the tool page

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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Entertainment Weekly

Date: May, 2001

Transcribed by
Joe the Article Transcriber (

  page: 76
 title: The Drab Four
author: David Browne

Argh...they did it again: Lateralus, the return of prog-
metalists Tool finds them grumbling like its still 1999.

Remeber the good old days, when rock stars were all torment 
and self-loathing?  Alas, the tortured soul long ago became 
an endangered species.  Kurt Cobain is seven years gone; 
his peers, from Chris Cornell to Eddie Vedder to Billy Corgan, 
have lightened up, at least a little, or gone back 
underground.  Although the new generation of rap & rollers 
has plenty of issues with the world and the humans who 
inhabit it, their anguish isn't the same.  They're showmen 
who genuinely enjoy themselves on stage, and their anger is 

directed outward not inward.  Besides, why would Kid Rock 
feel the urge to off himself?  He's apparently too busy 
shuttling between Pamela Anderson and Sheryl Crow.

It's into this brave-new-world scenario that monolithic art-
metalists Tool return after a six-year layoff.  The band burst 
out of the Hollywood rock scene a decade ago, and the 
anguished wail and self-flagellating stance of singer and 
lyricist Maynard James Keenan were very much of their time.  
But nothing else about the band was: Tool played elongated, 
musicianly prog-metal, a sharp contrast to the punky roots 
displayed by their grunge peers.  Over the course of two 
albums, one EP, and a boxed set, they became something of 
a metal version of the Grateful Dead.  Like that band before 
Jerry left the building, Tool followed their own game plan.  
They didn't write songs (or "singles") as much as labyrinthine 
epics.  They became anti-stars who worked hard at their 
mystique, never appearing in their own videos and rarely 
including photos of themselves on their albums.  (On stage, 
Keenan wore more masks and costumes than Genesis-era 
Peter Gabriel.)  This determined integrity has led to more 
than 100 websites and a huge fan base willing to follow them 
anywhere-even to a side project like last year's A Perfect 

Tool also work at their own pace.  Lateralus is only their third 
album of new material since 1993, and it reflects only the 
most modest shift in their big, lumbering thud & roll.  By now, 
they have their own formula down cold:Start each song with a 
creepy rumble, whip it into a frentic rage, slow it down for a 
gentler interlude, then rev it back up for the finale.  It's the 
sound of a giant beast slowly rousing from a slumber, raising 
havoc, and then settling back in again.

''Lateralus'' reasserts Tool's strengths: the way guitarist 
Adam Jones plays an ever shifting array of wormy riffs and 
avoids guitar solo clichés; the way Maynard James Keenan's 
voice shifts from full throttle bellow to subtler singing, with a 
brief bit of Middle Eastern phrasing along the way; the 
bludgeoning power that results when Jones, drummer Danny 
Carey, and bassist Justin Chancellor lock in together. Then 
there's the impressive way Keenan stretches out the 
word ''suck'' to 10 full seconds in the bile filled attack ''Ticks 
& Leeches.''

Keenan also supplies ''Lateralus'' with its occasional new, and 
welcome, changes. As always, he's more than happy to pick 
over every mistake he ever made in life and pummel his 
brain senseless in the process. (He's still the overthinking 
man's headbanger.) He makes like he was born to suffer 
in ''The Patient'' and castigates his ''narcissism'' 
in ''Reflection.'' But in a sign that he too is wearying of the 
Tortured Young Man shtick, Keenan appears to be 
reaching out to other people with something other than a 
baseball bat. It's hard to state that as fact; Keenan's lyrics, 
as always, remain elliptical. But ''Parabol'' and ''Parabola'' 
seem to be about lovemaking (''Recognize this as a holy gift 
and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing,'' he 
sings in the latter). The entire lyric of ''Mantra [sic]'' is ''I love 
you. [sic]'' And the romantic turmoil alluded to in ''Schism'' 
isn't all naysaying: ''Doomed to crumble unless we grow, and 
strengthen our communication,'' he consoles, unexpectedly.

For all of Keenan's explorations, though, ''Lateralus'' 
repeatedly takes one step back. It isn't simply that formula 
is formula. The music has a clean, fluid flow but sounds thin 
blooded and far less visceral -- freeze dried -- next to newer, 
younger Ozzfest regulars, like Staind, who have followed in 
Tool's wake. Also, the band has admitted in interviews that 
the three musicians worked on the tracks while Keenan was 
off touring with side project A Perfect Circle, and the effect is 
noticeable. At times, his generalized musings seem to 
have been grafted onto the slithery melodies at random. As 
much as Keenan wants to break out of his mold, at least to 
some degree, the band keeps pulling him back 
in. ''Lateralus'' leaves you admiring Tool's principles while 
wishing they'd spent the last half decade getting out more.

Posted to t.d.n: 09/19/01 12:17:53