Publication: Hit Parader
Date: December, 2001
page: 32 title: Tool: A Step Above author: Todd Johnson Maynard James Keenan has a unique way of dealing with the world around him. To a somewhat innocent observer, it might very well appear as if Tool's charismatic vocalist remains unruffled and unfazed by just about everything that comes his way. No matter how intense a musical situation may get, how riled and rowdy a concert crowd may appear, the ever-cool Mr. Keenan always manages to keep the proceedings in order through the sheer strength of his will. If truth be known, however, there were moments throughout the last four years that severely tested Keenan's mettle. There were the lengthy legal fights with Tool's record label-- which ended only when that company essentially went out of business. There were the interminable recording delays as the band battled against their label's sagging commercial fortunes and sought a release from the firm's restrictive grasp. And there were the headaches associated with knowing that some of the best years of Tool's musical life were slipping right through the fingers of Keenan and bandmates Adam Jones (guitar), Danny Carey (drums) and Justin Chancellor (bass). But now with the success of the band's long-awaited new album, "Lateralus," and the incredible demand for tickets to the group's eagerly- anticipated concert tour, it seems as if Keenan can begin to put his super-cool facade firmly back into place. "We've proven that we're survivors," Keenan said. "We've had to face a great deal over the last four years, but we've come through all of it in a very positive manner. In fact, a lot of the emotional turmoil that was caused by what went on around us proved to be of some benefit--that emotion was what was behind the writing of a lot of the new material. It really helped give shape to this whole album." It would be hard to miss the emotive impact that fuels each and every song on "Lateralus." While such past band efforts as "Undertow" and "Anema" (sic) were only too content to delve into a dark, disturbing world filled with creepy-crawly lyrical images, Tool's latest outing often comes across as a primal cry of anger, pain and frustration. Perhaps only this decidedly off-center West Coast band could have used such an intense emotional palate as the foundation for the hauntingly beautiful and immensely powerful songs that fill this magnum opus. Tunes like "The Grudge" and "Schism" are, quite simply, unlike anything else one can hear anywhere else on the contemporary music landscape. In both design and execution, these are songs that loudly and proudly delve into the deepest recesses of the human soul, and then revel in what they reveal about mankind's often sordid and sorry condition. "One of our big goals on this album was to expand the audience that might hear it," Keenan said. "It's not that we've gone out of way to change what we do to try to acquire a wider audience, but I think that there's no way we can be viewed as one of the metal bands that's out there today. We'll always be a four-piece rock band, but we haven't been afraid to throw a few things in there this time to shake things up a little." Clearly Tool has been shaking things up ever since they first hit the rock world nearly a decade ago. While initially this L.A.-based unit was lumped in with the majority of that era's other heavy metal bands, as soon as fans began to delve under the surface, and notice both the ugly images and beautiful harmonics that lurked within the Tool realm, it became clear that this unit was much more than a "mere" metal attraction. Indeed, throughout their stop-and-start career (where the band has released albums at alarmingly intermittent intervals...with no apparent negative impact on either their commercial status or their artistic elan), Tool has managed to create a legacy quite unlike that of any other contemporary band. By equally mixing together fundamental elements of Pink Floyd's ethereal nature and Metallica's sonic bombast, this quartet has carved out a very special niche for themselves within the upper crust of hard rock society. "The success we've had has been very rewarding," Keenan said. "Since we don't release an album every year, we know there is the chance of losing some people with short attention spans. But I think we'd all agree that having people recognize what we do for its artistic quality is even more important than any commercial recognition we may get. That's why we all admire bands like Pink Floyd. Their old albums are still selling today, but those sales are not the first thing you think about with them. You think about the quality of the music. That's what we want too." It would seem that with the success of "Laterlaus"-- which has now emerged as the group's third consecutive multi- million-selling disc-- Tool's legacy as both a commercial and artistic force within the rock and roll world is now more secure than ever. Undeniably, their unique ability to present the most compelling, uncompromising brand of hard rock without sacrificing one iota of their sales appeal places them among the most significant bands of their era. At a time when the likes of Limp Bizkit are producing instantly disposable music designed expressly to satisfy the watered-down tastes of the masses, the role a group like Tool must play within the contemporary music hierarchy becomes even more important. Clearly, in 2001 Tool has emerged as leaders of the hard rock realm, a band capable of walking the fine line between New Metal ideals and "classic" metal appeal. They are a group that seemingly everyone, everywhere can relate to on a most visceral and compelling level. "Making great music isn't about running around in limos and having your face plastered all over 'Entertainment Tonight'," Keenan said. "I think there was something of a void created in music at a certain point in the late '90's when a lot of interesting, challenging bands seemed to take some time off. Because of that other bands managed to get noticed-- for good or for bad. Most of that stuff wasn't very good, and it became popular mainly because there was a demand out there that needed to be fed. Hopefully, with our help, bands that have a somewhat different way of doing things-- and a different perspective on the world-- can start making an impact again. I think that's important."
Posted to t.d.n: 11/06/01 01:28:29