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Tool - Lateralus CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.21 | 1639 ratings

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3 stars Restraint and reflection, two qualities of great artists, yet entirely missing from Tool's third. This album overstays its welcome by a long stretch. Still, it's the best from Tool so far, even though it keeps repeating their three main tricks ad infinitum, buffing them up with pretentious filler and thin vocals, or whatever Maynard's monotonous narration and tuneless whine are supposed to be named.

So what are the three Tool tricks? The first is obvious: continuous quiet-loud dynamics. My guess is somebody told them it's a proggy thing to do so they started applying it all over the place. I'm not sure though if they really understood the essence of it. On a real prog album there are like 99 levels of volume and intensity inbetween loud and quiet. Not here, what Tool does is mostly an all or nothing attack, either deafening or hushed. This wouldn't have been a bad thing as such, hadn't the raucous moments been as pointless and annoying as the gentle moments are tedious.

The second trick is those short looping bass lines. Songs have little development and next to no melody. Not that that is a necessary feature for me but Tool fails to complement that absence with elements that could replace it, basic musical ingredients such as rhythm, emotion and sound. On emotion we can be very short, there is not much of it, mainly due to Maynard's lifeless vocals, the playing is generally adequate and focussed though. On sound there is little interesting to say, it's the basic drum-bass-guitar rock sound with little experimentation. Regarding rhythm, a more elaborate argument might be appropriate. Rhythm is an important aspect in Tool's music and they aren't too bad at it. This is a band for lovers of bass guitar and drums and this album might deliver for those people. I even find myself enjoying some of it here.

The third typical Tool feature is their lack of talent to come up with anything memorable, and if they do, to keep repeating it for intolerable lengths. I can play each song here 10 times in a row and still not remember one thing about it, except for the fact that it sounded exactly like all the previous ones.

Now, all this criticism doesn't apply to all songs. I just thought it might be interesting to have some Tool fans registering here especially to bash me. The first track The Grudge for example easily surpasses all their shortcomings and is an entirely convincing piece with acceptable dynamics, some catchy riffing, enough ideas for 8.30 minutes and even some real excitement at the end of it. Also Parabola is an acceptable piece of grunge rock and Reflection has always moved me with its brooding dark atmosphere and Eastern flavours. Most other tracks, The Patience and Schism to name just two prove all points I wanted to make: repetitive riffs, inadequate vocals, uninspired melodies and anonymous compositions.

The album has enough moments to push it towards 2 stars, but this is not great prog, nor great metal or rock, maybe it's adequate alternative rock but essentially it isn't much of anything really. Its main value is that it testifies of Tool's defiance to do what they want to do, not to follow trends but to create them. It's something I can always appreciate in an artist and it makes me add - a bit begrudgingly admitted - an extra flattering star.

Bonnek | 3/5 |


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