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Tool's third full-length album released in 2001.

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THE progressive masterpiece to kick off the 21st century.

  • Apr 3, 2002
  • by
You do not listen to this album...you surrender yourself to it. The experience of Lateralus penetrates deeper than the brain -- it is deeply spiritual and uplifting. Sonically, the dark sound works powerfully with MJ Keenan's dynamic, unique vocals and lyrical messages. Whether he's questioning emotional dichotomies ("Schism") or reflecting on a difficult spiritual sojourn ("The Grudge"), there is a dark, brutal beauty to this music.

Few bands have a collegiality that matches that of Tool. With the exception of drummer Danny Carey, this is not a band of virtuoso musicians. What separates them from the rest is their united, progressive artistic vision and originality. Danny Carey's drumming is octopus-like, modulating every passage with rhythms I can't begin to understand. Put together with rest of the crew, the opaque instrumentation creates music of endless shades and layers, with time signature changes a supercomputer couldn't crack. There is magic here. Powerful, crunching riffs are foiled often by placid, narcotic passages, generating an album that only rarely "rocks." Instead, it's heavily cerebral, dark, beautiful...and ultimately indefinable. For a band that's selling millions of albums and getting mainstream recognition, they still carry an uncompromising progressive aesthetic.

Ignore those who make the asinine comment that "Tool sold out." All other factors being equal, this is Tool's _least_ commercially viable album. Frankly, I think it's fairly remarkable that they passed off a 7-minute music video ("Schism") onto MTV. (Credit the amusingly surreal video, I guess.) I guess when a band like this becomes popular, the so-called fans dismiss quality for the sake of remaining "hardcore." With lots of 8-minute songs, numerous melody shifts, texturally complex movements, world influences, enigmatic lyrics, this is not an album that can be easily digested. Aenima was complex in its own right, but is was nothing like _this_. I've had Lateralus for almost a year (at the time of this writing), and it remains as arresting as ever. It's so deep, I'm not sure I'll ever see the bottom; it's so high, I might never reach it. (Yes, I like that book.)

And yet in telling you all of this, I've told you nothing. I think the best music is the hardest to describe. Lateralus comfortably lands in that category.

We often hear, in a denigrating tone, "Yeah, that Lateralus is so self-indulgent." Quite. Tool made the album they wanted to make, with commercial considerations thrown out the window. Of course it's self-indulgent -- this isn't commercial pabulum. Clearly, Tool's objective wasn't to make _you_ happy, it was to make _themselves_ happy. This is what separates art from products.

Tool, strangely, managed to produce high art that remains a viable product. We expect mainstream rock to be dominated by bands like Creed, Nickelback, and Staind...not Tool. None of this matters, though. Whether it sells 10 million copies or 10 thousand, great music is great music. We don't need Rolling Stone or MTV to tell us that.

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More Tool: Lateralus reviews
Quick Tip by . July 29, 2010
posted in Music Matters
Without a doubt, my favorite album of the '00s. Tool's sound has progressed and evolved into something deeply philosophical, complex, dark, and meditatively brilliant. With terrific musicianship, unusual arrangements, challenging visuals, and intelligent lyrics, they are at their peak with this set.
review by . May 20, 2003
posted in Music Matters
_Lateralus_ reconciles the division between within & without, self & other, body & mind, heaven & earth and brings them into perfect harmony.
review by . November 12, 2002
_Lateralus_ defies any description one can muster with the English language. German would be a better choice, but even then one must inevitably find the words to be failing. This is the 21st century's paragon of progressive rock -- a work of art so deep there probably is no bottom. If you are still reading, I have not yet been dismissed as a sycophantic Tool freak. This album is a uniquely spiritual experience for me. It can be heavy and dark and brooding, but ultimately _Lateralus_ is cathartic …
review by . June 07, 2001
I'd always figured Tool was a lame "nu-metal" band with reams of angst and minimal talent.However, this album had become the focus of a discussion among progressive metal fans whose opinions I highly respected. I was hearing some interesting adjectives applied to them: "intricate," "original," "intelligent," "progressive." I was interested, but still skeptical. These guys were popular, after all, and I assumed that they were appealing to the lowest common denominator like so many""nu-metal" bands.My …
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Clayton Reeder ()
Ranked #434
Rogue capitalist in search of all that is interesting, weird, or beautiful.      Collected here are my hundreds of reviews from Amazon.com, covering mostly music that is offensive … more
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About this album


Lateralus emerged after a five-year legal dispute with Tool's label, Volcano Entertainment. In January 2001, the band announced that their new album's title would be Systema Encéphale and provided a 12-song tracklist with titles such as "Riverchrist", "Numbereft", "Encephatalis", "Musick", and "Coeliacus". File-sharing networks such as Napster were flooded with bogus files bearing the titles' names. At the time, Tool members were outspokenly critical of file-sharing networks in general due to the negative impact on artists that are dependent on success in record sales to continue their career. Keenan had this to say during an interview with NY Rock in 2000, "I think there are a lot of other industries out there that might deserve being destroyed. The ones who get hurt by MP3s are not so much companies or the business, but the artists, people who are trying to write songs." A month later, the band revealed that the new album was actually titled Lateralus (supposedly named in combination with the words "Vastus lateralis", a human leg muscle and lateral thinking) and that the name Systema Encéphale and the tracklist had been a ruse.

Lateralus and the corresponding tours would take Tool a step further toward art-rock and progressive rock territory. Rolling Stone wrote in an attempt to summarize the album that "Drums, bass and guitars move in jarring cycles of hyperhowl and ...

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Composer: Tool
Author: Tool
Performer: Tool
Release Date: May 15, 2001
Label: Volcano Entertainment
Artist: Tool
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