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Tool - Lateralus CD (album) cover

LATERALUS

Tool

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.21 | 1595 ratings

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mental_hygiene
5 stars I started reviewing Tool albums in late august. I was pretty productive with it until I hit Lateralus. This is the big one, the one I've been looking forward too. I literally listened to EVERY track on undertow knowing that something good was coming. Aenima was a bit of that prize, it was an album I wasn't expecting to enjoy as much as I did. Then, I hit Lateralus. It might've been that it was on a road trip, but I didn't get it. It's so much more laid back and spacious, very little of the "in your face" values of their last two. Whereas the last 3 Tool releases were confrontational, Lateralus is like that pool of souls from Hercules.

My criticisms from my first listen (that I took note of) was that this was long and possibly boring. So I tried again and again for about 4 listens doing the usual idle things I do while listening to music (minecraft!!). Then, I put this on while working out. This actually helped me hone in on the first half of the album, through the opening of Ticks and Leeches. But, if you're running, the extended ambient sections starting at that point kill the energy when you need it most.

The Grudge is an awesome track, something that I always found engaging. While the palm muted riffs on the guitar manage to chug along at a rather even pulse, the track never speeds up where it doesn't want to. Danny Carey masterfully plays with the guitar line to build energy or take it away when need be. There's a lot of development that happens in its runtime. "Wear the grudge like a crown" becomes a connecting motif with a characteristic rhythm that pulls together every section. Almost everything repeats at some point, but it's never the same. There is also nothing like the scream around 7 minutes in. The Grudge is also a great introduction to the more thematically mature and introspective Tool. 10/10

Eon Blue Apocalypse is an echo filled ambient interlude that builds from tremolo picked guitar and sets the stage for the Patient. Fun fact, I knew this song before Schism because its name was also the name of a preset in some lighting mod I had for Fallout: New Vegas. That aside, I hated the patient when I first heard it. I can't explain or rationalize how I felt from an experience that happened 2 months ago, but it still stuck with me until I started running to Lateralus. Now I recognise it as another fantastically developped song. The vocal delivery between 3 and 4 minutes is a great moment. The first time I really started to appreciate Adam Jones' riffing was exactly the 2nd time I ran to this, and I just had a moment of awe at 5:30. So much comes together at once that it's hard to process. How do you explain the way a great chord change makes you feel? I think that's a fool's errand, just listen to the track. 9/10

Mantra is another cool interlude that reminds me of what being underwater sounds like. Next comes Schism, a track that has a riff that, while cool to play, does not work out of context. I loathed this song for the longest time because all I knew was the riff. If Schism was just the first section of the song, I would probably not like this song at all, but thankfully we exist in the alternate universe where Schism is a whole 6 minute song. But really, the first half is just a pickup to the second (and better) half. Tool is at their best when they use harmony, and especially vocal harmonies. "Cold silence has a tendency to atrophy any sense of compassion between supposed lovers". That's a mouthful of a lyric, but I couldn't think of a better way to phrase it than what happens here. 8/10

After the relative upbeat-ness of Schism (which is a lie) , everything comes down to a crawl with Parabol. This is a quasi-religious meditative song, brought to you by a band that was literally founded as a dick joke. Now that's what I call progressive. What I just wrote does sound pretty sarcastic, I think it does hold true. I mean, we can put it aside when Devin Townsend has done the same thing, so why not for Tool? On the note of "pain is an illusion" we hit Parabola, the best Tool song. This song actually has the greatest Adam Jones solo, it's tasteful and doesn't at all feel technically limited nor showboat-y. I'm trying to put to words something that is grand but not ecstatic or self- celebratory. Please listen to Parabola. 10/10

What I like about Ticks and Leeches is how much energy it throws at you. This is the heaviest vocal performance thus far in Tool's catalog. Juxtaposed with the spiritual introspection of Parabola is Tool's diss to the music industry. I think it makes thematic sense, having all this introspection put against the harshness of reality and egoism. At risk of becoming vain, Ticks and Leeches cools down for the middle section. The guitar vamps while an angry... rant or whisper (it's hard to tell) goes on quietly. It's almost like this song lights a fire and then immediately extinguishes it and sifts through the ashes, and then it remembers why it started that fire and goes right back into it, but with greater command and maturity. 8/10

Lateralus is another highlight of rhythmic prowess and a great sense of how to develop a song. While Danny Carey hits a tribal pattern on the toms, MJK starts chanting about colors. You have me 100%. But I love the chorus, "Overthinking, over analyzing, separates the body from the mind". It's not just a music thing, it's something that actually made me pause and think about the way I go about music. We have our own experiences of music that are very much entrained reactions to physical phenomenon. When you think about it, analyse it, you risk creating that experience as a monolith within your mind, something that you did not perceive or digest in any way. When this happens, you have a (drumroll) schism between your body and mind. Point is: accept your experience, live through your experience, think about your experience, but if you try to block it into every detail so that it makes sense to maybe a computer, you've lost the experience that made it important to you. That was a great lesson that this album gave me, and I really hope this doesn't come across as pretentious nonsense because I felt really moved by this. 10/10

Around this point I was trying to understand the final quarter of this album. You might think that it would be a matter of substances as per usual when trying to "get" stuff that is progressive or psychedelic. I found the opposite was true, just my opinion. It makes it harder to latch onto anything, which may make the droning parts cool, but the active parts (aka the whole other half of this album) breezes right by without a thought. So I exercised again, but this time I lifted weights through Ticks and Leeches, took a break for Lateralus, and ran for the rest.

Disposition is a collage of guitar harmonics and some really soothing buzzing noise. There's a lot sprinkled in here, like an acoustic guitar. It all forms a cohesive and almost ambient drone. After some distinctive percussion comes in, a very pitch shifted guitar signal starts sparkling from above. This fades into Reflection, which continues to be meditative in the same vein. This is a hard song to keep track of, and I think that's the point. It's not ambient, but it does just "happen" in front of you. There's a lot of reverse-reverb chanting and guitar tracks that come and go. By 7 minutes, the song has snuck up on you. Reflection is the most fluid song off of Lateralus. 9/10.

Coming second to last is Triad, a very menacing prog metal instrumental. What I think is really interesting is how cyclic it feels without necessarily being predictable. The first half of it is spent building up to a climax that happens 3 minutes it. This is an exhiliarating finale to the album in that the next track is the cooldown to this, but not in a traditional sense at all. 9/10.

Faaip de Oiad is terrifying. There's something about the way the manic drums and disturbing electronic noises combine with the area 51 call that gives it a sinking feeling. This reminds me of the experiences I had when I was younger watching Aphex Twin music videos like Rubber Johnny and Come to Daddy. Tool took this prank call and essentially turned it into a lynchian nightmare of a finale. 8/10.

I went through many phases of inner conflict, hours of listening, and 2 scrapped reviews in the process of trying to "get" Lateralus. I felt really driven by the fact that this is at the top of the post-metal charts. While I've been cynical about Tool, there's no questioning here that they made something worth listening to at least once. I'm glad I kept pushing myself to listen to this because I think that Lateralus is an essential album of 2000s prog.

mental_hygiene | 5/5 |

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