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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: The Dallas Morning News - Arts Section

Date: May, 2001

Transcribed by
Aenimatic (

  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 
   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 
   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