Publication: Total Rock
Date: April, 2001
page: title: Magnificent Tool author: Andy King OK, I have to slap my cards straight down on the table and say right off that this is the shit, it's the Dog's Bollocks, it's the Bomb... yes, it really is the Tool album I've always hoped for since 1996 but often secretly feared to expect. Clocking in at a few seconds under a CD player-testing 80 minutes, Lateralus contains all those vital and paradoxically perverse, er, Tool qualities which mercifully keep out emotional sissies and musical lightweights. It is, as one would have hoped, intense; introverted; innaccesible; uncomfortable; cerebral; contrary and challenging. Yep, it's a good old fashioned, Tool-shaped mind f**k and absolutely none the worse for that. This is a monstrous and immense work which has the power to allow one to leave one's own body without the use of artificial stimulants; to bang one's head and commit power chords to air guitars without caring if anybody's watching; to weep with racking and soul shuddering gasps at the soaring beauty between the power and the darkness and warmly to laugh at this pioneering bunch of irritants' musical inventiveness, cheek and swagger. It contains not songs, but opuses which confirm that the standard of Tool's musicianship is incalculably greater than any other band in the extreme music genre - and arguably any genre of modern music in the entire world today. Lateralus is an album which confirms (the relatively obvious to all longtime and obsessive Tool fans) that this is, indeed, a band unarguably in a league of their own. Comfy within themselves and head and shoulders above the rest. It is, if you like, Tool for the new millennium. Musically, two particularly striking band features hit almost at once: Firstly, Danny Carey's drumming is, simply, now extra terrestrial. Undoubtedly, a human being should not be able to achieve such excellence and intensity - armed only with two legs, two arms and two sticks. At times lending new meaning and savagery to the word 'tribal' - one is left with the conclusion that if Sepultura and Soulfly consider their beats to be tribal then, at many times on Lateralus, Carey's drumming must be the last thing one might hear as a hundred headhunting cannibals scoop out your brains to go with their paw-paw and rice. Secondly, and not at all worryingly, is the comparitive lack of Maynard James Keenan's hallmark vocals - especially in the even more outstanding and really rather heavy second half of the album. Granted, A Perfect Circle's ballistic success meant a strange and disconcerting interruption to band unity resulting in all sorts of nu- fangled computer boffinistics to assemble the tracks - but, believe you me, there is no hint of fracture or distance in the resultant songs on this album. It is amazing just how cohesive Lateralus is, given the disparate means of songwriting involved. Lateralus is an album that sucks you in further and further as it goes along and here, with timings and my - completely subjective - marks out of 5 (1 being good and 5 being life-alteringly outstanding), are this Tool fanatic's track-by-track comments: 1) The Grudge 8.34 Carey's tribal drummings make their entrance as an introduction to Maynard's soft vocals which lead into a typically light/heavy Tool fan-pleasing opener. Precision instrumentation notable from the outset. The ending is soooo heavy that the sudden, vicious silence after the track's ending might send you permanently round the bend.  2) Eon Blue Apocalypse 1.05 Noodly oddness we've all come to expect and smile at between songs.  3) The Patient 7.14 Aenima-tinged outing featuring very Maynard vocals. Ultra heavy in parts.  4) Mantra 1.12 More inter track oddness which sounds like slowed down whale song played down a very long, high diameter petrol pipeline. Skunk weed best avoided.  5) Schism 6.43 Lead track to radio features a great precision bass intro leading into counterpoint layered vocals of the sort no other rock band could even think of attempting. Unusual scumbling beat almost spells f-u-n- k before a monstrous ending which features what feels like a thousand floor toms butt f**king a platoon of bass drums.  6) Parabol 3.04 Soft and fluffy interval oddness not a million miles from bitsa APC.  7) Parabola 6.02 Undertow-tinged classic with a driving metal feel. Raging Keenan vocals into fine Adam guitar stuff which almost feels Iommi-esque. Uplifting, off the beat feel turns very Sabbath-y towards the climax.  8) Ticks and Leeches 8.07 Stunning. Undertowish start quickly gains a more Opiate feel as Tool show Slipknot pups how to do rage and menace. Elastic and angry, raw 'n' rough-edged. Quiet mid-section kicks back into classic Tool heaviness leading to a breathtaking, EST-inducing finish as Maynard megaphonically and menacingly repeatedly demands 'Is This What You Wanted?? Is This What You Had In Mind??'. F**king killer.  9) Lateralus 9.22 The title track scoops the best track honours by a Wasp's sting. Opening with a marching beat which almost recalls sea shanties of yore. That hypnotic, tribal drumbeat again f**ks with a twangling, elastic off the beat funk style before dropping the listener dead in his tracks with an absolutely awesome, monster ending.  10) This Position 4.46 Much softer and a bit of an APC-tinged breather. Bass-played-like-a- guitar start grabs attention and reminds of Tool's superlative musical excellence. Tool at their prettiest. Butter wouldn't melt in their mummsy little mouths as MK happily hums the mantra 'Watch The Weather Change'. Somehow one suspects pink clouds are nowhere near.  11) Reflection 11.08 Leads me to invent a new sub-genre... 'HypnoProg' as those tribal drums indicate menace close by - yet again. Then Indian instrumentation. Yes, Indian. Like Ravi Shankar-on-crack Indian. This is a heavy, groove-laden thing. Very heavy and very groove-laden indeed. Do not attempt to listen to this alone, stoned, in a dark room. You might never claw your way back into reality. My surprise, almost equal, favourite track on first listen.  12) Triad 6.37 Hard to follow the last track but a blisteringly heavy start with mild industrial flavourings and a Rollercoaster ride feel still make it a notable closer.  13) Faaip De Oiad 2.39 Slightly irritating Die Eier Von Satan, electrical sizzling-type almost hidden track which serves wonderfully to prompt a hit the 'album replay' button reflex and no doubt has the band giggling to themselves as they wonder what the real Tool obsessives might read into its inclusion.  Awesome. But don't take my word for it (as if you would). Buy it and decide for yourself.
Posted to t.d.n: 04/13/01 13:37:15