Tool, like so many good bands out there, bear the luxury of having fans that will follow them to their grave. Wisely they use this to their advantage. As everybody knows, the space between one Tool album and another is generally about six years. Having such die-hard fans also enables Tool to push their sound further and further; knowing that almost anything they release will still be well received must be a good feeling for them. With this information in mind, it brings to me their third full length effort: Lateralus
. The previous album, Aenima was a success in nearly every way. While Undertow and Opiate were both solid hard rock albums, they were really only a small taste of what was to come. Lateralus however, showcases Tool at their most refined stage of their career; more so than the experimental and controversial 10000 Days. Track 1, "The Grudge" is proof enough of this. The production is far better than in Aenima, Maynard’s voice is more polished, and Justin Chancellor has cemented his position in the band. The last two minutes is some of Tool’s best material, with Maynard letting out an angst-ridden, 20 second scream, and Danny Carey going absolutely ballistic on the drums. The song ends with Maynard yelping 'Let Go' repeatedly, before some heavy riffing from Adam finishes it off. Overall, The Grudge is a great opener to the album.
It is songs like "Eon Blue Apocalypse" that make me cringe when thinking about Tool’s music. They basically serve as useless filler; and sadly this album possesses several tracks like that. While I was impatiently waiting for the next real track, "The Patient" is up next. With its decidedly dodgy lyrics, (Maynard sometimes has a habit of getting ahead of himself) and uninteresting basslines, it has forced me to conclude that this song is definitely not one of Tool’s finest. It simply cannot hold my attention for very long making it a pain to sit through. Unfortunately, after The Patient we are greeted with more useless filler. By this point, I was getting rather impatient and restless. It worried me that after four tracks, only two of them weren’t fillers, and one was not particularly interesting. But to my relief, "Schism" sees us getting somewhere again. Justin Chancellor is particularly noteworthy here, laying down some of the best basslines of his career. The slow section towards the end is again some of Tool’s finest work, with Maynard crooning: Cold silence has a tendency to atrophy any sense of compassion
. (Don’t even ask me what those lyrics are meant to mean, I have no idea.) More top class drumming from Danny and the song dies down.
Whether you hate or love the album, there is no denying Tool is one of the most pretentious bands you will ever encounter. What other band do you know incorporates the Fibonacci sequence into one of their songs, and then lets their brain washed fans figure out the deeper meaning? The title track is the one I am referring to here; and boy is that at least a superb song. Starting slow with Adam Jones contributing some awesome, chilling guitar, Carey and Chancellor eventually join him at around the minute mark. One of Tool’s best attributes is their ability to compliment each others respective instruments so well. Quite often you can spend hours trying to figure out if that weird sound is bass, or guitar. This is used as a weapon against the listener, and makes their music a really satisfying experience. Overall the title track is possibly the best song so far at track 9; it best emphasizes the point that these guys are talented musicians that really know what they are doing. "Parabola" is another true classic here. As soon as it begins the listener is smacked in the face with heavy guitar and drums. Maynard’s voice is particularly dreamy here and it works really well with the music. Adam and Justin again, towards the end of the song create the illusion of ‘is that bass or guitar’, and it sounds great. The lyrics are sadly, near incomprehensible like with most Tool songs. I’m sure they have a 'deep meaning', but I am not one of those fans who is willing to spend hours trying to figure out what they mean. Don’t get me wrong, I generally like Maynard’s lyrics, but on this album in particular he is often guilty of getting ahead of himself.
The thing about Lateralus is, when it wants to impress it succeeds. "Ticks And Leeches" is a metal monster that literally rips you off your seat as soon as it begins. Danny Carey holds the spotlight for the entire duration of the song and executes his fills with ease. Justin Chancellor once again shows the listener why he is considered one of the best bassists in the world, and Maynard shows us yet another side of his voice that we do not normally hear; he uses a Hetfield like, aggressive growl. Yes, the lyrics suck, but this song is instrumentally driven, meaning the average lyrics are not too
much of a pressing issue. Sadly for the listener, the album does not finish off on a high. After the title track the album essentially ends. The trio of "Disposition/Reflection/Triad" is a little too short on ideas to really be another Tool epic, with "Reflection" being particularly average; while Danny’s fills were impressive at the beginning, they lost credibility after being played repeatedly for 11 minutes, without variation or change. Maynard also feels the need to sing like a girl, and it just doesn’t work. "Faaip De Oiad" is more useless filler before the album ends. Thanks Tool.
To conclude, even though Lateralus has some true classics, it suffers from average lyrics, questionable tracklisting, and too much filler material. If you are new to this band I suggest you check out Aenima and 1000 Days first, then you can eventually purchase Lateralus. A good album overall, but not Tool’s best.