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Lateralus

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

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Rich and challenging.

  • Jun 7, 2001
  • by
Rating:
+5
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 curiosity was compounded when I saw the phenomenal music video for "Schism" on MTV. It was a delightfully surreal pictorial essay with a theme of renewal and emotional interaction (I think). Although the video is excellent, the music also captured my ear. I was unable to get that final menacing line, "I know the pieces fit," out of my head. The song possessed interesting progressions, complex syncopations, and good deal of musical muscle. I could tell these guys were more than a "let's scream and bang on guitars and drums and sound angry" band. (Also known as a "nu-metal" band...if that stuff is your cup of tea, you are at this point invited to hit "Not Helpful.")

So I bought Lateralus. Initially, it appealed to me because of the mystery of the compositions, and the understated imagination of their music. I found it self-consciously alienating, for it is very dark and eschews melodic hooks. I suspected the album was a challenge, so I persevered. The excellent production lends to that mystery...it is very bass-heavy and Keenan's distinctive voice is sometimes barely audible, like a forlorn spectre. At other times, he's incredibly visceral and venemous, with a telling, indignant quality that perfectly fits with music so oppressively bleak. With each listen, I found something new, and as I began to follow the lyrics (note: get them from the Tool's site), things began to click. I started understanding the deliberate austerity of the music and appreciating it from an artistic perspective. It's experimental, somewhat unsettling, and tense.

And this is not the kind of stuff that beats you over the head with a loud, raucous song in four minutes. The average song length here is 8 minutes or so (not including the segues and track 13). This allows the band to express more lush ideas with their music, and be more experimental. Many songs contain hard, crushing moments balanced by slower, quieter moments. It only rarely "rocks"...Tool likes to draw you in with hypnotizing rhythms, sweeping textures, and crafty orchestrations instead of "rocking out."

And I am tremendously impressed by their work. This isn't progressive metal in the same vein as Dream Theater or Symphony X. In fact, I hesitate to call it metal. It IS heavy, but it's very subtle and insinuating. However, it is _progressive_ in that it does new things, pushes boundaries of categorization, and challenges the listener. This is the kind of music that requires some effort to "get" (as in understand), but it's a satisfying achievement to experience it.

One of the best albums out in 2001 so far, I'd say. (It would get extra stars just for the cool packaging, but I can't give it 6/5.)

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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 . April 03, 2002
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 …
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Clayton Reeder ()
Ranked #461
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

Wiki

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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Details

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

"Rich and challenging."
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