In the year of our lord, two-thousand and one, a musical miracle happened. After years embroiled in the first (and certainly not the last) major album jeopardizing lawsuit of their career, Tool, released Laterals (Volcano). The David Botrill produced album kicked off a new musical era for the band that was only hinted at on 1996’s Aenima (Volcano).
In the wake of Tool’s dominance of the post-Grunge era 1990s they spawned a legion of imitators, not unlike their peers Metallica, Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden. The band would not cosign any of their disciples and emulators, even though the record industry was regurgitating out these bands in droves. In the ensuing years following their early success, the band were evolving and on paper, attempting to veer from the mainstream that embraced them. It didn’t work
Owing as much to the members love of progressive music and trying to push away from anything alternative-Rock, Lollapalooza, Ozzfest, typical for them. Sure, some prog music snobs will turn their nose up at Tool conventions and consider them a contrivance. However, the bands’ major musical departure only hinted at in live renditions of their existing work, while still maintaining their core premise was a turn few expected.
Outside of Grammy-award winning single “Schism,” the majority of the album is comprised of outsized track lengths, inventive poly-rhythms, bizzaro interludes, synths added by Adam Jones and Maynard James Keenan, new-agey philosophical lyrics, and ground overall. The record also builds on their weird fondness for avant-garde, occult, and metaphysics.
The centerpiece of the album is the title track. The band has spent a lot of time discussing the fibonacci sequence-inspired and more than anything it was meant to be a continuation of the music inside jokes the band have told each other since 1992. It definitely created a monster and sent Tool lovers and haters down a Reddit ready rabbit-hole of debates. The track is phenomenal on every level. Fittingly, it is a tour de force of playing from drummer Danny Carey and bassist Justin Chancellor, who dominate the record.
Besides the heavy uptempo opener “The Grudge,” the music on Lateralus is a study in loud soft dynamics and complex arrangements. Tracks like the vitriolic “Ticks and Leeches,” and the epic rock of “Parabol’ and its conjoined twin ‘”Parabola’ have the early Tool rage in them. But the most powerful moments aren’t found in heavy riffs, and bananaballs drumming. Tracks such as “The Patient” and “Disposition’ are not just giants musically, they hint at what was possible for the future of the band. The actual last quarter of the album with its reflective nature, instrumental jamming, and oddly 1990s inspired by The X-Files ending, almost seems like it could have been seperate EP of content.
With Lateralus Tool asserted themselves as a band that could have massive popularity outside of their scene origins and open up a world of possibilities musically. They also became more popular than ever.
Spiral out. Keep going.