Publication: Metal Hammer
Date: June, 2001
Axel Cline (don't have one I'm afraid)
Axel Cline (don't have one I'm afraid)
page: 14 title: Freak Scene author: Tommy Udo The story so far… Tool came bursting out of the West, contemporaries of Soundgarden, Nirvana, Shirley Temple Pilots et al, forging a new take on rock and roll, a Hegelian synthesis of metal and punk (a smart-ass way of saying that they fused together two styles that -- until that point -- had seemed like polar opposites), releasing first the sheet-metal- tearing riff-fest that was 'Undertow' and then their 1996 masterpiece 'Ænima', an altogether more complicated and adventurous record. Grammy Awards, big sales in the real world and massive stadium tours followed and Tool were unique in having an uncompromising and 'difficult' sound yet the ability to appeal to a mass audience. Absolutely smashing, and all that. Then things started to go sour; the band were sued by their label Zoo after they allegedly started shopping around for a deal elsewhere; Tool counter- sued claiming that the label had not exercised their option to renew the contract and that the band were therefore free to go elsewhere. Lawyers did a lot of talking and a stalemate ensued. The band were on the road touring in the immediate period after 'Aenima' was released and in truth it isn't that unusual for a band to take a few years to make a follow up album (hey there Axl Rose!). But with the release of A Perfect Circle's debut 'Mer De Noms' -- featuring Maynard James Keenan and his amazing wig on vocals -- in 1999 and the phenomenal success that the band enjoyed, people started to ask questions about the future of Tool. The impasse between band and label -- coupled with last year's sacking of manager Ted Gardner -- meant that it was hard to get any kind of clue as to what was going on. In interviews, Keenan maintained that Tool were still together and that a new album would be forthcoming, though he also hinted that all was not necessarily sweetness and light in the camp. "We are definitely competitive people, so whether those guys will admit it or not, they definitely feel competitive," said Keenan, shortly before embarking on a ride that would see APC supporting Nine Inch Nails, eventually selling out their own headliners and snaffling a platinum album that appealed more to the nu-generation mosh-brats who were normally to be found at Marilyn Manson, Korn and Slipknot shows. Tool, meanwhile, went into the studio to start work on what would eventually become 'Lateralus', sending material to Maynard on the road and maybe secretly praying that he would actually come back. Things fell into place when Zoo was bought over, changed its name to Volcano and instead of going to court with Tool ended up signing a three album deal with them. Earlier this year, 'Salival' a DVD/video and rarities package arrived with definite news that a Tool studio album was hot on its heels. Now read on… Despite what you may have heard and what Maynard may have said, there was a definite feeling in the Tool camp that A Perfect Circle's success was serious shit. Although APC were a very different band from Tool, a lot of fans went to see them and bought the album for that little bit of Tool that's in there. But 'Mer De Noms' was a more unashamedly commercial album; it was the younger brothers and sisters of the Tool fans who were getting into APC and frankly they saw bands like Tool as part of prehistory. "I think we were all frustrated with everything that was going on," admits Danny. "Maynard was always going to do these songs with his roommate and that was fine. But eventually we were just hoping that he was going to come back." Tool's last show together was at the Coachella Festival in 1999 and the last recorded evidence was on ' Divorced', a song on The Melvins' album 'The Crybaby' which featured all four members, though not all together. The rest of Tool weren't exactly inactive, however; Danny was drumming with Pigface, guitarist Adam joined Melvins drummer King Buzzo (who also appears on the live version of Zeppelin's 'No Quarter' included on 'Salival') in an experimental band called Noiseland Arcade (named after Bart's favourite hangout in 'The Simpsons'). But was there a time that they thought that it was all over for Tool? "Oh yeah, but that was at a time when we really weren't communicating with each other," says Danny. "Once we sat down together and actually started talking about things and telling each other about what we were feeling about what was going on, it was fine." Danny later goes on to say that at their best, Tool have occasional bouts of telepathy with each other when they're playing, something that's rare in most bands. One of the tracks o the new album 'Schism' seems to sum up what was ahppening before they got together again: " I know the pieces fit cuz I watched them tumble down/No fault, none to blame it doesn't mean I don't desire to point the finger, blame the other, watch the temple topple over/To bring the pieces back together, rediscover communication." Tool is a democracy: "All Indians and no chiefs" as it said on the 'Opiate' t-shirt. All of them contribute to songs. All have a say in how the band is run. All bring in ideas. Although Justin replaced original bass player Paul D'Amour just before 'Aenima', tt would be hard to imagine Tool surviving without Maynard. Not many bands/artists can sustain parallel careers; George Clinton with Parliament/Funkadelic, Ozzy with the reformed Sabbath/solo career and Mark Lanegan with his own solo carerer and Screaming Trees (until they split, obviously) spring to mind, but it IS possible. Like 'the seven year itch' in a marriage, it was a make or break time for the band and thankfully they decided to make it work. For the sake of the kids… There's a large measure of paranoia surrounding 'Lateralus'. Interviewers are being vetted by the band. The record company are denying that artwork and a tracklisting which has cropped up on an unofficial band site is genuine; it later transpires that it actually is the packaging of 'Lateralus'. There are no advance listening copies; instead the record company have set up a playback at a West London studio to which assorted UK and European journos are invited. This is due in no small part to the fact that 'Vacant', a track that is part of Maynard James Keenan's Tapeworm project (see sidebar) was previewed live last year before a select audience and ended up on Napster less than an hour after the band had left the stage. Keenan was furious. "The music is not yours to give away," he told fans during a webchat on the A Perfect Circle site. "The ones who get hurt by MP3s are not so much companies or the business, but the artists, people who are trying to write songs," he elucidated. Recent releases by Korn, Eminem and Limp Bizkit have cropped up on file swapping sites like Napster and imitators like Gnutella and Audiogalaxy weeks and sometimes months before they were officially released. Band and management are determined that this will not happen with the new Tool album. "It's just really that we create our albums as a whole," drummer Danny Carey says. "We think very carefully about everything. The artwork on the packaging and the videos are all an integral part of the album. We want to control the way that our music is presented to people. It's not so much that we oppose things like Napster but it takes control over the creative process away from what we do." "Once it's actually released we're not really too upset," says bass player Justin Chancellor. "After that I suppose it all goes to spread the word…" Weirdly, there have actually been 'fake' Tool tracks doing the rounds on Napster; japesters that they are, Tool have allowed fake tracklistings to circulate. Some band somewhere saw this as an opportunity to punt their own music, giving their own tracks titles from the phoney album. 'Lateralus' itself clocks in at a weighty eighty nine minutes; the tracks average out at around six minutes, kicking off with the pulverising 'The Grudge' and splashing down with the mighty triptych of 'Disposition', 'Reflection' and 'Triad' (actually, there's one of those zany 'secret' tracks after a few minutes but that doesn't really count). 'Schism', which is to be the first single from the album, is as close as it ever comes to a radio friendly tune. "We've always had record companies and management who tell us that the way to do things is to tone the music down, make it more radio friendly," says Danny when we meet up the day after the playback. "But I think of bands like Led Zeppelin who never went down that road yet were still immensely popular." That's not to say that 'Lateralus' is some unlistenable overlong piece of experimental shit; very far from it. It's an angry record; 'Ticks And Leeches' sounds like an attack on the world, on the press, on Napster, on anyone with expectations about Tool: "Hope this is what you wanted/Hope this is what you had in mind/Cuz this is what you're getting/I hope you're choking. I hope you choke on this." But it's also far from monolithic; 'Reflection' is a soaring epic, repetetitive and hypnotic, almost mantra-like. The lyrics, particularly 'The Grudge', are also rich in occult symbolism (the title of the secret track, 'Faaip De Oiad' is supposedly means 'Voice Of God' in Enochian, the language of the Angelic Orders discovered by Queen Elizabeth I's court astrologer and spymaster Dr John Dee). From the cover art by psychedelic mystic painter Alex Gray onward, 'Lateralus' is Tool's most mind expanding -- yea, even visionary -- album to date. And the title? "Another made up word," says Justin. Ladies and gentlemen, the missing link between 'Master Of Puppets' and 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. Received wisdom once held that the first wave of metal -- Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Deep Purple et al -- was a reaction against the mind expanding music of fey hippy bands like Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead and The Jefferson Airplane. In 1967, it was all Paisley pattern khaftans, white magick, Eastern mysticism and the kids wanted to drop LSD and go tripping off to Middle Earth with Donovan on the Dansette and strawberry joss sticks burning in the ashtray. But in 1972 what they wanted was to wash down so many qualuudes with cheap wine that all they were actually aware of was Geezer Butler's bass thumping them in the chest as they dribbled puke down their great coats. Psychedelia was when all the A-Level kids started expanding their minds on acid, who wanted to explore the cosmic highways to a Soft Machine tune and maybe to see a world in a grain of sand, heaven in a wild flower etc etc. Metal was sniffily dismissed as the music of the thickies and brickies who didn't so much want to expand their consciousness as blot out what there was of it with sheer bloody volume. To call Tool a psychedelic band is not to accuse them of some sort of half-baked Oasis-style exhumation of a long dead style; nothing that Tool have done over the past eight years or so sounds remotely like the leavings of Doctor Strangely Strange or The Incredible String Band. And while many groups are starting to re-explore the explosion of demented and deranged sounds from roughly 1966 until 1971 -- most notably stoner crews like Nebula, Spirit Caravan, Sea Of Green et al - - they do tend to skim the surface, attracted to that fuzz/wah wah guitar sound or the vivid back-in-the-mix vocals where all the needles are in the red and the reverb is up to full. Tool's take on psychedelia is more profound; they go straight to the soul of the acid rock experience. "It's not something that we consciously did," says Danny. "It's a continuation of what we've done up until now. We go into the studio and we all bring along things which may or may not end up in the songs." Nevertheless, there's a definite quality about the album that suggests a familiarity with mind altering chemicals which begs the question; when did you last drop acid, man? "Oh well about a year and a half ago," says Danny, a tad guardedly. Was it a good trip? "Yes, it was," he says. "I mean, I'm not for one minute suggesting that people should go out and do drugs. It's not so much what you take as the circumstances you do it in and what it is that you bring back with you. I mean, if you just go off on your own and freak out you maybe don't have anything to bring back. I think it's unfortunate that these drugs are lumped along with the really destructive ones that are tearing the inner cities apart. These drugs have a shamanic use. Also nobody gets rich off of them. You don't get people who become millionaires as psiliocybin runners, you don't get mescaline dealers shooting people." The late Bill Hicks -- a mate of Tools, as it happens -- used to say that psychedelics were placed here by God to accelerate human evolution. Years of booze, cocaine and heroin use has taken a big toll on rock and roll; not so much in lives but certainly in IQ points. It has produced some sort of de-evolution, an irrationally angry celebrity neanderthal who can't quite communicate properly. Maybe, as 'Lateralus' proves, it wouldn't be such a bad thing if rock and roll started to walk upright again. Check back soon for the next installment.
Posted to t.d.n: 06/03/01 01:52:24page: 60 title: Lateralus review author: Johnny Paracelsus TOOL Lateralus (Volcano) At an hour and 20 minutes, Lateralus' is a pretty vast chunk of music to digest and with tracks averaging around eight minutes, merging into one another, it's an album that you can't really dip in and out of. Sit down, boys and girls, because you've got to be there for the whole trip… Like its predecessor 'Aenima', production is by David Bottrill who has previously worked with prog rock maestros King Crimson (who will support Tool on their US dates) and there's more continuity between 'Lateralus' and 'Aeima' than between 'Aenima' and debut 'Undertow'. Opening with 'The Grudge', a slow-burning percussion driven track that stops and starts and winds its way through several tempos in a way that sounds improvised, like a telepathic jam session. You can almost hear the calls of "MUUUUMMMMYYYY!!!!" from those who came to the band through the more unashamedly commercial A Perfect Circle. Aside from the single 'Schism', a dark and gothic near-ballad with a gorgeous bass riff and stacatto guitar chords that stick in your head like a harpoon, there aren't any tracks that concede to the lowest-common- denominator demands of stupid-pop TV and ignorance-glorification radio. From the hallucinogenic trance-like 'Reflection' to the bitter and scathing 'Ticks And Leeches', from the uneasy comedy of hidden track ' Faaip De Oiad' to the monolithic heaviness of 'Parabola', 'Lateralus' is a big territory to explore and defies any attempts to glibly sum it all up. Tool have delivered an album that is epic in scope, vast in conception and uncompromising in its execution; it's proper serious heavyweight rock on a par with Led Zeppelin's 'Physical Graffiti', Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' or Metallica's 'Master Of Puppetts' and it towers above a sea of faceless marketing-led dumbed-down whingeing Nu- Oedipal brats like Godzilla above a cardboard Tokyo. (8)
Posted to t.d.n: 06/03/01 01:54:39