Music Review: Tool – Lateralus (Part 2)

AmpersandQuest

 When I review albums of music I want to provide as much useful information as possible while also providing my own unique perspective on the album. Below my commentary will be a series of links for more information, lyrics, the band’s website, and a link to purchase the album. Please support the artist you enjoy!

 

Tool_-_Lateralus

Part 1 of Review Click Here!

                         Continuing on with my review of 2001’s album from Tool entitled Lateralus. I hope you enjoyed the articles in between these reviews. Which brings to mind just how much of an influence the artist who comprise Tool have influenced the way I think about the world. I will never forget just how much more I began to appreciate art once I really got into Tool and would seek out articles and interviews of them. They always promote the idea of questioning every institution, every belief, every status quo, every piece of art, and every theory you come across in life. It is this notion that has inspired me to create and write this on going WordPress site.

                        Let’s not get side tracked with my personal anecdotes though and let us begin part 2 of this long-winded review.

                    Track #6 -Parabol-

Greeted by an atmospheric and mysterious tonal intro we find ourselves on the heels of the power driven previous track, Schism. Parabol brings you to a world of creeping fog and thick mist. It feels as though we are witnessing a man crawl out of a hole in the middle of the forest who has just rediscovered the surface and finds himself lost in the thick of reality. I don’t sense a great deal of fear in this song other than the feeling you might get being in a strange new place. We tend to fear things we do not understand but it is that which motivates us to explore and objectively identify our surroundings. The singing mirrors the music in the same low, atmospheric, and tonal way and the story of this track emerges.

Just as I described the music reminding me of a man crawling out of a hole a bit befuddled and confused with his new surroundings he begins to realize he is experiencing something profound. He is enlightening himself in a moment where he realizes he is one with his surroundings. As more information comes his way conflict burrows in his heart and longs to hold on to the precious moment when he realized the true beauty of nature all around and within him. He senses the danger and conflict coming his way and guards jealously the bright and warm light of the confines of his heart as the cold harsh reality of his mind consumes whatever comfort he had in waking up to this new reality. He is hopeful that his heart can triumph over his mind but seems to realize it is inevitable that he will have to loosen his ever so tight grip on the reality he wants to be true and begin to accept reality for what it really is. But there remains a spark of inspiration despite his realization. His reaction is further explored in the next track of this two-part song.

                    Track #7 – Parabola- 

The previous track’s slow, atmospheric, and lumbering tone’s seamlessly bleed into an aggressive, bright, and inspired rock and roll drive as our characters journey continues. I absolutely love Danny Carey’s performance in this track. His drumming to me is always the highlight when I turn this track on. It’s very rock and roll, energetic, and feels very unique at the same time. Everything else is an added bonus as the rest of the band joins in on the symphony of powerful rock and roll.

Previously I talked about a man coming to terms with his enlightenment and that he is experiencing difficulties when trying to balance his heart and mind. It isn’t until he realizes that he is not alone in his struggle to simply understand the nature that surrounds him that he finds the motivation struggle on. He finds more balance in himself once he realizes his new-found friend was just as confused and has conflated the issue just as much if not more than him while simultaneously bringing new and unique perspective to light that fundamentally changes the dynamics of reality that he had previously been sure were uncontroversial truths.

He finds this so beautiful that he begins to realize that the pain he feels inside is a lie. He doesn’t want to believe that the pain he feels can be felt by his friend, whom he loves, looks after, and wants to protect in all his vulnerability.  For a while this becomes a ritual of sorts until one day reality sets in and the true and vicious nature of reality strikes his friend down. Great anger and frustration sets in as his heart is once again tested by his mind searching for the truth all the while still holding on to the beauty he believes to be real. How can this be? How can reality be so beautiful and so god damn brutal at the same time? He digs through the remains to see if there is any discernible evidence of a soul but only finds flesh and blood further conflating his mind as it recoils to a primitive state of fear and confusion.

Our character leaves the whole scene behind and returns to the wilderness that spawned him. Over him hangs the cloud of despair that took his one and only friend from him. The same cloud that now threatens to consume him at every turn. He slowly begins to realize there is no escape from fate. His destiny is being formed and his last steps lay ahead. It is at this point he throws everything he’s learned out and clears both his heart and mind. He opens himself to nature in all of its unabashed glory and without question stops trying to make sense of it all and allows reality itself to fill him. Both the beauty and cold brutality simultaneously fill the deepest crevices of his heart, mind, and soul and in unison fill him with an omnipresent aura.

His life brief, his ability to understand it all null and void, yet his willingness to open up is the culmination of everything we all seek out of life. To understand who we are and where we are going. These two songs tell a story of life and death in a very well composed and powerful piece of art. I very strongly recommend several readings of the lyrics and even more strongly suggest seeing the very well done music video that guitarist Adam Jones put together to accompany this song. That music video directly inspired everything I had to say about these two songs to say the least. The title of the songs fit absolutely perfect. If you look at a parabola it is a line curved to represent and object traveling from point A to point B. The apex when considering these songs represents that medium in life where you become enlightened and begin  your decent into your fate. Such a beautiful and clever way to tell a story about life and death.

 

                    Track #8 -Ticks and Leaches-

We make the leap from the previous track and are greeted with a strange and rhythmic drumming performance. The bass guitar joins in producing a very deep and bellowing atmosphere. Then the guitar pulls its weight by introducing a very aggressive and very metal sounding crunch to the mix. The vocals start with a scream as the music pours through the speakers. What happens next is a bit out of the ordinary for Tool. Maynard James Keenan raps! Okay, not exactly and I don’t mean to make light of how epic this song really is. But I can’t help but feel that Maynard is actually attempting to produce the same kind of tongue twisting busting of rhymes you would hear from a hip hop artist.  It is not tacky by any means. In fact it sounds really cool with the very deep and bellowing back drop of the band’s music.

Anger, vengeance, brutal honesty, and adrenaline fill your ears and you quickly realize that this is perhaps how the artist actually feel if you push them too far. I am so grateful for these kinds of Tool songs. Songs that celebrate the aggressive nature of humanity. Songs that are a bit more on the metal side in place of the more prog rock side of Tool. That familiar prog rock feeling makes an appearance in this song as Tool seamlessly slows everything down into a really groovy guitar solo by Adam Jones. I have always been a huge fan of Adam Jones’ guitar style much more than his technique or complexity. His playing is very accurate and precise and I’ve rarely ever heard him make a mistake but that is not what’s important for me. For me, it’s his ability to compile and insert himself into Danny Carey’s drumming. He is the perfect complement to Danny. His ability to compose and direct Tool seems to make him a the spiritual leader of the group. This bridge is a perfect example of where Adam really shines as a guitarist. It doesn’t seem all that difficult to play and I’m sure any amateur to advanced player could easily figure it out. But could they compose such a piece to sound so undeniably cool? Would the have the ability to take what seemed to be nothing but a testosterone over load of a metal song and turn it into groovy prog rock bliss? That right there is why I am a huge fan of Adam Jones. He doesn’t need to show boat with fancy solo’s because it seems his main objective isn’t to impress you with wailing solos but rather capture your imagination with atmosphere and feeling.

In this particular song the focus seems to be directly on someone who has betrayed their friend and could be the thoughts and feelings of the betrayed towards the betrayer. The more mellow bridge gives you just a long enough break from the adrenaline to realize that perhaps decent people need to express their anger in order to maintain themselves. That no matter how hard you try to avoid it, some times the only way to find peace is to express your anger without being sorry for what you say. However, the calm and serenity that comes with this outlet of emotion will often lead you to realize that things are even worse than you first imagined. That certainly seems to be the case here as the music begins to pick back up. You can sense a building frustration and even more pent-up anger is about to be unleashed but this time with clarity of mind. Not to be cheesy by the second the last notes of the mellow rock bridge end the music picks back up to the more aggressive nature of the first half of the song it becomes METAL AS FUCK. Maynard unleashes a scream of epic proportions and the band enhances this with frantic and loud off beat unison that leaves me with the impression that this is the final stage of anger. This is the moment of truth where the culmination and totality of the betrayal is realized. Any anger here forth is not only justified but fully understood to be justified by both parties. A complete and total cutting of ties can take place without any unfinished business.

In essence then this song is about letting go of the bad influences in your life. It might sound like it’s saying it’s okay to lose your mind and start screaming and hollering at people but I don’t think that’s the point. My favorite thing about music and this is especially true with metal as fuck music is that you can express your inner most frustrations, regrets, and anger with people and society at large without actually hurting anyone in the process. This is a perfect pressure release valve song for when you are just having one of those days. I recommend listening to this if you are feeling pent-up. It always seems to help me when I’m too frustrated to deal.

Heavy metal is not a label I would generally use to describe Tool. However, with this and several other songs I would say that the genre only allows the artist of Tool to show you their own unique style based on a genre that is already very popular and accepted by a lot of people. Tool has definitely defined their own style and this is just another fine example of them finding new and interesting ways to perform a familiar type of music.

                    Track #9 -Lateralus-

I’ll never forget the very first time I saw Tool live and this song came on. The arena I was in was busy all night with amazing visual effects, banners of amazing artwork by Alex Grey, interesting music videos, and epic light shows. However, this song was something even more special as they chose this song to close the show. I could do nothing but sit in awe as this awesome as fuck song filled my ears and the wondrous visual effects the cleverly put together amazed my eyes.

I have a very unique take on this song that hasn’t ever been very popular with other Tool fans I know. But I can’t help the feeling I get. It happened the second time I saw Tool. Maynard was dressed as a full on Cowboy and I couldn’t help but imagine listening to this song as I was farming, hunting, fishing, or hiking. For some reason this song, while it is very rock and roll with a dash of heavy metal, has always felt like a country rhythm and blues tune. It’s just such an uplifting and adventurous song and reminds me of big open fields or giant mountain ranges. Almost as if being sung to you by an old Western sage/wise man to encourage you to seek out new boundaries and venture forth to untouched and hidden valleys of your surroundings, heart, and mind. The lyrics seem to back up my assertions very much so and I hope I can help others hear and feel what I do when I hear this song. Perhaps it’s easiest just to ask you to imagine riding a galloping horse and imagine that the hooves are hitting the ground in perfect beat with the music.

This song strongly encourages the listener to invest in their growth as an individual. To learn new things, break new ground, and to push the envelope. This song more than all of the others on this album is focused much more on the positive. I believe they really wanted to create a truly inspirational prog rock opus that relentlessly dares their listeners to explore new territories. I simply can’t help but think about a frontiersman discovering new land to explore and if I’m the only Tool fan on the planet who feels this way about this song then so be it.

Spiral out my friends.

 

              

This has become quite a lengthy article so I have decided to break it up in three parts. Come back for more especially because I happen to enjoy the later half of the album a lot more. I have a lot to say about the remainder of the album so stay tuned and thanks for reading! 

Lateralus Wikipedia Link :  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateralus

Tool Website: http://www.toolband.com/

Lateralus Lyrics Link: https://www.toolband.com/album/lyrics/lateralus.html

Don’t forget that if you want to listen to the album, please, for the love of all that is right and just in the world. Buy the songs or the album.

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