We last heard rumbles of a new TOOL album this past Spring, when Danny Carey announced the band would be heading into the studio this past summer.
That means the band should pretty far along in the process by now, right?
Maybe! A new post by the webmaster of their official site gives us some hope. The band seems to be pretty far along, instrumentally with new music.
Something that might be encouraging to some Tool enthusiasts is that while riding with Danny to Chili John’s yesterday, I heard a lot of new Tool music (sans Maynard). This was the most new material that I’ve heard so far, although a few of the riffs and arrangements were familiar. So, what did I think? Dare I say that it sounded like… Tool (some of it reminiscent to earlier Tool stuff, with other parts pushing the envelope), and I assume that it will sound even more like Tool once the vocal melodies, etc. have been added. To answer your next question, I cannot say how far along in the writing process the band is. If I had to GUESS, I would say more than half way (and keep in mind that in the past, at least, the writing went faster once the first few [more complex] songs were finished).
As Metal Insider points out, the band has been announced for Ozzfest Japan in May, so could they be anticipating having a new album out by then? May is only five months away, and with the way labels work, that means the band would have to be done with the album by March for it to have enough time to be released.