the tool page

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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: The Onion

Date: May, 2001

Transcribed by
Paul Cox (

author: Joshua Klein


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: 05/22/01 20:27:39