the tool page

spark becomes a flame

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The Tool Page: An Article


Date: June, 2001

Transcribed by
John Kieran (

 title: Tool CD Review
author: Alex Machurov
Like food, sleep, even sex, music to many of us is a primal 
need -- the sustenance that allows for us to live our daily 
lives in peace, harmony, and mental health. For those lucky 
few, it is the nurturer of our emotions and, without it, we find 
ourselves scratching at the inner hollowness, much like an 
amputee would scratch at a stump. But for the majority of 
those on this earth, music is simply a form of entertainment, 
to be appreciated occasionally when one wills to. Then there 
are the most unfortunate among us, those for whom music is 
nothing but background filler. These, I pity.

To me, music is nothing less than an earthly necessity. Like 
food, I live on it and starve without it. And occasionally, I am 
blessed with a feast of magnificent proportions -- a 
smorgasbord of caviar, fine champagne, and all the finest 
delicacies imaginable.

In 1994, I got a sampling of all these rich tastes when I first 
listened to Tool’s Undertow. I was hooked. Then, 1996 
brought the band’s first true epic feast in the form of Aenima, 
a masterful example of musical grandeur and ambition. It 
was a sonic wakeup call to the world of both heavy metal and 
alternative rock.

Five years later, after what seemed like an almost 
unbearable silence caused by the band’s legal problems, 
Tool has returned with what is easily the most beautiful, and 
equally chilling, releases of the year. Lateralus is Tool at its 
best, blending what would seem like virtually ill-fitting puzzle 
pieces of Heavy Metal, Goth, Prog, Hardcore, Alternative, and 
Space Rock into one, stunningly gorgeous album. Seventy-
nine minutes of brilliance have managed to instantaneously 
wipe out five anxious years of longing for new Tool material.

Like the aforementioned feast, Lateralus is best appreciated 
when consumed slowly, relishing each and every bite as if it 
were your last. Each song must be dismantled and studied 
with an attentive ear. And after careful scrutiny, we come 
away with a few conclusions.

First, on Lateralus, Maynard’s voice is considerably pushed 
back into the mix, allowing the dazzling musicianship of the 
remaining three members to act as the music’s catalyst. But 
by no means is Maynard’s pitch-perfect vox hidden. Instead, 
his saccharine voice becomes yet another instrument.

Secondly, it has become apparent that drummer Danny Carey 
can not tolerate any lulls in his percussive play nor has he 
ever met a drum fill that he hasn’t liked. But, while so many 
other Metal drummers have destroyed their craft by sticking 
in complex fills where they don’t belong, every one of his 
beats seems to fit perfectly within the arrangements of the 
songs. On Lateralus, Carey has introduced tribal and Middle 
Eastern polyrhythms to an already relentless frenetic style.

Lastly, 1994’s Undertow sprung up on a musical landscape 
dominated by the anger and angst of Pearl Jam, Nine Inch 
Nails, and Nirvana and, thus, fit in with the style of their 
contemporaries. Today, many of these bands have 
succumbed to the fickleness of their audiences while Tool 
have let their music evolve with the times. No, you won’t hear 
any similarities to N’Sync or O-Town, but on Lateralus you will 
hear a deeper, more mature understanding of the message 
that the band hopes to send with their songs. As each album 
gets more and more sinister, so does it get more beautiful. 
Tool is no longer satisfied delivering power-packed alterna-
metal anthems. Instead, their songs are longer, more 
complex, and densely textured -- more like movements 
rather than standard rock fare. Maynard’s vocals push the 
envelope from horrific shrieking to syrupy sweet emotions.

Lateralus opens with one of their most massive songs to 
date. The eight and a half minute “The Grudge” packs an 
odd musical measure on top of staccato riffs and rolling 
basslines. And throughout all this, Maynard makes his 
presence known with such lyrics as “Wear your grudge like a 
crown / Desperate to control / Unable to Forgive / And we’re 
sinking deeper.” Time measures shift, guitars chords 
collapse, and by the end of the song you’ll be banging along 
on the inside roof of your car.

“The Patient”, “Schism”, and “Lateralis” each begins with 
Maynard’s crystalline vocals and slowly build to powerful 
climaxes. “Ticks & Leeches” is driven by an awe-inspiring 
octopus-like drum intro but quickly deteriorates into a Korn-
esque evil diatribe. Here, Maynard seems almost out of place 
and momentarily begs the question of whether the band’s 
given into the current disease commonly referred to as Nü 
Metal (“rap-metal”). But this misstep is quickly made to be 
forgotten by “Disposition”, “Reflection”, and “Triad”, three 
separate movements which were originally meant to make up 
one, twenty plus minute song. Instead, the piece was divided 
into three hypnotic tracks punctuated by Arabian percussions 
and Maynard’s ethereal vocals.

The standout tracks on Lateralus, however, are 
undeniably “Parabol” / “Parabola”. Here, Tool have reached 
their musical apex with this ying-yang pair. Where “Parabol” 
is a calmly introspective introduction complete with Maynard’s 
evocative and floaty vocals, “Parabola” explodes with a 
catchy, powerful riff and driving drum track. “Parabola” is by 
far the album’s most accessible and glamorous song. 
Maynard’s harmonies are infectious and you will be humming 
along to the chorus for days on end.

The seventy-nine minutes of Lateralus will surely leave the 
listener exhausted and emotionally drained. Knowing Tool, 
this reaction is exactly what the band had hoped to 
accomplish with Lateralus. Once you’re done with this feast, 
you might have to simply sit back and take a few deep 
breathes. Then spring right back up and start all over again.

by Alex Machurov

Posted to t.d.n: 06/30/01 23:51:00