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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: The Onion A.V. Club

Date: March, 2002

Transcribed by
Paul Morie (morie@uiuc.edu)


  page: 
 title: 
author: Joshua Klein

Tool
Lateralus 
(Volcano)

With only a pair of overblown albums to its name, Tool didn't appear
prepared to weather the grunge recession. But somehow, the band's
brand of metallic bombast outlasted its contemporaries' angst, and
today hard-rock fans consider Tool a paragon of integrity bobbing,
beacon-like, above a sea of mediocrity. In this case, the fans may be
right. Bypassing the usual paths to stardom, Tool won its following
the hard way, through constant touring and uncompromising (if
pretentious) artistry. In a time of overlong albums, Tool proudly
pushes 80 minutes with Lateralus, its hotly anticipated and
immaculately packaged third disc. Whether due to the band's ambition
or just its inner Rush, Tool heartily embraces prog epics, daring fans
to hold on and radio stations to sacrifice their precious airtime to
tracks that push 10 minutes. But the labyrinthine, often lugubrious
songs do present a true alternative to current trends: complex
compositions that at least offer the illusion of intelligence—even if,
under their technique-driven veneer, they never summon more than Black
Sabbath's dopey demonology. The disc opens with the tribal "The
Grudge," an immediate response to the pithier music singer Maynard
James Keenan made with his successful side project, A Perfect Circle.
The eight-minute track cascades through a series of dynamic shifts in
volume and complex time signatures, where the occasional 4/4 respite
sounds as radical as a 7/8 bridge would seem in most pop songs.
Keenan's strong vocals keep the music from delving too deep into heady
wank territory, which is Tool's secret: For all its indulgences, the
group rarely resorts to rapid-fire solos. That approach distinguishes
"Schism" and "Parabola" from typical metal dirges, or even such
obvious predecessors as Metallica's ...And Justice For All. Tool's
songs are long because the band takes its time, resisting show-offy
displays of speed in favor of texture and minimalist mood, borrowing
key elements from Far Eastern music and industrial rock along the way.
Tool's nuance demonstrates the difference between demanding patience
and endurance, keeping listeners on edge with surprises and sinewy
melodies that frequently resolve themselves miles (and many minutes)
away from where they started. Sure, the band might be fooling itself
by even bothering with different song titles, let alone by allowing
space between the tracks. "Reflection" single-handedly takes up a huge
chunk of Lateralus' running time without doing much to differentiate
itself, duration aside. There's simply not much to distinguish one
tricky 10-minute track from, say, two slightly shorter tricky tracks,
especially considering the conspicuous absence of Roman numerals. But,
even though the songs' tail-chasing, number-crunching tendencies
ironically result in a samey-sounding album, they lend Lateralus a
sense of suite-like cohesion that gives the music more majestic import
than it probably deserves. —Joshua Klein

Posted to t.d.n: 11/25/03 17:52:46