One of the albums we're looking forward to the most in 2012 is the fifth studio album from the masters of art metal -- Tool. The band has been writing the new material for some time now, leaving everyone curious about whether or not the highly anticipated follow-up to '10,000 Days' will surface in the new year.

Tool has been a band since 1990. In their 20+ year career they have only released four full-length studio albums, each more progressive than it's predecessor. Tool have set the standard for thinking man's hard rock, delivering a more intellectually stimulating experience than the Five Finger Death Punches and Nickelbacks of the world -- while rocking just as hard (if not harder). Their next outing will no doubt be massive in terms of scope -- the only question is when will we hear it?

Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan has been busy with other bands of late -- his side project Puscifer just released their sophomore record 'The Conditions of My Parole' and are in the midst of embarking on the second leg of the supporting tour. Prior to that outing he had reconvened with A Perfect Circle for a limited tour run in mid 2011. Now that his schedule seems to be opening up a bit, Maynard will hit the road with Tool for some dates prior to the next leg of the Puscifer tour this January.

Though it is unlikely they will play any new songs on the tour, once those and the Puscifer dates have passed (March 18th being the last) -- Maynard will likely get more involved Tool's next album. In October he gave a status report on the new material and explained the band's creative process to Loudwire:

“I’m allowing them [the other members of Tool] their space to do what they do, so we’re still in that mode. Even if they told me how close they are to being done, I couldn’t tell you because if I say 60 percent people will start counting down. When it’s done everyone will know. But I haven’t done anything yet. They write forever and then we go in and knock it all out. We’re writing. We’re writing vocals. But nothing’s solid. With Puscifer, there’s ideas and then we’ll record stuff. Then we’ll go back and change stuff and fix stuff and record new stuff before we finally put it all together. But with Tool, we practice jams, but there’s no actual recording going on until it’s time to record.”

There has been no indication of what direction the new material will go, but if their back-catalog's natural progression has taught us anything -- the new record will be heavy, melodic, weird, and brilliant. Hopefully we get to confirm those assumptions in 2012.