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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Alternative Rock Tool: Lateralus

       Listen to Tool's third album, Lateralus, and have an other worldly experience.
       Tool is:
  •  Maynard James Keenan - vocals, and a bit of guitar on Disposition, I think.
  •     Adam Jones - guitar
  • Justin Chancellor - bass
  • Danny Carey -percussion.1
        Lateralus was released on May 15, 2001 and holds up in 2013 -12 years later. So if you are looking for something new to listen to, and if you are disgusted with the current state of the music industry, then this album will be an inflow of new excitement for you. The music is exciting because of the way the band creates Lateralus; they have exceptional communication and each band member pushes their part past known limits. Their music vocab is informal and they don't force their music, letting it breathe on its own, becoming a separate entity. The results are songs that go on a true journey with unexpected turns, rather then verse, chorus, verse, solo, verse, bridge, outro etc. As good as those traditional songs can be; Tool offers something completely different, in Lateralus, something you have to experience to believe.2 The album's many themes provide this experience.
       The sounds of Lateralus allude to many themes like the Fibonacci sequence, a natural mathematical pattern, the occult, and eternity. Although to me I sense they are presented here as opposites. Any occult stuff refers to activities in our present earthly life. And the eternity simulated through allusions to spirals and circles refers to an endless life in heaven.2 The vocalist Maynard lyrically influences the idea of eternity symbolized by spirals. The drummer Danny Carey also influences themes and sounds of the album. He works on poly-rhythmic drumming to sound like 5 african drummers in a voodoo ceremony. And he's not against using samples from African drums in his Simmons pads.2 The music is what counts and it comes more alive the more familiar you get with each song; the more you can decipher the code and learn the lyrics. I also explain critical reviews that give great insight on the many details of each Tool song. The music contains something dark. The whole album is one musical piece. The way Tool collaboratively writes their music while allowing Maynard to give the influence of eternity and Carey the influence of Occult creates music that leads to an otherworldly experience. 

1. The Grudge (8:36)
       The Grudge is driven by percussion and Maynard's voice; and is a slow burning song about a slow burning hatred or grudge for someone. The song features many different sounds and rhythms: The beginning sounds like a washing machine turning on. Maynard's 30 second scream about 7 minutes in, is impressive.The song is in 5th meter/4 .2 This song also features: a good guitar riff, demonic voice, heavy sound, wistful- atmosphere, emotional bridge. The neat lyrics celebrate sin and holding a grudge. I definitely enjoy the guitar effects- with wah wah pedals around 6 minutes. Drummer Danny Carey brings a feeling of tribal warfare to this song. This originates from his documented interests in the occult; skeletons hang in his studio, as well as ominous spider webs and lights that are never switched on. The modern drummer2 solos in the grudge and also in schism are about all hell breaking loose.2 

2. Eon Blue Apocalypse (1:04)
        A very short song with introspective guitars.  It is very eastern and mystical. A. Eon Blue Apocalypse is based on Adam Jones' great dane Eon who died of bone cancer. And we are already into . . .

3. The Patient (7:14)
       The music is trance inducing til the end. Indeed, The Patient is a heavy metal grind from drummer Danny Carey2  The progressive rock song has a catchy guitar beat, and rattle snakes- rattling, hissing. Around
2:20 the music gets loud and guitars lash in. Maynard's voice blends into the background of wailing (but not screeching) guitars. The lyrics again focus on a grudge, someone desperately keeping a relationship alive.

4. Mantra (1:12)
          Scary music that explores a decrepit place. B. Mantra's unique sound originates from Maynard gently squeezing his cat - slowed down immensely. Mantra serves as a transition into Schism.

5. Schism (6:47)
        Tool Schism3, a mainstream radio hit, begins with a catchy bass-line, grabbing you in, and never letting you forget. The song is mainstream because of the poppy, rhythmic guitars with catchy singing / yelling.The lyrics concentrate on a rift / schism between you and another.  Similarly, when Maynard sings, "I know the pieces fit because I watched them fall away." He is referring to a growing relational gap between two people.
        I love the long stretches of guitar because you get more music for your money. The faded vocals add a dimension to the song that is great to listen to while on drugs; stimulants, drugs for attention deficit, pot etc. The craziness of this song lasts and the music empowers a long undertaking. The music matches your anger and informality.The drum and band bring increasingly intense, celebratory music.2

6. Parabol (3:04)
       The song sounds like a Gregorian hymn. A hymn of desperation with quiet, little music. The guitars scratch. Maynard's sings softly. Right INTO . . .
7. Parabola (6:03)
        The Roland vocoder is used because Danny intends for the audience to have a ritualistic experience through tribal drumming. CDrummer Danny Carey samples himself breathing through a tube to simulate Buddhist Monks chanting to achieve Parabola's interesting sound.2
       The previous song serves as an intro, now the  true song starts. Full music, full vocals, the way Maynard extends the note for "holy", this is the sound of Tool we waited for. A very heavy song. Heck, Parabola is a full explosion with searingly loud guitars and an energetic large band atmosphere. Later in this song Maynard's vocals become more tense and powerful.1
        We have waited through this album for this rock / heavy metal sound with wistful, resonating guitar. I crave the watery guitar riff at 1:36. This gives you energy, as the music flows around 3:30 with louder grooves that get you drumming with whatever is in your hand. Adam Jones guitar part melts your ears.
8. Ticks and Leeches (8:10)
       The loudest song on the album; contains the harshest vocals-Maynard needed three weeks to fully recover his voice after recording Ticks and Leeches. Tool has performed Ticks and Leeches live only once. Danny showcases his talent in this percussion driven song. The other instrumentalists also produce searing work. But Maynard's performance is angry with bitter lyrics and a bitter vocal style.1

        My notes on Ticks and Leeches are before the dash on each line:

  • drumming (bass) - in reference to the strong double bass drumming.
  • guitar rocks- Adam Jones rocks the guitar.
  • phlem- Something I coughed up as we drove over a speed bump.
  • watery- the watery sound of the bass and guitars.
  • classic rock- this is music that could be found in the classic rock genre.
  • guitar riff- one that you will remember.
  • disturbing lyrics- particularly "suck me dry", ticks and leeches, choking parasites etc.
  • this song brings you down (in some ways) like a parasite.- The song brings some negative feelings.
  • vibrating guitars- great sound, your car, cd player will vibrate.
  • quiet- like the eye of the storm.
  • 4 min crying guitar- the guitar notes are extended.
  • faded vocals,- have an eerie effect.
  • 6 minutes the music has a vengeful return-The song gets louder. screaming- more of an eerie feeling.
       This is not music to sleep to at a hotel when you are sharing  a room because of the great sound of whaling guitars.

D. Danny Carey's performance on drums on Ticks and Leeches was ranked #3 on for top 100 rock drum performances.2  The hyper speed rhythms and double bass eruptions back up this high ranking. The steady and fast complicated rhythms utilizes percussion symbols, deep sounds, like banging intensely on wood. Danny lives and breathes with the occult; his studio contains occult objects: an Enochian magic board, talking drums, a zebra-skin recliner, ancient masonry fragments, a gargoyle decorated ceiling, dinosaur mobiles and skulls, Two hundred year old masonic swords, geometric designs, a mace, a virtual occult library,  a bronze bust from sculptor Szukalski, framed photos of Carl Palmer, an Aphex Twin poster, and a weird looking Jacob's ladder.2 Through these items he brings an incredible vibe to  Ticks and Leeches with his 1977 octaplus stainless steel ludwig set. Finally, Ticks and Leeches deserves praise because it is written in an unusual meter 10/4. The opening drumming patter features double bass that originated from Tool's Opiate album era is one of the most powerful tunes Danny has done.  

9. Lateralus (9:24)
      Lateralus Music video4  has so many memorable moments. Lateralus commences with a memorable guitar riff. Then an unequaled loudness. The lyric, "Feed my will to feel this moment." is monumental.1The chorus- overthinking - overanalyzing is also memorable. As is the classic solo at 4:15. Spiral out of control. "Spiral out, keep going" signifies eternity. You will remember this for eternity. 7 minutes in,  the constantly changing nature of the music leaves you in the dust, unless you come along. With the robotic vocals that become more intense as the music becomes more intense.The guitar riffs at the very end resemble a weird ambulance sound or hospital emergency alarm to me. Carey's interest in sacred geomerty continues by the meter of the song following the fibonacci sequence, 9/8, 8/8, 7/8, dividing the song into three parts. I feel they went with this sound not caring that it was unconventional but didn't go out of their way to create a song in this meter.

E. Disposition, Reflection and Triad form a continuation. Tool created music in this way because they are creative and open to ideas in jams. These tracks were originally recorded as one 20 minute track, but were split to suit the attention span of most people. Certainly me!

10. Disposition (4:46)
        Disposition's music doesn't sound like a guitar. Disposition is a contrast of clear/ bright to a murky/ dark sound. You can't hear the strumming of the guitar but hear whispering, followed by silenced - impending doom and emptiness. The weather changes; you think of LSD - I mean Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
Disposition is a slow track, with simple, repetitive lyrics and repetitive, beautiful background music. The song is perfect for relaxing- unfocusing.1

11. Reflection (11:07)
      Reflection is a groove oriented, trance -like and different than other songs. A long wait for vocals - all the better to appreciate the band's musical skills. The vocal style is slightly tense with higher pitch from Maynard. The song gets heavier, and could be used for a gameshow or videogame. The Bewww  of the guitar could fit as you explore adventures in Doom the video game, or stealing cars in Grand Theft Auto. It's psychedelic, trippy, and trancey. The trippiness is Brazillian Music- like this skateboard blue torch video with Paulo Diaz.Reflection has Instrumental passages with a different guitar vibe. The vocals return with weird movement. 7:38 is a progressive solo i hoped to hear on this album, if you categorize Tool as a Progessive rock band. Go outside at night, get high, or get the adrenaline going and listen to this song and experience the other-worldliness. A good long tune with breaks of intensity but a continuity to it.

F. Carey skillfully and mysteriously bangs piano strings as samples for Reflection. This movie-special-effect- like sound has a watery driving tone.  Musician Bill Watt describes the effect, "It's unlike any other instrument, really. It is quite a unique experience. The way the piano is made and the whole pressing motion and the fact that its not actually electronic, its as if you are making the sound and not the piano".
12. Triad (8:46)
       Turn it up! Listen to the haunting, screaming waves of sound. Wholesome musicianship. You want more of this quality music. These creative musicians use Jungle drums, and arena rock guitars. The bridge of the song signals troubles arriving - like a tribe invading a village (Jungle). So rock out! You start to think, "who cares, leave your life behind; have a strong abandoning of your life, values, and morals." Because the song amps you up:  you scream, "who cares", you are possessed! The funky guitar could be featured in one of the play station cool boarders video games. The variation of tone. The music returning at 5:30. The fun, the awesomeness. Track 12 is trance inducing to say the least. -- musician Sean Lozier. Triad is an instrumental, that impresses upon you the musicianship of Tool.1

13. Faaip De Oiad
        These are the thoughts of Sputnik reviewer: "Secret" track (but listed on case back cover) - A recording of a 1997 phone call made to Art Bell's morning radio show, Coast to Coast AM, from a man claiming to be on the run from his former employers in Area 51. He was spieling it seriously, which equals uneasy comedy if you like that sort of thing (I do:)). It is played over what seems to be white noise (to add to the callers mysterious effect)...the title is in Enochian, which is the language of the Angels as dictated to a man in the 16th century (called Kelley) and his assistant, in visions (I bought a book on it after getting hooked on the album). It means (I think) roughly Voice of God.

       Because it is a hidden track the song begins after a long pause. It's spooky. Music for the X-men, like Excalibur's lighthouse level. I think of the basement of a building where someone pretends to be a dentist. It's raining. The alarm is stuck on. You are in an old school gym. It's now thunder and lightning. In the transcript of the call he talks of Area 51 - ALIENS! I ask you: Do they exist? Are they real? The gasp and desperation of the caller's voice. calm down haha. But he panics, and the music stops; he was shut down or exterminated. Aliens are among us!

G. Drummer Danny Carey2 brings the occult to songs like Mantra, Parabola, Ticks and Leeches, and Faaip De Oiad. He uses off-metered beats, intricate tribal patterns, intense tom figures and double bass dexterity.
Faaip de Oiad is Enochian for The Voice of God. The repeated theme is eternity. God is eternity. The connections to spirals, circles, and Fibonacci Sequence also point to eternity.

H. Faaip de Oiad samples a a recording of a 1997 call at Art Bell's radio program Coast to Coast AM. The effects are whirling-wind-like sounds. The phone call has the weak connection. Also the fact that it is from a serious AM radio show brings informativeness, knowledge and true fright to the song. The caller feels he is haunted by aliens that are momentarily going to establish his location and annihilate him. He believed they had infiltrated the military, particularly area 51, and were going to sabotage the country from within. National Disasters were imminent. The government is aware but is allowing them to wipe out the majority of humanity, instead of moving people to alien safe zones.

       Danny's thoughts are wondering whether the area 51 guy was rational, panicked, or schizophrenic. 
The last track came about as Carey was messing around with reverb units late one night and they went haywire. It sounded like a transmission from outer space. It blows up and goes down the tubes. So he proceeded to make it as anxiety ridden and horrifying as possible. 2.

General Answers 

Fibonacci Sequence
       alternative metal6 magazine reveals that Tool Lateralus is based on the Fibonacci sequence, a mathematical pattern found in nature. Tool structures the songs based on these patterns. 9/8, 8/8, 7/8 time signatures to represent 987 the 17th number in the fibonacci sequence. Keenan's lyric, "spiral out, keep going." refers to the eternal spiral shape formed in the sequence. The theme of circles is constant in Keenan's work, whether in A Perfect Circle or in Tool's Lateralus. According to Keenan, "circles are the symbol of eternity with no beginning and no end". Spirals are several circles and it becomes much more powerful. Drummer Danny Carey likes sacred geometry and has large geometric grids on his studio ceiling and on his Simmons pads (drum pads).2 The Fibonacci sequence also represents the human's desire to explore and expand for more knowledge and a deeper understanding of everything.

        Interview with Keenan7  tells us that napster and free file sharing websites prevent musicians from earning money for their creations. Album sales needed to support their careers. Keenan on file sharing:
"In a way, it does destroy the music scene, not just record companies, even more the artists, the people who write the songs and who don't get paid. I think there are a lot of other industries out there that might deserve being destroyed. The ones who get hurt the most by MP3s, are not so much companies or business, but the artists, people who are trying to write the songs."
Tool Satanic?
       They aren't. Some may accuse Tool of being satanic, but in the words of Danny Carey,
"There's no effort to appear a certain way. We just want to stay true to what we do. Maybe because we dig a little deeper within each other, stranger things come out that people aren't exposed to." 
       He values sacred geometry - these are some of the shapes he draws on his Simmons pads. It's about tracing the manifestation of matter into the physical world. You know you are getting a good cd because of drummer Danny Carey's commitment to staying sharp and familiarizing himself with different techniques like poly-rhythmic exercises. Carey concentrates on freeing himself from time, there are no restraints of time on Lateralus. The complex rhythms and variations makes the straight rock grooves impactful to the listener. Carey jazz-drums, and double-basses strongly and loudly. He hones good drum phrases he discovers, so he can apply it to any tool jam. Some of the samples used on the album include a "Jacob's Ladder", a large transformer that produces an electrical crackling noise.
Why the name Lateralus?
      A hardcore alternative metal band like Tool names an album Lateralus after Vastus lateralis, a major human leg muscle (largest part of the quadriceps), and after lateral thinking. Admittedly, the reasons for Vastus lateralis is that it is a big muscle to say the least, and Tool's songs have weight and strength. Lateral thinking is a way of solving problems by rejecting traditional methods and employing unorthodox and illogical means. Tool produces music so unconventionally. They conjur lyrics and ideas so differently than a conventional thinker does. They achieve musical pleasure in a very unique way of songwriting / thinking. In fact musician Sean Lozier says,
"what makes tool stand out is their approach to songwriting. they integrate a lot of odd meter time signatures in most of their songs to keep the listener honest. Their music doesn't revolve around one person, it's always a collective effort. The topics that Keenan Maynard chooses are meaningful and relevant. For example Schism. The basic concept of communication is a lost art and the music isn't behind the lyrics, it's beside them. (same volume) That's why they haven't broken up yet. Every member contributes."
Critical Praise for Lateralus
        Lateralus receives praises: Kerrang's album of the year 2001. The song Schism won 2002 Grammy award for best metal performance. Schism and the album as a whole received such accolades because of the way the band writes the songs, and because of the ultimate effect. Also the uniqueness of Schism. And  I will share the thoughts of the critical reviews that explain their love for Laeralus:
       The Danny Carey: Demon On Drums article on explains: The way they write an album as described by Carey keeps the band together. Asked if all songs are based around his drumming Carey explains, "Some of them are built around my drumming, but just as many were built around bass and guitar riffs. . . [Adam and Justin] play in weird time signatures. I go with what they are doing, and that sets the stage for the whole writing process. Writing is a very open, organic process for us. We will jam on one of these riffs for a few hours with the tape machine running, then go back and find the jewels that pop up. . ." 2
        schism9 has a very unique music video and concept. To reiterate what I said before: It's about an emotional and relational rift between two people. And the long stretches of rock music in the song give you much bang for you buck.
        all music10 reveals this album as a progressive metal album in the ever developing talent of Tool. The album can't be taken at face value or through one listen. The album features complex rhythm changes, haunting vocals, and never ending twists and turns. The album's last track is about a phone call about area 51 over dissonant electronic noises as a way for the listener to think for themselves, as Tool does.
         metacritic11 seems to be overly critical, but a snippet of the top highest rated review sums up the progressive metal album pretty well: "It is dense, it is long, it is complicated. But it is also a triumph of artistry over blind anger." Yahoo music has the same review as metacritic, but you can read the review easier on yahoo music15. They explain that Tool combines powerful sound with layers of guitar and experimental sound.
        british magazine drowned in sound12 hypes Tool. The review explains that Tool deliver a complex and unexpected sound. This album will surprise and excite you. You can discover new guitar riffs and time signatures in this album, years after your first listen to the album.
        pop matters13 suggests that the reason Lateralus got accolades is because they are meditatively dark with Keenan screaming over Jone's driving guitars and Justin Chancellor's gloomy bass; while Carey pounds the drums. This is nothing new but it's an experience you wish to take when you feel leisured.
        One strong vote of support is by the well known critic, David Fricke. He writes for Rolling Stone (the magazine that despicably glorified suspect #2 on its hallowed cover), whose community gave the album 5 stars while Fricke gave it 4. In his rolling stone review14 Fricke describes Lateralus as an insane emotional experience with instruments:
"Drums, bass and guitars move in jarring circles of hyperhowl and near silent death march."
       But I wouldn't categorize this music as making one march to their death. Instead, if you enjoy the craziness and for you words like terrific imply something good - you will feel madness bubble out of you, having listened to Lateralus. Fricke adds that the music flows seamlessly and that Ticks and Leeches makes some statement. Especially the lyrics "Suck me dry"
        The fantastic review by sputnik music1 of each track on Lateralus is incorporated into my analysis of each track, in the beginning of this article.
Lateralus' Emotional Effect
       Lateralus achieves its dark, complex, and stormy emotions with complex mixtures of time signatures, banging drums, howling vocals, and blaring guitar riffs; The occult inspired drumming Carey brings to the album; and through the drum solos that end each song climatically. There isn't much irony in Lateralus. The repeated words and phrases are circles and spirals that signify eternity. The album's narrative is in present tense so you are in the moment and don't know what, or if anything is coming next. Not much foreshadowing; it's a better experience in this way.

       The songs are based on Meynard's interest in the Fibonacci sequence, a pattern found in nature. As a result, many of the songs are in weird time meters. Therefore, variations of rhythms, intense guitars, drums, and odd noises with occultic themes is what awaits you. Tool are not satanic, they just push themselves artistically to try new, dark things. Lyrical themes of spirals and circles symbolize eternity. Lateralus was well-received by critics and fans because of its adventurous quality. Yet,  you experience high tension when you hear Faaip De Oiad and its allusions to aliens.  Danny samples digeridoo amongst other noises including growls through a tube to achieve the tibetan monk sound on the album and overdubbing an oberheim through a vocoder. The musicianship of Tool members Keenan and Carey in Lateralus, bring you an occultic, eternal,  and otherworldly experience. An empowering experience, that leaves you energized, but in a dark state of mind. 

For further information, or a more complete understanding of the topics discussed please refer to these sources.
1. Bartender Emeritus, "Tool Lateralus Review",,  Indie Click Music Network, Viacom,                   Tribes,  January  14, 2005

2. Ken Micallaf, (transcribed by Ruskin F.), "Danny Carey: Demon On Drums," 
                  The Tool Page,, Modern Drummer, June 2001.

3. Scrotiemcboggerballs, "Tool Schism music video (HD)",  uploaded September 26, 2010

4. Jacob Mundaca, "Tool Lateralus Music video", uploaded April 29, 2010

5. FoVision, "Paulo Diaz and Eric Bork Bluetorch TV", uploaded April 2, 2012

6.Graham, Harmann, "No. 1: Tool, Lateralus' -Top 21st Century Metal Songs.", 
                   September 2012

7. Gabriella, "Interview with Maynard Keenan Of a Perfect Circle,", September 2000,

8.  "Lateral thinking", the free, 2003,

9.  Siinfactor 5, "Tool Schism," uploaded April 27, 2006,

10. Rob Theakston, "Lateralus Tool Review",, Rovi, 

11. Dotmusic, "Critic review: Tool Lateralus",, Gamespot proproperties,

12. Terry Bezer, "Tool Lateralus review", Drowned in Sound, May 13, 2001

13. Eden Miller, "Tool: Lateralus",, May 14, 2001

14. David Fricke, "Tool Lateralus Review," Rolling Stone Reviews,, May 14, 2001

15. Simon P. Ward, "Tool- Lateralus", dotmusic, Launch, May 18, 2001