Every Tool Album Ranked from Worst to Greatest


Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Travis Shinn

Here are Tool’s albums, ranked from worst to best by Audio Ink Radio

It goes without saying that there is really no “worst” Tool album. All of the Maynard James Keenan-fronted outfit’s five studio albums have been an opus of their own making. But, some Tool albums do stand above the rest.

Tool formed nearly three decades ago, and although they only have five studio albums to their name, each of those releases is so intricate and celebratory that their catalog is as rich as bands with gobs of albums out. Over the years, Tool have established themselves as one of the most prominent and influential in progressive metal, as well as one of the only prog-metal bands to really capture the mainstream.

In 2019, as a treat before the new decade, Tool finally released their fifth studio album, “Fear Inoculum,” which was roughly 13 years in the making. The band’s debut full-length, “Undertow,” dropped in 1993, so Tool are coming up on the 30th anniversary of that record in April of 2023.

Read on for Audio Ink Radio’s conclusive list of Tool’s albums ranked, from worst to greatest. Reach out to us with your picks on Facebook here.

7. “Salival” (2000)

While “Salival” wasn’t an official studio album, it deserves a spot on this list, if anything for pure recognition of its existence in Tool’s discography. The band’s 2000 box set is often overlooked, but it features a bevy of cool live tracks, covers and other unique songs. Notably, the set features Tool’s performance of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” and celebrated live version of “Pushit.”

6. “Opiate” (1992)

“Opiate” marked the unofficially start of the Tool train. The EP arrived in 1992 and marked the band’s first release, packing some tracks that were re-recorded from their demo tape, as well as some live cuts. The sound of “Opiate” wasn’t totally representative of what to come, as it featured less of the prog-influence for which Tool would be known, but with heavy atmospheres and weighty themes, it captured the attention of fans from the get-go.

5. “Undertow” (1993)

While “Opiate” marked Tool’s first real release, “Undertow” brought the band’s first full-length studio record. Released in April of 1993, just over a year after “Opiate,” “Undertow” is pure imagination, showing the beginnings of what would become one of the decade’s most influential bands. “Sober” is the perennial hit off “Undertow” and remains one of Tool’s most popular songs of all time.

4. “Fear Inoculum” (2019)

It would have been impossible to drum up more anticipation for Tool’s “Fear Inoculum” album. Arriving in 2019, the set came 13 years after their previous release, after Tool fans had almost given up hope on ever getting new music from the band. But, as they say, it was worth the wait. Clocking in at 86 minutes and nine track length, this set has no filler, with every second serving a purpose. The darkness and layering of “Fear Inoculum” makes it one of Tool’s most interesting releases.

3. “10,000 Days” (2006)

At the time, Tool fans didn’t know they would have to listen to the band’s “10,000 Days” record, well, for 10,000 days before getting any new music from the band. This turned out to be Tool’s final release of the decade, and they didnt’ release another studio album until 2019’s “Fear Inoculum.” But, if there was an album for Tool fans to hang onto for that long period of time, this was an apt one. With mesmerizing sonics, complex song structures and Keenan’s menacing vocals, there’s plenty to love about “10,000 Days” and its lead singles, the raging “The Pot” and “Jambi.”

2. “Ænima” (1996)

By 1996, Tool were already hot, but “Ænima” served as the band’s introduction to the commercial music world. The album exploded, thanks in part to uber-popular lead single “Stinkfist,” and really put Tool on the musical map. On “Ænima,” Tool mastered the art of crafting music that was true to them but also popular with the mainstream. “Forty Six & 2,” “Eulogy,” “Third Eye” and the album’s title track are just a few of the record’s songs that quickly became fan favorites.

1. “Lateralus” (2001)

If there was any question as to whether Tool were a prog-metal band or not, “Lateralus” ended that debate. The group went full-on prog with “Lateralus,” serving up spiraling, magical instrumental passages and deep, turbulent vocals. If someone has never heard of Tool and is looking for a snapshot of what the band is about, “Lateralus” is it. The album features one of Tool’s most celebrated songs of all time, “Schism,” which features one of the most recognizable bass intros in heavy music. “Lateralus” is also a juxtaposition, garnering Tool much airplay despite its six minute-plus songs. It’s a true classic and watershed release, making it No. 1.

Anne Erickson
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Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Music, Rock

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