than Tool, singer Tim Taber’s voice shares similar characteristics to that of Maynard Keenan. The full, rounder sounds of his delivery in “Never Enough” draw ties between this underground alt band and the musical giant of Tool. The Prayer Chain’s debut album
Shawl hosts a variety of influences. Though it was released the same year as Tool’s debut full length Undertow, it’s very possible that Opiate EP had some impact on the band at the time of recording.


“Threshold” by Stavesacre

Stavesacre, in my opinion, is a staple in any discussion about faith-inspired alternative rock. Their sound is truly unique, but the song “Threshold” from their debut
Friction bears some resemblance to the works of Tool. Mark Salomon’s voice is nothing like Maynard Keenan’s, but that’s what makes it refreshing when paired with instrumentation that has similar tonal features to the progressive giants. Tool’s Undertow had been released a year before Staveacre’s Friction, so it would be no surprise at all to know that Mark Salomon and the rest of the band saw some sort of effect on their songwriting. Stavesacre would go on to make masterfully crafted music that would be labeled with genres like Emo and Metalcore, but the undertones of Tool found in “Threshold” are obvious to any that give it a listen.


“Gloriana” by Extol

“Progressive metal” is a subgenre used to describe the sound of the Norwegian group Extol. Though their instrumentation does reflect a harder, more metal-inspired sound, the way they crafted “Gloriana” encompasses the exact characteristics of a progressive band. Tempo changes, dynamics, and musical tone are on par with the style that Tool exhibits. Not to mention that lead singer Peter Espevoll delivers a vocal performance that gives even Maynard Keenan a run for his money. If you’re looking for a band that has similar footprints to Tool, look no further than Extol. They exemplify the meaning of progressive rock by producing music that not only has influence from powerhouses like Tool, but also has a unique sound that only they can produce.

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