faced with constantly appreciating legal and financial difficulties from their record label Volcanic and former manager, rumors quickly circulated that Tool would soon disperse in the same way as The Verve, Rage Against the Machine, and At The Drive-In: at the very apex of their artistic careers. Ænima became a critic's darling, a headbanger's feast, and a musical statement all at the same time. though Undertow was also lauded, it seemed more of a primer than anything else. the release of Lateralus in 2001 was a breath of fresh air and an acknowledging wave from the band that, no, they weren't going to leave.
but i think the real threat that Tool would break up came from Maynard's "side" project, A Perfect Circle. it's only a "side" project because it began after his career with Tool; there is nothing parenthetical about the music and/or the musicians. Billy Howerdel had worked with The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, and even Tool as an engineer and co-producer; Troy Van Leuwen was a guitar for the near divine space rock group Failure; Josh Freese has worked with groups like Abandoned Pools apart from being one of the most revered drummers; and Paz Lenchantin, now with Zwan, brings equal power and restraint to the group. with a roaring tower of artistic competence levied in Tool's absence, i would have been a bit scared too. Mer De Noms is one hell of a deviation from Tool's more cerebral and philosophical tone because it instead strives to be visceral and immediate. "Judith," the first single and a [possible] song about Keenan's late mother, rides sonic waves with such proficiency that it seems like a misdemeanor. Keenan changes from melodic incantation to furious scream, capping off the song with about a 30-second long vocal wail. the single seems to represent the rest of the album: though feminine, it doesn't simply try to convey innocence or fragility. the title of every song is a story, one open to a pandora's box of interpretation. never has post-Grunge[!] been this masterful.