Browsing Tag

Tool first hit it big with their third major release Aenima, one of the most fluid and innovative alternative rock albums in recent memory. In 2001, after years in production, Lateralus was released. When you first open the CD case and find the accompanying booklet of a muscle-tissue man, it gives an idea of what the album may contain. The booklet is full of anatomical design; each page adds a new layer of bone, veins, or muscle. Lateralus is much the same! The album makes a full progression from metal anthems to otherworldly, 13-minute elegies.

What first stands out is Maynard James Keenan’s fresh, versatile vocal performance, fueled by his liberating lyrical selection. His voice perfectly fits over the whirlwind of sound and poetry about regret and empowerment. The drumming/percussion is also extremely well done, sometimes featuring additional drummers to cover a wide array of beats, especially in the later songs, such as the instrumental “Triad“. The production and use of electronic dubbing works great to counteract the guitars and drums. The real power of Tool comes from the raw electric guitar, however.

The album begins with “The Grudge,” which reminds everyone that Tool can still rock hard even if they have lightened up a little in the latter songs. Perhaps the best song–and biggest hit–on the album is “Schism,” which fuses metal and “mental” rock together. “Parabol” begins a successful two-track transition from acoustic chanting to electric modern praise of life that will make you want to go out and make the best of the day, with lyrics like, “Recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this chance to be alive.” “Ticks & Leeches” is the opposite, reminiscent of Tool’s earlier albums. It is this diversity which makes this such an experience.

Beginning with “Lateralis” (yes, its spelling differs) to the final track, the band has pieced together another lust-for-life mantra of sorts. The former song is similar to “Parabola” in message, but is quite a bit more epic. “Disposition” and “Reflection” seem to take this even further, with the latter sounding as if it would not be out of place in an African tribe ritual. Lateralus is a perfect combination of mantra, poetry, and metal that moves and inspires all who listen. The way each instrument plays off of each other to create this atmosphere is what separates Tool from most alternative rock or metal bands today. They are more versatile, not limited to mere adrenaline fodder. Without the addition of this album to their repertoire, Tool’s full potential probably would not be realized, even if Aenima is fundamentally superior.

It seems as if Tool has created an amalgamate of ideals in Lateralus. How does a band that rocks so hard make its listeners think so much? Many of the following songs repeat a single message: grab life by the horns, know your limits, and be patient. Because of this, the music is almost contradictory. It is a very enjoyable album nonetheless, and might even inspire ambition in its listeners to go out and seize the day!