First, a few things to know if you're not already a fan. This is a long album, something like 4 seconds short of being as long as it could be on a single disc. Its also not lightweight stuff, so if you're checking out Tool as a result of APC, prepare for a bit of a shock.
Anyway, this is Tool's 3rd full, proper album (counting the '92 Opiate EP as an EP and Salival as a stopgap, rather than a "real" album). Their previous albums were Undertow in '93 and Aenima in '96. Lateralus was released in May 2001, so it took them a while to make (although obviously it wasn't the full five years - Maynard was busy recording/touring APC, etc). Anyway, on to the tracks;
1 - The Grudge (8:36)
This is a slow burning track, driven mainly by the percussion and Maynards mantra-like vox. The lyrics seem to be (on the surface) literally about a grudge, about a (slow burning) hatred for someone, though expressed more poetically than most people could probably manage. Oddly the song starts with what sounds like a washing machine switching on, before launching into the huge groove that it stays on for the full eight and a half minutes. Also worthy of note is Maynard's scream about 7 minutes in - lasting almost thirty seconds, surely one of the greatest ever recorded (for greatest, listen to Lord Worm of Cryptopsy in Open Face Surgery). One of my personal favourite tracks.
2 - Eon Blue Apocalypse (1:04)
3 - The Patient (7:14)
As these two tracks run together, I'll review them together. The beginning of EBA sounds very eastern to me, very mystical. It doesn't so much launch as slide into another very long song, The Patient - on the whole a much quieter track than the opener; that is, until huge guitars lash into it later on. The ideas are again expressed in lyrics better than anything I could ever imagine myself, and seem to focus on a different aspect of a grudge - someone doggedly trying to keep a relationship alive. I don't feel I can give this song full marks, as although it is fantastic, it doesn't leap out at you during your first few listens, and I think thats what reviews should concentrate on.
4 - Mantra (1:12)
5 - Schism (6:47)
Again, they run together. Mantra isn't a song as such, it is just a segue into Schism. I have heard many theories of what the noise on it actually is, from whale song, to the sound of a cat being squeezed by Maynard, slowed down immensely.
Schism is the track you will most likely have heard if you're not already a Tool fan, as it was the first (and as far I know, the most successful) single off of the album. Its begins with one of the most instantly loveable basslines I've ever heard - its not so much a hook as a harpoon; it will
get stuck in your head. The lyrics continue the so far recurrent theme of a grudge/enmity, this time concentrating on the actual rift, the distance between the two (ie the schism).
6 - Parabol (3:04)
7 - Parabola (6:03)
The next single (together), and one of the heavier songs on the album. The first part (Parabol) doesn't seem so; in fact, it returns to the relaxed take shown in the Patient. The music is generally softer and slower, concentrating more on Maynard's softly sung vocals. It then explodes into Parabola, with searingly loud guitars and a much more energetic musical showcase, while retaining the same lyrical themes from Parabola. Maynards vocals remain relaxed for most of the song before he injects more power in to them later on.
8 - Ticks & Leeches (8:10)
Probably the loudest song on the album, it definitely contains the harshest vocals - it apparently took Maynard three weeks to recover his voice fully after recording it, and, as far as I know, has only been performed live once. It is again very much percussion driven, a real showcase for Danny, along with some searing work from the other instrumentalists. The lyrics, and vocal style, are angry, bitter and strong.
9 - Lateralis (I've got one of the misprinted albums, so its keeping an "i") (9:24)
Starting off with a gentle and memorable repeating guitar bit, this track definitely lulls you into a false sense of security before jumping off with a huge riff. This is probably my favourite track on the album. The vocals are mantra-esque, as in The Grudge, which (for me) makes the release with "feed my will to feel this moment" later on an almost perfect moment.
10 - Disposition (4:46)
11 - Reflection (11:07)
12 - Triad (8:46)
Disposition is a slow track, with simple, repetitive lyrics and repetitive, beautiful musical work in the background. Its only 4 1/2 minutes long, but seems a lot longer - its almost perfect for relaxing to if you don't wanna have to concentrate on what you're listening to. Its almost like music for meditation.
Reflection links perfectly in from Dispositon, and its a long wait for vocals - all the better to appreciate the musical skills the band possess in the buildup. The vocal style is much less relaxed than the rest of the album (though not quite so tense as Ticks and Leeches). Maynards voice takes on a slightly higher pitched quality, which suits the track well.
Triad is an instrumental, segued into from Reflection. Its good, but only in the same way as Disposition is good for relaxing to, or as a showcase for the musicians skills, which is impressive.
13 - Faaip de Oiad
"Secret" track (which is actually listed on the back of the case) - not a song as such, it is actually a recording of a phone call made to a morning radio show, from a man claiming to be on the run from his former employers in Area 51. He was spieling it seriously, which equals uneasy comedy if you like that sort of thing (I do:)). It is played over what seems to be white noise (to add to the callers mysterious effect)...the title is in Enochian, which is the language of the Angels as dictated to a man in the 16th century (called Kelley) and his assistant, in visions (I bought a book on it after getting hooked on the album). It means (I think) roughly Voice of God (anyone correct me").
Anyway, it should be obvious by now that Lateralus isn't a small piece of work - it'll take a while to digest, but it couldn't be more worth it.
Tool are (on this album)
Maynard James Keenan - vocals, and a bit of guitar on Disposition, I think.
Adam Jones - guitar
Justin Chancellor - bass
Danny Carey - percussion.