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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Rolling Stone RS870

Date: June, 2001

Transcribed by
Lindsay Giles (

 title: Tool Lateralus
author: David Fricke

You need time to deal with Lateralus - a lot more than the 
seventy-seven minutes it takes just to play the whole disc. 
And for much of that time, you will wonder: What the fuck is 
going on here? Drums, bass and guitars move in jarring 
cycles of hyperhowl and near-silent death march. The mix is 
inside out - roiling percussion and grunting bass to the fore; 
the singer bellowing from the far back of the band's black 
roar. And where is the melodic and narrative resolution in this 
crushing darkness? Do these asymmetrical chunks of 
distemper - one-minute sound games, jumbo two- and three-
part suites - even qualify as songs?
So much of Tool's third full-length studio album - five years 
in the waiting, due in part to extended legal turbulence - 
makes so little sense at first. But that is one of Lateralus' 
most endearing qualities: It rolls out its pleasures and 
coherence slowly, even stubbornly. Most of the so-called new 
metal has the dramatic heft of thin air. But the L.A.-based 
Tool - guitarist Adam Jones, vocalist Maynard James Keenan 
(back from his other band, A Perfect Circle), drummer Danny 
Carey and bassist Justin Chancellor - are obsessed with 
weight, the cumulative force of muscle, imagination and 
immaculately wrought suspense. Tool have everything it 
takes to beat you senseless; they proved it on 1993's 
Undertow and their 1996 Grammy-winning beast, Aenima. 
Here, Tool go to extravagant lengths to drown you in 

The prolonged running times of most of Lateralus' thirteen 
tracks are misleading; the entire album rolls and stomps with 
suitelike purpose. In "The Grudge" (8:34), "Schism" (6:43) 
and "Lateralus" (9:22), the episodic swerves are compressed 
under single titles. Other numbers run together like 
connective tissue. "Parabol" and "Parabola" are basically 
distorted reflections of each other, twinned images of the 
same nightmare. In "Parabol," Keenan's voice is bathed in 
wet, gray echo and crawls like a wounded man through the 
implied devastation of Carey's hissing cymbals and 
Chancellor's gaunt bass lines. "Parabola" is the emotional 
remix, an explosive rescoring of that agony with the 
additional payoff of hard-won deliverance. Carey goes into 
jungle-telegraph overdrive, and Jones' guitar is a colossus of 
distortion; his break just past the midway point is so broad 
and dense with fuzz that it doesn't seem to have any notes - 
or air. You could die of suffocation in there.

"Ticks and Leeches" needs every one of its eight minutes to 
reach its bloody apogee. The song is an opera of nervous 
tics: the vicious chop of the central hook; a sudden drop into 
virtual nothing; the cleaving effect of Keenan's charred 
screaming; a final triple-time freakout. Some sections stop 
on a dime, in mid-rage; the quiet bit is a serious test of 
patience, a long veil of faint strum and smothering peril. But 
each of those changes is a potent, necessary link in a 
snowballing indictment of parasitic evil. When Keenan goes 
into his climactic seizure ("Suuuck! Meee! Dryyy!"), he sounds 
like he's truly up to his neck in harpies and lawyers.

In another era, Lateralus - co-produced by Tool and engineer 
David Bottrill - would have been considered progressive rock, 
ten tons of impressive pretension. Jones' hairpin riffing 
in "The Grudge," the cool, dreamy intro of "The Patient" and 
Carey's frenetic Afro-Zeppelin drumming all over the record 
suggest a grand mutant blend of vintage Jane's Addiction 
and King Crimson circa Larks' Tongues in Aspic. The only 
things separating Pink Floyd's spacewalk "Echoes" - which ate 
up Side Two of 1971's Meddle - and the twenty-two-minute 
sequence of "Disposition," "Reflection" and "Triad" on 
Lateralus are thirty years and Tool's impulse to cram every 
inch of infinity with hard guitar meat and absolute dread.

But in this heavy-music century, awash in masks, turntables 
and Ming the Merciless goatees, Lateralus stands for a 
vanishing common sense in hard rock: that the only 
extremes that matter are those in the music. Indeed, the 
most amazing thing about Lateralus is Tool's extraordinary 
restraint. One reason why these songs seem to go on forever 
is that the band never rushes a good idea: the soft, 
protracted tension of "Disposition"; the Arabic-metal jamming 
in "Triad."

But the reason you don't keep checking your watch is 
because Tool never play like they're just killing time. "I 
know/The pieces fit," Keenan swears repeatedly against the 
rolling thunder of "Schism." Lateralus is a monster of many 
parts, made to be swallowed whole. (RS 870 - June 7, 2001)


Posted to t.d.n: 06/07/01 02:52:22