Date: May, 2001
page: title: Not With A Whimper, But A Bang author: Christopher O'Connor No one — save, perhaps, troubled teens who need the comfort — should walk away with thoughts of the depression, blackness and illness scattered all over Lateralus, an 80- minute juggernaut and an all-out war on brevity. On this, Tool's third full-length album and first since 1996's Aenima, the band continues to rock in the Rush/Metallica eight-minute flexathon tradition: it may impress you with individual lines, but in the end, it excels mainly at musical gymnastics. While lead singer Maynard James Keenan can capture the essence of a song's emotion with a simple phrase — such as "Rediscover communication," which he screams across the bitter, searing rocker "Schism" (RealAudio excerpt) — taken as a whole, his lyrics barely pass for high-school poetry. "Black and white/ All I see in my infancy/ Red and yellow then came to be ... There is so much more that beckons me/ Infinite possibilities," he sings on the otherwise sweeping title track (RealAudio excerpt). Bob Dylan — heck, Neil Peart — can rest easy. This band, which formed in Los Angeles in the early '90s, accomplishes its dark mission the old-fashioned heavy metal way: it blasts and it pounds, quickly, even nihilistically. Even when it plays softly, it does so with a sinister tone. in fact, Tool can evoke the catharsis implied by their lyrics without ever singing a word. Guitarist Adam Jones, a magnificent noisemeister, hits hardest emotionally on his quieter moments — the lonely instrumental "Eon Blue Apocalypse" weeps in "Cortez the Killer" fashion. Drummer Danny Carey can bash out assault-rifle triplets or solemnly tap bongos with equal resonance and agility. Justin Chancellor keeps his bass notes nailed to the band's dark core, volume cranked at all times. When the words do pour out, they come from Keenan's powerful, intense, and at times alarmingly pretty voice, one of rock's most compelling. Tool's mastery of their genre is most evident on "Ticks & Leeches" (RealAudio excerpt), a track seemingly destined for active-rock glory days. Carey jump-starts the song with a sick drum pattern, speeding and dodging his way through traffic while Chancellor does his best to keep up and Jones cuts through the groove like a buzzsaw. Keenan spews, almost indecipherably, until he lands on another knockout line: "This is what you wanted/ This is what you had in mind/ Cause this is what you're getting." A two-minute quiet zone follows, full of whimpering guitar wails and bass rolls. Finally, things speed back up and bang, bang ... the world ends. Eventually, so does this album — but the feeling that heavy metal greatness is upon us remains.
Posted to t.d.n: 04/21/02 18:50:54