Tool – Lateralus

So here comes Tool’s third record. It took four years to create and release this 78:51 of bloody bliss.

Allegedly, the title is a combines ‘vastus lateralis’ (a leg muscle) and ‘lateral thinking.’ 

All set? Of course you are!

The Grudge starts us off with what sounds like an old film projector starting up. Then we’re rocketed straight into one of those twisty, powerful Tool riffs and we know what time it is! Once again, it’s restlessly all over the place, at times quiet, at others pounding and full-on howl. There’s a point where Maynard holds a note, full scream, for so long that you think he must surely have passed out… “Saturn ascends,” indeed!

Eon Blue Apocalypse, which I read is about Adam Jones’ great dane (named Eon), who died of bone cancer. It’s a trippy little instrumental intermission track that only lasts a bit more than a minute.

The Patient creeps in after this, building off its picked guitar and wonky background noises. It’s a slow chugger that, of course, eventually becomes a full-on Tool rocker. It’s actually heavy as hell – try 4:50 and onward for a bit. Hell yeah!

Mantra is, brilliantly, the slowed down sound Maynard gently squeezing one of his cats. It sounds like whale music through an electronic filter. OK boys, thanks.

Schism, the first single, is another favourite of mine. It’s pure Tool, all the right pieces in all the right places. “I know the pieces fit!” That tricky little riff is amazing, and when it hits hard, it hits REALLY hard. Hot damn.

Parabol is a gorgeous, slow, ethereal track. It never builds into anything in itself, but it acts as a great three minute intro to the next track…

…Parabola, the second single. It’s a great rocker, more pounding drums and big huge everything. What a track! Just perfection.

Ticks & Leeches’ awesome pounding drum intro (what a workout!) leads into Maynard’s wild ranting (with altered vocal sound) before going into full Tool rage and howl. Holy hell, this is incredible. There’s a middle section that’s calm, which I presume is to give Danny’s arms a chance to rest haha! Oh man, I’m falling in love with this record all over again!

Lateralus, the third single, absolutely rocks. It has an interesting thing about it:

The title track, “Lateralus”, incorporates the Fibonacci sequence. The theme of the song describes the desire of humans to explore and to expand for more knowledge and a deeper understanding of everything. The lyrics “spiral out”, refers to this desire and also to the Fibonacci spiral, which is formed by creating and arranging squares for each number in the sequence’s 1,1,2,3,5,8,… pattern, and drawing a curve that connects to two corners of each square. This would, allowed to continue onwards, theoretically create a never-ending and infinitely-expanding spiral. Related to this, the song’s main theme features successive time signatures 9/8, 8/8, and 7/8. The number 987 is the sixteenth integer of the Fibonacci sequence.

Disposition starts with some cool bass noodling and guitar too. Maynard sings gently, bongo drums are here too. By now I know that, with Tool, gentle moments like this are usually just a calm before the storm… but this one isn’t. Maynard just wants to watch the weather change. Er…

Reflection has that same beat as Disposition, though, though this one becomes an almost 5 minute trippy gentle metal noodle session with Maynard’s vocals floating and shifting. It does finally become a bit of a rock track at the end, but honestly, this is a perfectly-timed track. At over 11 minutes long, its calm is a nice reprieve from the tension and pummeling of most of the rest of this record!

Triad chug builds through eatern sounds and feedback into an awesome instrumental Tool rocker. Why there is 2:13 of silence at the end seems odd, unless it’s a spacer for the next track, meant to emulate a hidden track (and if so, why bother). Anyway…

Faaip De Oaid, a noise track with lots of electronic buzzing and a paranoid rant in there too, ends the disc unsettlingly.

In Sum:

Tool continues their incredible run, here. Is this their best album? Maybe! There’s so much brilliance in these tracks. Great heavy metal, complex tunes that expand your mind and send you off in a million directions.

Lateralus absolutely rules.


Posted on December 16, 2016, in posts by aaron and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Not a band I’ve ever really got and I have tried. Lots of friends of mine just worship them.


  2. I think I’m still trying to digest this record. I saw them live on this tour and it was pretty amazing, albeit one of the stranger shows I’ve seen. There was a small intermission in the middle of their set where two or three acrobats came out and were climbing ropes on the stage. From where I was they looked naked(could’ve been the heavy consumption of alcohol, too.)

    Either way, it was a one-of-a-kind show. I caught onto ‘10,000 Days’ a lot quicker.


    • I totally undertsand taking forever to fully take in a Tool record – they’re all kinda like that, eh? But therein lies some of the beauty of their work, too – it’s the gift that keep on giving.

      Their live show is incredible (I saw 10,000 Days live). You’re lucky, though, we never had any extra attractions at our gig, naked or otherwise…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sometimes those are the best albums, the ones that you take in over time. I loved ‘Undertow’ and ‘Aenima’ right away, however. Maybe as they were so unique coming out of the early and mid-90s. By the time ‘Lateralus’ hit I wasn’t listening to quite as much heavy music. Still, I love Tool. So creative musically and visually.


  4. I’ve been meaning to try these guys for ages. I’d be seduced by the progressive elements, so I’m wondering, is this a good place to start?

    May not know the music, but must put in a word for artist Alex Grey.


    • Hard to recommend one over the other, though the earlier efforts were definitely the angrier entries. As they went on, they got more experiemental and cerebral, more about the third eye and mind expansion than wanting to kill stupid people, for example. This one and 10,000 Days for sure. But it all sounds like Tool – they have a sound unique to them, and the way those players work together is, frankly, mindblowing. And even those earlier albums like Undertow and Ænima had those same bits to them, as well…

      The other way to think on it is that there have only been 4 studio records in 23 years, so it really isn’t that hard to just go get them all, and find out which one speaks to you! Myself, I recommend them all. But I’m exceedingly biased.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’d say this is an accessible one, Bruce. Definitely worth investigating.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This was my first Tool. I love this album, and I prefer the packaging to Aenema. Parabol and Parabola being my favourites.


  6. My favourite Tool album by a country mile. I guess I just have so much wrapped up in it. A good friend and I used to listen to this quite a bit.

    In fact, one night after studio (we rehearsed 9-12 back then) we sat in his car talking about how enthusiastic we were about some new songs. This was about 12:15 or so.

    We had this album on and it played three times over the course of our chat. We’d tune into our favourite tracks, y’see.

    Anyhoo, the road sweepers came out and the sun started coming up before we were done. I got upstairs and changed in time to leave for work. Listened to the album as I walked off the sleepy eyes and tired mind.

    Anyhoo. I guess what I’m saying is “yes to all of this”.


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