Battle of the Bands: Tool Vs. A Perfect Circle

Tool Vs. A Perfect Circle

How do you like your alternative grunge-metal? Do you prefer it be dark, disturbing, complex, and utterly insane? Or are you more in the market for an ethereal, beautiful, melodic, and totally depressing  sound? Either way, Maynard James Keenan has got you covered. As the front man for both Tool and A Perfect Circle, Keenan delivers two distinctly different kinds of music, along with two distinctly different attitudes and outlooks on life.

Since 2000, when A Perfect Circle was formed, fans have been debating which band is actually better. That’s why we have devised this handy guide, a primer on the best and worst qualities of each band. Read all about it, and then draw your own conclusions about who you like best. Don’t forget to vote and comment in defense of your favorite!





Tool is one of the most innovative rock bands of the past 30 years. They created a sound that, at its most basic, could be described as progressive grunge metal. However, even that is too general a description of what Tool does. They have a complex, original sound, laden with time and tempo changes, irregular rhythms, and guitar effects rarely heard anywhere else; 20 years after their debut, they still don’t sound like anybody else but themselves.

In addition, a Tool album is far more than just a collection of unrelated, entirely downloadable singles. Songs are tied together as one big story (provided you play them in the correct order,) incredible and surreal artwork is featured throughout and, in the case of 10,000 Days, 3-D goggles were built right into the jewel case, to help the liner notes’ photography literally jump out at you.

Then you have their videos, which are some of the best in the business. They produce short, disturbing films that don’t usually make sense, but are incredibly interesting all the same. And they almost never feature the band members, who prefer to tell their twisted tales through stop animation and imagery seemingly unrelated to the song.

A Perfect Circle



Maynard’s other band, A Perfect Circle, is way more accessible and radio-friendly than Tool. Their songs feature melodic guitar riffs, relatively basic tempos and rhythms, actual vocal harmonies, and far less anger and screaming on Maynard’s part. If music that sounds like it was created in a nightmare is not your thing, then perhaps you should give A Perfect Circle a try.

In addition, they’re more prolific than Tool in many ways, even though they haven’t really been an active band in eight or nine years. They formed in 2000 and went on hiatus in 2004 but, in that short span, they managed to release three albums. That’s the same amount Tool has put out in their last 17 years as an active group. If they had not moved on to other projects, there’s a good chance they would have released at least three or four more albums between ’04 and today.

Speaking of APC’s albums, their last one, eMOTIVe, was surprisingly political. This from the singer who wrote in the liner notes for Tool’s Aenema, “Beliefs are dangerous. Beliefs allow the mind to stop functioning. A non-functioning mind is clinically dead. Believe in nothing.” Espousing political views was an incredibly interesting route to take, showcasing that Maynard actually had opinions on topics outside of pure darkness and bleakness.


Tool music is awesome, except there barely IS any. The band is notorious for releasing albums at a snail’s pace, and have only released four full-length studio albums since 1993. Nothing at all has been unveiled since 2006, and no word has come out on when to expect anything.

And then when Tool DOES put out music, it’s oftentimes very dark and disturbing, with tons of swearing, allusions to drug use, graphic depictions of sexual abuse, and references to choking infants, along with an entire song devoted to why California should be drowned by a tsunami. They have an incredibly dark and dry sense of humor (such as recording what sounds like a Nazi rally, but in actuality is a cookie recipe recited entirely in German,) which many will not understand and ultimately be turned off by.

Many people also get turned off by the very same complex music that makes Tool so original. Quite simply, it’s TOO complex for those who just want straight-up rock and roll. The constant time changes, and irregular rhythms that aren’t guaranteed to remain constant for more than two bars at a time, make it next-to-impossible to dance to. A regular 4/4 beat, the kind most popular songs use, is a rarity.


Of course, eMOTIVe suffers in many people’s eyes by being comprised of almost nothing but cover songs, bringing APC’s original album count down to two. The covers were all drastically altered from the original, to be sure, but they were cover songs all the same. Only two original songs were recorded, and one was basically an extension/remix of an earlier APC song, its status as an original is debatable, to say the least.

In addition, quite a few fans actually blame A Perfect Circle for changing Tool, influencing them to become more melodic and less dark and angry (even though Tool was still quite dark and angry.) Maynard screamed less and sang more after APC began; Maynard even alluded to it in Tool’s song, Schism: “The circling is worth it, finding beauty in the dissonance.” Unfortunately, to many old-school Tool fans, this new-found beauty was quite the turn-off.

Finally, A Perfect Circle’s music videos were not nearly as original as Tool’s. Most featured the band, had no real plot or surreal storyline, and were just variations on the band-playing template that most videos fall into. That lack of innovation from one of the most innovative minds in music can be considered disappointing, to say the least.

And Finally…

Music is one of the most subjective topics on the planet, but when one man oversees two distinctly different bands, comparisons are inevitably going to be made. This is doubly true when one of the bands reinvented hard rock music, and is considered one the most original and unique bands in history. So which do you prefer? The dark, disturbing, angry band that has a sound almost exclusive to themselves, or the ethereal, harmonic, melodic alt-rock group with a prettier, more mainstream sound? Don’t forget to voice your choice with a vote.


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1 Comment

  1. Randy October 1, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Your evaluation was absolutely spot on.

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