Album Review: Tool – Lateralus (3in1)

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

As I said above factual information about this album will be found below so I will spare you the gory details in favor of a more opinionated diatribe that will detail my feelings and interpretations of each song. If you are a big fan of Tool and have followed them for a good length of time you will understand when I say that my interpretation is not a prescription of how you should feel. I realize I haven’t covered a Tool album before and it might seem strange to really hardcore Tool fans out there to start now with Lateralus. My reason for doing so is that while I have become a really big Tool fan and love to know all the little details about them I have to be honest, this wasn’t always the case. My fandom of Tool started with this very album soon after it was released in 2001. I was a freshmen in high school, my parents were just divorced, I was a social outcast, and I turned to music to escape the harsh reality of my existence.

From my experience with all of Tool’s albums it is a blessing that Lateralus is the album that I dove off from first as it seems to be a turning point not only in my life but in the lives of the artist who created the album as they seemed to be in the midst of a spiritual and intellectual awakening. This album is chock full of inspirational themes but they are not fully realized without taking a journey through the cold dark reality of existing in this harsh modern social climate so full of cruelty and despair. Lateralus as an album served me the same purpose The Holy Bible would serve a born again Christian but obviously in a very different way. Take away the overt brainwashing that religion offers and replace it with understanding, acceptance, and enlightenment that the main characters of The Holy Bible were created to represent and you have the album Lateralus.

What we have here then is one young boy’s Rosetta Stone for life. A means by which he would come to understand all of the strange, unique, painful, and beautiful things that were happening to him. All of which seemed to come through the speakers and soak deep into his bones as the stories of the music and lyrics came to be fully realized mythos unto themselves. This album, if you cannot tell by now, means a lot to me. If I were ever able to speak to its creators I would thank them deeply for finding it within themselves to express the glorious truths of nature described in this album and having the conviction to lay the tracks down and sell it to the world without shame.

With that out-of-the-way let us begin the review and remember that the lyrics for each song can be found in a link at the bottom of the page.

Credit: Alex Grey Visit his website to purchase artistic prints at http://www.cosm.org/
Credit: Alex Grey Visit his website to purchase artistic prints at http://www.cosm.org/

              Track #1 -The Grudge – 

Let us not avoid how much this track just flat-out rocks. The instrumental work in this album from the very start is outstanding from beginning to end and the very first track does not disappoint. It leaves you with a very powerful first impression by the nature of the very aggressive kit work from Danny Carey who never seems to let up throughout the entirety of this album. Danny’s drumming prowess is in full force here and beyond. The power chords from guitarist Adam Jones may not be technically brilliant however I would argue that his composition AND his precise technique don’t really leave a lot to be desired, it’s as if he simply plays exactly the right way all the time even if it’s not wailing technical solo’s. If I wanted power metal solo’s there are plenty of artist who provide that. Tool is not that sort of band. I have also always been fond of Justin Chancellors bass work and here it serves its purpose well to seemingly make Danny’s drum set sound even more pronounced and adding just the right amount of contrast to Adam’s guitar playing. Singer Maynard James Keenan gives a very powerful performance as he always seems to do in his own way. Both guttural and operatic weaving in and out of each other in a symphony of powerful and aggressive musical backdrops.

Moving on to what I believe this song’s story is. In life, whether it be an individual, a group of people, an institution, or even yourself you will find adversaries. You will inevitably experience all of the emotions and realities of what it means to have an enemy. People will do things to hurt you, you will be singled out, be treated unfairly, and make mistakes that you will regret. This song is not about that. This song is about the willingness or lack thereof to let go of grudges. It weaves in and out of inspiration and despair as both the music and lyrics spin you round and round but all the while staying focused on the merciful release that is granted to those who learn to let go of those enemies, gangs, politicians, and regrets. While at first the song might seem to be screaming at you out of anger ultimately the point of sale comes when it all culminates in the emotional outburst and release of that anger as both music and singer collide in an epic 32 second long scream urging you to simply LET GO! The lesson here is that there is much more to be gained in life from accepting reality for what it is instead of hanging on to that which ties you down and keeps you in one place and static with your blood boiling and a soul full of regret.  I fully recommend looking deeper into the lyrics of this song because like all of Tool’s songs it could mean something totally different to you. For me, this helped me control my anger and tempered me whenever I felt my emotions could be getting the best of me. It was easy for me to think back to this track and remember how awesome it feels every time I listen to it.

             Track #2 -Eon Blue Apocalypse (Instrumental)- 

I get the sense that this song is full of grief and a great amount of pain.  It is very short and delivers what feels to me to be a “moment of silence” sort of feel. Appropriate because apparently it is an ode of sorts for the passing of guitarist Adam Jones Great Dane whose name was Eon. For me, on a thematic level, it serves as a break between the aggressive opening song and the next. It might be a track that we skip over but from time to time I like to listen to it as I reflect on life.

 

              Track #3 -The Patient-       

The intro to this roller coaster of a song feels lumbering, laborious, tedious, and filled with tension. Perhaps the title of the song is very appropriate here as it seems to feel almost like how one would feel sitting in a doctor’s waiting room as you ponder what the good doctor has to report to you. Even the opening lyrics are dripping with a feeling of restrained exuberance dying for a massive release.  As the next section continues on we are presented with growing animosity as the music gets subtly louder and the lyrics encourage you to open your heart. The meat and potatoes of the song break free as that feeling of having to wait, be quiet, and remain stoic give way to an outburst of conviction and aggressive musical themes.

I think this song can be about anything. For me personally I tend to feel it’s about living in an overly politically correct society where you are not encouraged to express yourself. Quite the opposite is definitely pronounced throughout society. Thus, we all seem to go through periods in life where we lay low, keep a low profile, and become quite apathetic towards others. I believe this song explores the importance of both being silent and introspective and expressing yourself loudly and without shame.

It is important to have a stiff upper lip and soak up the pain at times as in don’t whine and complain too much and actually BE patient. But the desire to reach out, express yourself, include others, and branch out once you’ve healed is a desire that shouldn’t be forsaken.  The reason I said this is a roller coaster of a song is because towards the end the feeling I get is much the same as waiting for the big drop off at the top of a roller coaster at a theme park. Much more appropriate to me now that I mention it would be the feeling of a tight rope walk. That you are constantly walking this fine line between apathy and empathy. That while you want to reach out to others and experience love, compassion, and community there is always a desire to return to solitude. I strongly encourage a deep and focused reading of the lyrics found at the bottom of this review.

 

Track #4 -Mantra-

 

There are a lot of interesting discussions I found online about what this track represents and also how it was recorded. If you’re interested I would definitely encourage you to check Google for the information. However, right now I just want to talk about how the song makes me feel and how it correlates with the rest of the album’s thematic aura.

The listener is graced with a very peaceful yet somehow creepy and dark sound effect. There are a couple of layers to the track to mention. Most notably what sounds like the cry’s of a whale or perhaps monks chanting. Regardless of what the artist actually did to record this track to me it serves as a way to invest the listener to focus on their inner most thoughts. It isn’t long enough to make you forget about the previous track but just long enough to get your attention heading in to the next. Which is one of the most popular songs in Tool’s entire discography so it makes sense that Tool would want people to really pay attention at this point in the album.

 

Track #5 -Schism- 

 

What stands out to me most about this song is that while it is the song they chose to be the radio friendly song of the album it is not by any means your typical arena rock and roll anthem, which I do love by the way, but they somehow managed to create a song of very pressing matters that most people don’t want to talk about and make it a chart topping hit. It’s as if they created something that isn’t supposed to appeal to everyone that by virtue of its own merit managed to soak itself into the world consciousness and took on a very powerful meaning for millions upon millions of people. It is not by any means my most cherished Tool track but I deeply respect it for what it is and what it meant for Tool being absolutely cemented in history as one of rock’s greatest bands. That does not mean this track is not chock full of philosophical importance, indeed it is, but that’s not what impresses me about it. It stands on its own as the Tool song that took music by storm without selling out.

The song itself begins with a bass intro that comes off the heels of the previous track Mantra and fits so damn well with the feeling of Mantra. The focus and attention I get from listening to Mantra is not at all broken by this intro but enhanced. The intro drones for a moment as the main bass riff that’s become so recognizable begins to enter your consciousness. Followed by Danny’s powerful drumming and Maynard’s timeless lyrics unfold before you. Musically to me this song is not the most impressive of all of Tool’s efforts but it is by no means forgettable either. Mostly because of how pressing the issues discussed in the lyrics are. To me that is where the strength of this song stands.

There is no way to view this song in a one-dimensional manner. It is about you, me, and everyone else. It is about our institutions or lack thereof. But what is the song saying about them? Personally I think the entire point of the song is that we do everything we can to promote certain ideals and convictions but fail to recognize how those seemingly virtuous and inspiring intentions also create division, animosity, hatred, bigotry, and ignorance.  It is amazing to me how our greatest intentions can give birth to such tragic failings in human kind. As the song says, you can realize that all the pieces fit but only because you watched them crumble, fail, and burn to the ground. While the song definitely encourages all of us to strive for good things in life it doesn’t bury its head in the sand when it comes to how those good things are often born from human suffering.

Perhaps this song was so successful because it’s over all message is that no matter how strong our convictions, family ties, friendships, and relationships are they will never be perfect. Everyone can relate to this message and appreciate the compassionate message it has. It doesn’t attempt to paint a pie in the sky image of the human condition but instead is honest with the listener. I am very glad this song became as popular as it did for it provided an outlet for all the animosity in the world. Also, it gives people the chance to understand just how connected we all are in the human condition and encourages us to come together in a common goal. Not in any communist hippie dippy sense but in a realistic realization that we all experience this schism in our interactions with others. We are all our own individual with our own belief structures but ultimately they are all born from a very similar place where we desire the best outcomes for not just ourselves but those around us. It is then by its very nature a message of peace and understanding. It’s not saying to tolerate bad behavior for the sake of tolerance either, rather, reaches out for us to recognize how bad behavior manifest from otherwise harmless and good intent. What a fascinating example of how music can change the world.

Part 2

   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.

Part 3

Track #10 -Disposition-

This is perhaps the most relaxing, cool sounding, and mellow Tool song ever written. I believe all the members of Tool must have been in a very spiritual hippie kind of place in life when they created this song and wanted to explore a new style of music. This can be risky for any band but Tool pulls it off very well. It’s placement in the album comes after the bright, colorful, and loud Lateralus theme song but it doesn’t feel like it’s here for the sole purpose of breaking up the album or just to set the stage for the remainder of the album. It does all of that and more for me personally. This song comes across as a message of contentedness, acceptance, and a desire to keep learning and experiencing new things. There is an emphasis in the music on more natural sounds especially with Danny Carey’s hand drumming performance. Maynard’s lyrics are simple yet beautifully sung with a focus on nature, the weather, and communication. Adam Jones’ guitar work is 100% pure atmosphere creation with heavy bends and cool sound effects. Justin Chancellor mirrors Jones’ guitar work on his bass giving the track a bellowing and thick foundation to stand on.

As you listen to the song try to imagine how it feels to be with family or good friends at a picnic, camping, or hiking. I really love putting this track on after I’m done running too cool off while I walk myself and my heart rate back down to earth. This song makes me feel very grounded and willing to accept what nature hands me. It also makes me want to reach out to others and share my experiences with the one’s I love. Normally when Tool does a track to break up the album and set up new ground for the next songs it is usually something simple, short, and consist of strange sound effects. As I said, this track certainly has all of that but is a fully functional and critical song to this album. I strongly feel that without this really unique Tool track Lateralus simply would not hold the weight it does. I can show this song to almost anyone and they will typically enjoy it. It’s been a great way to break the ice with someone who might have never given Tool a chance. I have a sister who listens to mostly country or pop radio music told me she never imagined a band like Tool would ever move her in a way that inspire her because of this very song. I believe that is a compliment to the artist rather than a knock or a way to say “they sold out”. It’s the fact that such a unique and wonderfully performed prog/rock song from a band as aggressive and bright as Tool can reach across genres and musical taste to reach out and touch a stranger really sticks out to me. To me this song seems to celebrate the idea of reaching out and trying new things with other people makes it all the more perfect.

When the song reaches its end don’t react yet. Just focus on what you’re hearing. Listen to the guitar and bass fading and the drum stick bouncing off the head.  Listen to the whirring background and empty your mind. Prepare for the beginning of the next track because you’re in for a big time treat. Just when you think the album could be running out of gas you are presented with an even more unique, incredibly deep, and complex song that is going to be a great challenge to review as I have so much to say about it.

                     Track #11 -Reflection-

I am going to have to be really careful not to write an entire book about this song. I have a lot to say about it because it has a lot to say to all of us.  Let’s just dive right in though and start swimming. I hope you really paid attention to the end of the previous track Disposition and how it bleed right through into the beginning of this song. Danny Carey has always prided himself and his skill. He doesn’t seem like an arrogant man but he is definitely one of the most confident drummers I have ever heard. The main reason I speak so highly of Danny Carey when top drummers list are being discussed is mostly because of how truly unique he plays. I will always appreciate and admire a more rigid and technical approach to music. Staying inside the lines so to speak is part of the art form of playing music. Mastering classic techniques and showing proficiency with them will always be impressive and Danny Carey certainly is impressive in that aspect when looking at drumming. That said, the real reason I am such a big fan of Danny Carey is just how far outside the lines he can draw yet still keep it all together without it feeling like a drug fueled drum solo.  The performance by Danny throughout this song is absolutely bullet proof and inspires me to no end. At times it sounds as if there are actually two drummers playing a duet instead of just one extremely talented man. Absolutely brilliant drumming.

By the time the bass is introduced you’ve already been experiencing a very dark, tribal, and atmospheric drumming performance. The introduction of the bass only amplifies this feeling. This is another case where the simplicity of the actual playing is not as impressive as how it was composed into the song. It makes the song feel really trippy and weird and I love it. Synth work is also introduced and adds more depth to the song making it feel almost sluggish in contrast to the incredible drumming going on.  Adam Jones guitar work sounds very eerie and creepy which fits perfect with the rest of the band. Still though, Danny Carey’s drumming stands out and almost seems to be in command of everything. It feels as if no music can take place or be added without Danny’s permission. And that’s when we get our first ghostly listen of Maynard’s singing.

This song more than the rest of the album needs to be read. Please find the song here and study it. “Lateralus Lyrics Link” This is going to be incredibly difficult to keep short but I will do my best not to bog you down here. This is a song all about you. It’s not to feed your ego however so don’t even go there. Instead try to imagine what it feels like to make a mistake but not just any mistake. The kind of mistake you can’t make up for. The guilt, shame, and indignity that comes with making those kinds of mistakes are unique because while it might seem painful and difficult it’s really a chance for you to take responsibility for yourself and own your actions. I often find it’s a means by which I get to know myself better especially as I grow older and stop blaming others for my problems.  I often find that running away from this often leads to even more severe consequences down the road so in essence failing to recognize your failures will result ultimately in even more dramatic failures in the future as you keep avoiding what ever problems are plaguing you.

The beginning of this song is so dark and makes me feel isolated and I am fairly certain that this is exactly what the artist wanted us to feel. Maynard’s voice sounds so desperate, whining, and small underneath the big giant behemoth of the instrumental. To me, the singing is the narrative of the story while the instrumental aspects of any song is the foreground and background of the narrative. Applying that idea here means to me that Maynard plays the roll of a person who’s been over whelmed with the world around them and that the instrumental music is the world around them. In this case a very dark and brooding world where fear and confusion dominate the emotional fortitude of the main character.

As the song progresses there seems to be small sparks of intuition and inspiration with our main character. I get the feeling the artist are subtly inviting us to face our problems, grit your teeth, and keep a stiff upper lip as you move on to conquer your problems.  What I love about this song in particular is how often my emotions change throughout the song. We’re used to this with all music as we follow familiar patterns of chorus and verse and interchanging them in order to elicit a certain emotion towards one thing or another. This song is no different except they seemed to composed it all in a way that seems to wax and wane between positive and negative emotions so often that I always seem to get lost in the music and start to really think about my life. It’s a wonderfully strange feeling because I am deeply impressed that a song could make me focus so damn hard on myself. It’s not an angry focus but more like healthy criticism.

This song also wants to remind us that we are not alone in our day-to-day suffering and struggle. This small consideration seems small until it turns into incredible inspiration. There is verse in this song that to me symbolizes what it means when people say “we are not alone”.  I don’t like to paste lyrics into my writing but I really want to now because I’m worried you won’t read the lyrics for yourself but if you’re a fan of music and you’re reading this please try your best to love this song after multiple times listening and after having read the lyrics.

The ending of this song last a couple of minutes as the musicians really take their time to put a strong emphasis about the urgency of living life to its fullest as often as you can while you’re still here. There is a message that repeats and drives the point home as the rest of the band really push themselves to deliver a perfect ending to this epic song that also lends itself to the next and last musical track on the album. To me the end of this album is like a trilogy of songs meant simply to be very different from anything you’ve ever heard before. That said, this particular track stands out the most. It’s just so very good especially if you’ve taken the time to really look into the lyrics after you’ve enjoyed the song a few times. I never read the lyrics to songs until after I’ve heard the music several times and I can’t stress enough how much more this song comes to life once you really dig into the lyrics.

Enjoy this song folks. Before you pine away.

 

 

Track #12 -Triad-

As you leave the ambiance of Reflection and enter into this song you might notice a steep and exponentially more aggressive theme beginning to pulse in the background.  My friends if you like flat-out rock and roll meant to make you start banging your head this is to me one of the most ultimate head banging anthems to come out of the new millennium.  The focus on this song is strictly on rocking as hard as you can while you have time to do it. This is the spirit of rock and roll and a bit of heavy metal incarnate in the form of four amazing musicians capping one of the great works off with an amazing instrumental opus meant to please the gods of rock.

I always imagined this is what an ancient tribe of musicians would sound like if they had access to modern instruments and technology. It’s easy for me to imagine a rain dance going on in the back ground or a rite of passage ceremony.  There is something so familiar and comforting in the aggressive tribal drum beats being granted to us from above by Danny “The Lion Fucker” Carey. The guitar work is once again nothing extremely technical but some how Adam Jones is able to make it sound ridiculously awesome I believe in large part once again to the talent of Danny Carey. Adam’s guitar playing just so happens to be a perfect accent to Danny’s drumming sound. That said, we do get some really cool sounding guitar solo’s in the track as well.

Justin Chancellor’s bass work is present and definitely adds a very crunchy and very round sound to the whole song. I always liked Justin’s work because of how percussive his playing seems to be. Like Adam he is the perfect accent to Danny’s drumming making it even more thunderous than it already is. There are no lyrics to this song but when I saw this song performed live Maynard James Keenan was playing a guitar and also played with a keyboard. There was also another percussionist playing some sort of tenor tama drums. It made this already really epic song even more incredible and I’ll never forget it. I believe it was the second to last song they played and the stage was ablaze with amazing artwork, incredible visual effects, intense video packages, and of course amazing musicians performing amazing music.

What we have here then is a song best listened to when you’re with a bunch of buddies doing something awesome together or if you’re by yourself you should get up and move a little bit to the music. It’s meant to be rocked out to by cool people who appreciate good rock and roll music. This song really makes me feel more connected to other Tool fans almost as if it’s our tribal war song that we all want to mosh to.  In the end that’s what this album feels like to me. I big long epic voyage with interesting twist and turns all capped off by an exclamation point.

Track #13 -Faaip De Oiad-

One of the most creepy bits of audio I’ve ever heard. It’s a track meant to catch you off guard as it’s tucked away and could be easily missed. It’s a combination of a conspiracy theory radio show getting a call about Area 51 aliens taking over the planet and eerie sound effects done by someone combined to make what feels like a horror radio show. If you ever want to creep someone out play this while they’re asleep and wake them up, tell them it’s on the radio right now and all over the TV!

This has become quite a lengthy article so I have decided to break it up in three parts. Be sure to visit the previous two articles if you haven’t already! 

 

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.

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.

Music Review: Nine Inch Nails Pretty Hate Machine

Ampersand DailyMusic

I have decided to start doing reviews of different types of media that inspire my philosophical side to talk about the world and attempt to provide trains of thought that could be taken and turned into solutions by the doers in our society. For my first album, I could think of no better album than the emotionally ravishing Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails. This album takes the listener on a chaotic yet very directly ordered and disciplined soundtrack. There is a very deliberate and obvious message of intensity when it comes to all of Nine Inch Nails albums, and this album is no different.

Produced in 1989, early on in Nine Inch Nails history, there is some sounds produced by this album which can give it a dated feel, however, for me, the date something was produced is far less important than the execution of the instruments and mediums being used to create the music I am hearing. If anything, it makes me feel like I’m getting ready to watch the rated R version of Back to the Future at times, which gives me a great big evil smile to think about.

I will provide the track name, number, length, and a link to the lyrics for each song followed by my review of each song. My favorite site for looking up song lyrics is http://www.songmeanings.net/ so if possible I will use their site almost exclusively. Also, I recommend using Spotify to listen to these songs as you read through the review. https://www.spotify.com/us/for-music/ If you do not want to use Spotify visit YouTube and look for the songs on there. http://www.youtube.com/

One last note, I realize my interpretations are not going to match that of the creators or of every body out there, hell maybe not anyone out there. But that’s not what this is all about. I am doing this because I love art and inspiration and blogging. Not to insult anyone or ruin anybody’s day out there so please, if you feel I have insulted you in any way through my interpretations please let me know as kindly as you can conceive how I might change the way I’m looking at a song or film or even just a piece of art work. This is about being open and communicating well with others in a positive manner. Not personal agenda’s.

I realize that often lyrics listen in the albums inserts and album art are sometimes different from what is actually presented on the song itself. I strongly recommend reviewing the lyrics on Song Meanings and attempting to edit where necessary. 

Album cover.
Album cover.

http://www.nin.com

(Please visit the bands site if you enjoyed this album and show some support!)

The album begins….

1. Head Like a Hole 4:59 http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/2508/  <<<Lyrics

The intro reminds me of how it felt to be a young boy, excited that my friends were coming over to rough house and run around in the woods with sling shots and paintball guns. You could almost say it’s as if it transports me to the Island where the boys from Lord of the Flies were stranded and I’ve become overwhelmed by my immaturity and am acting out on my youthful animal instincts. The electric drum rhythm, the sporadic kit drums, and the childish voices ringing out in the background forming into a coherent beat and rhythm, just then, Trent Reznor begins to sing.

The lyrics to this song give me the feeling that Trent is speaking out against greed and corruption that comes with the quest to control your own life and others through wealth and power. I feel he takes an honest approach because if I’m honest, I know how greedy I am, while it is not on the same level as Trent Reznor is speaking out against, I believe everyone can learn from this song, rich or poor. This song helps me realize that both rich and poor are just human beings, that each have certain qualities about them that may be different, yet others which make them quite similar.

Depending on your perspective this song is going to mean different things at first, but I find with most artistic presentations, if you spend enough time pondering the messages involved, you can learn to see things from different perspectives and how those persuasions affect your life .  While this song certainly does pull any punches, that is exactly what makes this song so powerful and important to the over all album. It’s as if in one hand those who lust for wealth can say “you can’t take it from me” while in the other those who live in a more giving way can shout “I’d rather die than give you control” and vic-a-versa and mean completely different things, yet share in the idea of being free from one another.

I feel that the over all message for me by the end of the song is that we all have strengths and weaknesses, not all of us can be billionaires, but we can be very wealthy when it comes to other things in life that have nothing to do with money. This song can be either a blue-collar shout down at the rich and wealthy or the wealthy looking down upon what they believe to be their flock. The dichotomy that comes to mind is what makes this song so appealing to me, subjectively of course, being somewhat of a free-thinker I tend to look at things from both sides of any argument, being less well off than others, I tend to lean towards the poor man’s arguments, but see things from those more fortunate perspective at times as well. Keep an open mind, Head like a Hole.

2. Terrible Lie 4:38 http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/2523/ <<<<Lyrics

Track number two begins with a strong industrial beat banging, clicking, clanking, and grinding. The drummer lays down a simple, very direct, and loud pattern for Trent to wrap his lyrics around. In the midst of all that, what sounds like a distorted keyboard chimes in with an interesting pattern of notes that help glue it all together.  The questions being asked of God remind me of a believer at the end of his belief in God. The anger and the shame that comes with realizing that perhaps everything you were taught as a child by those who were supposed to be honest with you and look out for you simply were not true comes out in this song very obviously.

The death throws of a mans faith can lead to anger and frustration that can leave a one traumatized. This song in particular has served for me as a means of therapy. Knowing that I wasn’t the only man to feel this way made me feel less alone and afraid. Especially right after realizing I no longer believed in God and feeling totally lost and depraved, realizing my fellow human beings have come to realize this and still were able to go on and create a nice life for themselves gave me great hope. However, I have to admit this song can make me sad at times thinking about how religion in general has poisoned the hearts and minds of millions of people on the planet into believing that it’s worth going around the world and murdering others for not believing the same things.

I feel at the time this was written, Trent was in the “Death Throws” stage of letting go of his faith and losing his religion. Still referring to God as if it still existed, throwing his anger at religion, yet acknowledging the existence of a higher power. If I could talk to Trent about this perhaps I would ask him if he still believes in God first and then point out that some of the lyrics in this song are “I need SOMEONE to hold on to.” Perhaps in this song this was meant to mock those dependent on others are weaker than those who separate from the herd, but I believe having someone to hold on to, through love, respect, and open-minded interaction is a wonderful thing! Humanist, this song is a hidden gem when it comes to your philosophy, one I can respect on many levels.

3. Down in It 3:46 http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3495/ <<<<Lyrics

The track opens with what sounds to me like a dance party club scene bass sequence. It feels out-of-place exiting the previous track, but aggressively catchy enough to blend in and take the listener into a new realm of musical play. The choppy sound effects in the back ground steps up the tempo, followed by a flowing effect leading into Trent’s lyrics, which sound less like singing and more like an expressive form of speech. The drumming remains consistent, simple, yet unique.

This song addresses an important issue that is still and more than likely forever will be a side effect of waking up to certain realities that are unavoidable once you reach a certain age of enlightenment. For those who choose to see, they will experience a sense of higher moral ground than others. This is a cycle of behavior that Trent seems to be addressing perhaps as a warning to others to never think of yourself superior to your peers. We like to think because we know something unique about the world that some how it puts us above others when in fact, doing so will only reflect how similar to those you oppose you really are.

For me, growing up with the internet, instant access to information that was previously unattainable by most, this lead me to a superiority complex for a few years where everyone else was a sheep and I and a few others had a one up on everyone else. What arrogance I displayed because I came to realize that everything I know is just a fraction of a fraction of what’s out there and I am NOBODY to judge others for knowing or not knowing anything. The more you try to separate yourself from the others, the more you stay the same as them. Perhaps this song is meant to inspire a different way of looking at the world.

4. Sanctified 4:58 http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3496/ <<<<<Lyrics

The drum effects begin with a simple rhythm and beat, the space sound effects draw you in to a bass riff that flows into the lyrics. The tension builds quickly as Trent ask several questions that perhaps most people will ask themselves when they are infatuated with another or perhaps in a different way addicted to a drug. This song is telling the story of an individual who will do anything to please their infatuation or perhaps their addiction. Their entire life revolves around their next encounter with the object of their obsession.  How far will one go in order to satisfy and feel justified in what they are doing, even if it’s hurting them in the long run?

Considering relationships, we’ve all seen what happens when someone becomes too involved with someone who simply isn’t the right person for them. People will do almost anything to feel loved, even pretend someone loves them even if they obviously do not. When it comes to drugs, an individual addicted will come up with any reason what so ever to get their next fix, even if it makes no logical sense. To that person however, it is a 100% legitimate excuse, whatever it may be.  Often we feel we are justified in our actions when in reality we really aren’t. The evidence of this comes from the fruit of the behavior. Things keep getting worse, yet we sometimes choose to lie to ourselves and continue down that path.

Another way I look at all of this is that perhaps we need those lies in a strange and perhaps grotesque way. Perhaps these low points and flaws about us is exactly what helps us grow into a more complete human being. At the end of the day not one of us is perfect so looking in the mirror and hopefully seeing our flaws leads us to a better understanding of what life is really all about. Maybe this means we really are sanctified in making these mistakes, as long as we learn from them and grow.

5. Something I Can Never Have 5:54 http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/36302/ <<Lyrics

The ghostly intro features a deep droning noise accompanied by a haunting piano piece. I feel as though I’m entering a dark realm of mystery and intrigue. Trent again uses his words deliberately in a speaking voice, rather than belting out the song’s questions and answers. The lyrics give way to more droning and piano, birds chirping in the background, and the sound of a distant violin is barely audible. Everything about this song begs the listener to listen very closely to all of the little details going on throughout the entire song.

Some things in life are simply not meant to be, yet we hold on to these feelings don’t we? Have you ever been so close to someone, yet, very far apart? What a terrifying notion that you can love someone with all your heart, even change for them, and improve yourself in order to impress them to be with you, but they just won’t have you. I’m not sure there is anything more painful than this situation that almost everyone finds themselves in at one time or another in life. Being rejected despite your endless love and attention can cause us to become obsessive and destructive. We begin to alienate our life in order to prove your love for another who simply will not have you. This song is yet another warning from Trent to the listener. Yes, love is tremendous and glorious, but it can also become something very ugly if we are not careful.

I think this song, at the end of the day, is Trent coming to the realization that there are some things in life you are not meant to have. You do not own anyone and despite how sad it makes you feel, you cannot force things that aren’t meant to be and you cannot force others to change just to suit your needs. No matter how much you’ve changed, no matter how much you think you love someone, and no matter how much time passes by revisiting this will often just remind you how much time you’ve wasted and open up old scars reminding you who you used to be. And in a way, can shed a bright light on the good things you have now. Focus on the good you have now instead of trying to attain something you can’t have.

6. Kinda I Want To 4:33 http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/38639/ <<<Lyrics

Grinding into this track you’re greeted abruptly with a trip hop track and an aggressive vocal effort from Trent Reznor. Exploring again the realm of addiction, infatuation, obsession, and other flaws in humanity that have to be experienced first hand to understand. Having been through my own problems, I have to admit this song nails that feeling right on the head. The music is devious, the lyrics are aggressive, the meanings of the words cannot be mistaken. It’s that selfish feeling inside that causes you to lie to your best friends face and do exactly the opposite of what everyone is telling you to do just because you want to. Forget about modesty this song seems to celebrate that feelings of freedom of exploring your desires to their fullest. Or does it?

” I’m not sure of what I should do. When every thought I have is of you. All of my excuses turn to lies. Maybe God will cover up his eyes. Why does it have to be this way, why does it have to be? Kinda I want to, maybe just for tonight we can pretend it’s alright. What’s the price I pay? I don’t care what they say, I want to. I want to, I’ll take my chance tonight.”

Reading those words only makes me realize just how selfish we can become over such minuscule events in our lives that do nothing but agitate those around us and cause them grief and perhaps even further into pain and depression. Perhaps part of this song celebrates the idea of letting go of your selfish desires and simply existing in peace with those around you. Letting go of that which anchor’s you and your peers and turning a bad situation into a good thing. In fact, this song puts this awful situation so bluntly that I cannot help but look past the arrogance that produced it and see a young man getting over his troubles and delusions to be able to produce such an amazing song. Top notch song.

7. Sin 4:06 http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/37350/<<<<Lyrics

The sound effects that greet you here are other worldly echoing, repeating, spacious, and whistling things. Perhaps a voice saying “Jump” repeatedly with a monotone bass pattern leading into a driving tune with immediate and growling lyrics. Obviously someone is feels strongly about something so let’s move on to the meat of this very robust song.

Have you ever had a relationship with where ideologies collide? The frustration that comes with someone not understanding your point of view is tremendous and affects anyone who has a mind of their own to use. Throw love in the mix and it’s a recipe for drama on epic proportions. It starts innocently enough and then one day you are looked down upon or even looked up to by your significant other as something you really aren’t. This causes you to try to be more like yourself which in turn could repulse the skeptic or disappoint the admirer. It’s like you have to live a lie in order for some people to accept you for who you are. I believe the point of this song is to express the anger and frustration that awaits anyone who attempts to live this lie.

There is a heavy emphasis on punishment, morality, and anger in this track. It is carried by an amazing soundtrack which finds different nooks and crannies and gives me a sense of chaos. The chaos you will feel if you choose to share your life with someone who just does not understand you. One day you feel you can handle it and in the very next moment the eyes of the person you are sharing your life with will meet yours and you realize that you will have to give up on all of your principles and morals just to satisfy them. The title of this song suggests one sin begets another and leads to yet another. How long will you let this go before you realize you are the sinner?

8.That’s What I Get 4:30 http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/38642/ <<<<Lyrics

This song to me represents everything that’s great about this album yet it also feels like the hidden gem of the entire package.  It is not the most complex when it comes to  lyrics and story being told, however, the classic love/tragedy/triumph story has never been told so uniquely. It begins with a driving theme, mid range bass track and the clanking twangy sounds as if an array of metal wires are being plucked. Just on que, a mixture of delicate and soft synthesizers with a consistent deep bass pattern fill the background which are accompanied by words which everyone who’s ever had their heartbroken have spoken to themselves since the beginning of time.

The crashing noises and zipping sounds flow into the driving bass theme from the beginning and we get a singing bridge with excellent musical accompaniment that then set’s the stage for this songs brilliant ending. The snap of a snare drum signals my favorite part of the song.

“That’s what I get” becomes more than the name of a song, or a what you tell yourself when you are sad. It becomes empowerment as you hear Trent accepting his mistake and realizing he has to move on from the pain he caused himself. You can hear the inspiration of a new life in the lively drumming pattern and synth pumping out an inspirational tune over the background of everything else you’ve already heard. What I love about this song is that the idea has been done before, but not like this. I think anyone can relate to this song if they have a mind to hear the story being told. “That’s what I get” becomes a lesson learned. In the end you get a the classic story, but accompanied by music you’ve never heard before. I can’t help but appreciate what Trent was going for in this track.

9.The Only Time 4:47 http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/38639/ <<<<Lyrics

From the onset we stagger into this song now knowing what’s about to hit us. Just some lyrics and a catchy bass line, but the lyrics lead me to feel drunk, tipsy, and disoriented with the bass line chopping up his words. The feeling I get is similar to that rush of adrenaline you get when you’ve made a fool of yourself in public after having one to many drinks. All the eyes staring at you only embolden your resolve to do whatever you want. You go through new acquaintances as quickly as you go through the drinks until finally you see that woman smiling wildly at you and you stumble over to her. You share a drunken conversation that makes no sense to anyone but you and her. Both of you realize what you’re about to do to each other is wrong but also know you’re going to do it anyways. Off you go out the door stumbling into her car as she takes you on a wild ride back to her apartment where dirty little secrets are going to be made between you two.

This song goes even deeper into the human experience. Why is it that we pick our scabs, say things we shouldn’t, or stay friends with people who treat us like crap? Why do we put ourselves through strange and new experiences only to come out the other side a damaged human being? Why on earth would anyone put themselves through something like that? The answer to that is we all do it, the only difference is a matter of degree. Some of us are more sadomasochistic than others, so the harm we bring on ourselves and others might be enjoyable for a time, until you learn that it’s not what you needed from life. When you begin to question whether or not you’ve made a mistake, it’s usually too late to do anything but let go and walk away. What pops out to me is how this can relate to every single one of us. An ultra-conservative Christian might think using the lords name in vain is as naughty as an atheist college student thinks it is to cheat on their significant other. Life is full of those experiences where reality pushes us beyond our normal routine and causes us to seek out new experiences. Sometimes this leads to unfortunate tragedy yet other times a pleasant surprise awaits. Either way, it’s how we live our lives, no matter where you’re basing your moral standards.

The title of the song suggests that being pushed outside our comfort zone and experiencing a new thing in life is the only time he ever feels alive. I think this is true for everyone though as far as the degree to which one could define something being a “new” experience. But perhaps the opposite is true as well. Perhaps the behaviors we form over time lead us to a comfortable routine for a very good reason. While there is nothing wrong with experiencing new things in life, sometimes the emotional strain that comes with it can truly hinder one’s ability to be productive and happy with life. I think you reach a point in life where you know what you want and what you like to do enough to realize whether or not you will enjoy something enough to take it on. This is a sign of maturity for a lot of people, myself included, knowing a person is somewhat set in their ways shows me that they stand on certain principles and moral ideas that would be extremely difficult to change in them. I see the good in this as well as the flaw because after all, we would never have gotten set in those behaviors without at first trying them to begin with. Life is as much about taking risk as it is maintaining a level of consistency. Both have their place in life.

10. Ringfinger 5:40 http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/38647/ <<<Lyrics

The closing title for this album will leave the listener longing for more. This song greets you with a synthesized melody and steady kick drum beat. Trent Reznors voice joins momentarily and the point of the song becomes clear almost immediately. There is no hidden meaning in this song and that’s its strength. Everything about this song is out in the open and so are the lyrics. This songs lyrics and music seem to be at odds with one another until you really think about the over all message. The beginning remains mostly as described but adds another layer of synth music and an additional bass line eventually leading to a high-pitched guitar riff. You will notice that not one part of this song is like the others as it moves along. More and more layers begin to add up as the music get’s more intense. Eventually, the lyrics take on a new meaning once the music catches up to the over all theme of the song which I will interpret in the next paragraph.

We have many personal relationships with people and impersonal relationships with various technologies, addictions, and events in our life that sometimes wear us thin. The feelings mount in this part of the song as it becomes obvious that no one in their right mind should take this sort of abuse sitting down. When you make a commitment to something, you go all the way, absolutely, but should you start to feel worn out it is important to take a break from those things. Commitments shouldn’t be life sentences of pain, anguish, and mental torture. Once the song hits it’s stride it gives me the feeling that Trent Reznor wanted to communicate his frustrations about his commitments in life but realized that’s part of what makes life so challenging and rewarding. He didn’t produce this album by sitting on his hands and complaining about how sore he was, how tired he got on long nights, or by letting go of his commitments. As frustrating as those commitments can get, getting through them is part of what it takes to do something great with your life.

However, I think there is a darker side to point out and that is when it comes to people and relationships and marriage, commitment takes on a whole new level of importance. Putting a ring on someone’s finger and promising that person that their life is just as, if not, more important than your own is nothing to take lightly. What happens all the time in the USA with marriages? Need I remind you how often marriages end in divorce? Is there any reason to wonder why in a society that’s all about instant gratification how a marriage could end up with one of the participants feeling used and abused by the other? This song present this problem in bold living color for the listener to soak in as yet another warning from this amazing album. Do not make promises you know you cannot keep.

In Conclusion….

This album and Nine Inch Nails in general is not going to be for everyone. Trent Reznor has always been about trying new things with music and has always had an aggressive nature when presenting his crafts to the world. I think the thing people misunderstand most about the aggressive nature in some music is the attempt to present and wonder about things that society at large and popular culture normally does not give much attention to. Exploring why someone is being bullied and the emotional processes that come with it for example is something many may want to avoid facing when trying to enjoy music, but for me, it only enhances the experience. The idea that music should only be happy and go-lucky to me seems unrealistic and misses the point of what art in all of its forms is supposed to be. I can’t help but imagine the benefits society has gained from the small amount of people out there who do enjoy this kind of music and take a little more seriously than just banging your head like a mad man. The people who stopped to actually listen to the story being told in these kinds of songs and who enjoy this kind of music for those reasons are some of the most polite and honest people I’ve ever met. I think it’s because artist like Trent Reznor aren’t afraid to ask the challenging questions and make the controversial points with their art work.

As for this album, obviously it is full of obligatory drama padded by aggressive music which drives the point home. I recommend this album to anyone who enjoys philosophy, politics, and longs for something to challenge their sense of reality. This may even set well with fans of techno and industrial music just for the musical mechanics going on, which spreads across most of Nine Inch Nails library. This just happens to be one of the first efforts from the project so I thought it would be a good place to start with these music reviews. If you’ve never listened to Nine Inch Nails before, please understand that each album is unique from the last one. You may really enjoy this album, but not be so much of a fan of the next. Don’t judge everything you think about Nine Inch Nails off this one album.