Publication: The Dallas Morning News - Arts Section
Date: May, 2001
page: 11C title: Power Tool Hammers Out Serious Hard Rock author: Teresa Gubbins (NOTE: On a scale from A+ to F, this album was given a B+) More so than any of Tool's prior records, Lateralus is not something you listen to casually. Produced by prog-rock king David Bottrill, it is a thick steak of a record, one that requires serious surgery to get into, plus plenty of time of digestion. With its complexity, time changes, and explosive bursts of musical solos, listening to it is nearly a physical experience. It is a bold return for this Los Angeles hard-rock band, following five long years without a release. (1996's Aenima was followed by the music industry meltdown and various ensuing business problems.) The delay may have derailed Tool; Aenima came just as the band was crossing the bridge from being one of rock's most fiercely beloved cult bands to becoming supremely huge. What made Tool's members, especially singer Maynard James Keenan, such powerful role models was the way they faced down personal adversity and became even stronger. They were one of the first rock bands to combine tales of a relationship dysfunction with intensely powerful music that served as a metaphor for their ability to survive. It was the big stick they carried, and they wielded it with precision. But in the five years they've been out of the loop, half a dozen Papa Roaches rose to clone their approach and saturate the market. Luckily, Tool has evolved. Lateralus doesn't feel as furious or alienated as the old Tool, perhaps because Mr. Keenan has had a self- affirming run with his other band, A Perfect Circle. Singing about fractured family life and abuse is perhaps not as fulfilling as it used to be. Instead, this record draws on themes of weather and natural forces as metaphors for relationships and personal growth. Mr. Keenan is like a Walt Whitman of the hard-rock set. "Reflection" recommends that we "watch the weather change" in a neat metaphor for dealing with changes in mood. Bongos and sitar-y guitar form a tip-off that this song is dealing with spiritual issues. "Ticks & Leeches" feels like a musical storm passing through; it's followed by a cleansing calm and finally capped by a cathartic wail. But Lateralus is, at heart, a prog-rock disc. That wiry guitar on "The Patient" is sheer Yes. The round, airy synth of "Schism" is vintage Genesis. Its lyrics include the phrase, "I know the pieces fit," repeated mathematically to match the precision of the music. And for good measure, it's all wrought large enough to override any lingering noises in your head.
Posted to t.d.n: 05/25/01 13:54:29