Tool’s Danny Carey: His 10 Best Songs

One of the hardest things a musician can accomplish is to have their own sound, a musical signature that makes them instantly recognizable whatever the song, whatever the context. Think Eddie Van Halen, Slash and Jimi Hendrix.

On drums, Tool’s Danny Carey is one of the few to achieve this level of achievement and recognition. He’s unmistakable, from his polyrhythmic fluidity to his towering power and expansive vocabulary, so to celebrate the man and his mastery of the four-limb art, here are ten killer cuts from Carey’s catalog.

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10. Legend of the Seagulls – The Fogger (2018)

Nautical tales and muddy heaviness collide on this track from the supergroup of Mastodon’s Brent Hinds, Dethklok’s Pete Griffin and vocalist David Dreyer. Carey’s signature tom-tom work appears in the tumbling runs around the kit. There’s a quick drum break leading into the midsection, and the outro, with the drums locked in perfect sync with Hinds’ guitar, really couldn’t be anyone other than Carey.


Although Invincible might be relatively small compared to the rest of Tool’s output, this Inoculum of Fear The track features Carey at his best, weaving serpentine drum grooves that slide over and around Adam Jones’ menacing, breathless guitar riff. The outro ramps up the intensity, with Carey balancing heaviness, power, and originality in a way that lesser drummers can only gaze upon in wonder.


8. Adrian Belew – Ampersand (2005)

Former King Crimson vocalist/guitarist enlisted Les Claypool of Carey and Primus as the rhythm section on his 2005 solo album side one, and the result was a mix of technical magic and unbridled mayhem. Carey never let go of the pedal in ampersandunleashing a frenzied bass drum and tom-tom beat for the main groove, hitting accents on the snare drum, until it all finally turned into pure percussive mayhem.


Small acorns grow mighty oaks and it proves with Ænema prefer Forty-six & 2, which begins with Carey tickling his cymbals over Justin Chancellor’s gnarly bassline. When the full band kicks in, it’s a showcase of how to navigate standard 4/4 time without playing a conventional offbeat as Carey twists the groove into weird and wonderful shapes.


6. Volto! – Tocino (2013)

Carey has often spoken of his admiration for jazz and fusion legends Tony Williams and Billy Cobham, and Volto!, the band he formed with guitarist John Ziegler, allows him to fully express this aspect of his playing. . Tocino is a smooth fusion workout with a funky Carey undercurrent and, true to form, a highly melodic use of tom-toms.


Lateral corner stone The Grudge begins with one of those drum licks that could only be Danny Carey, creating the groove and setting the pulse of the song while expressing a melodic idea on the drums. He never limits himself to playing the role of timekeeper, maintaining a constant musical dialogue with the rest of the group throughout The Grudgemultiple gear changes.


pneuma is another daunting display of Carey’s command of unusual time signatures, with one of the main patterns changing meter with each bar. His range is on full display here, from the articulate tom-tom of the mid-section, a testament to his tabla studies with master Bengali percussionist Aloke Dutta, to the swaggering, doomy heaviness of the post-chorus.


A tumult of an air that proves that virtuosity and overwhelming power are not mutually exclusive. The bridge section is polyrhythmic, with Carey playing a hi-hat pattern in groups of 3 against the bass drum and snare rhythm in standard 4/4 time. It’s precisely the kind of deft, creative groove that makes Carey’s playing so distinctive – and hard to imitate.


Tool’s fourth album, 10,000 daysopens in a punishing style with the intimidating complexity Vicarious. The track is an onslaught of offbeat syncopations and odd meters, but Carey cuts through it with his usual dynamism and intensity. The melodic runs around the kit in the outro, as the drummer locks in with guitar licks from Adam Jones, are nothing short of breathtaking.


Lateral is a numerologist’s field day, with the syllables of the lyrics following the Fibonacci sequence, where each new number is the sum of its two predecessors. This idea extends to Carey’s drumming in the chorus which runs through bars of 9, 8 and 7 beats, referring to 987, the sixteenth number in the Fibonacci sequence. And somehow he still grooves like a beast.

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