label: bmg / volcano / pavement
our score: 4.0 out of 5.0
Deep Into the Entrails
to Lateralus - the third album from prog-rock boogey men
Tool - in the dark. Go on, I dare you. If you make it through
the first two songs of its chaotic dementia without running for
the lights, you're a stronger person than me. The hordes of recent
shock rock wannabes dress in black and paint their faces with
blood just to get the Christian Coalition's goat. Tool does it
because, well, it just comes naturally.
there's something to be said for intentionally scaring yourself
silly. For the same reason The Exorcist is fun to watch,
Lateralus is exciting to listen to. The song names alone
("Ticks and Leeches," "Eon Blue Apocalypse,"
"Faaip De Oiad") offer a taste of the slightly disturbed
thinking that went in to making it, but they can't really prepare
you for its disorienting swirl of drums, cult-like chanting and
In even the
scariest horror film, there's always at least a couple moments
of respite to let you catch your breath. On Lateralus,
those breaks come in the form of short tracks filled with somber
machine-like wailing. "Parabol" draws you into a comfortable
womb of calm, as frontman Maynard James Keenan (fresh off his
work with his side project, A Perfect Circle) sings almost lullaby-like.
But just as everything begins to feel safe, an extended scream
of feedback disturbs the quiet and "Parabol" morphs
into the searing "Parabola" without missing a beat.
As one song
fades into another, Lateralus begins to feel like one continuous
neurotic jam session, with songs evolving, mutating and recreating
themselves in slightly different forms. Not unlike flipping the
pages of the album's cover art to "dissect" the two-dimensional
man, peeling away the layers of Lateralus reveals fascinating,
yet disgusting innards we didn't really want to believe were there.
And at nearly 80 minutes, the album takes its time delving deep
into the entrails. The trilogy of "Disposition," "Reflection"
and "Triad" alone clocks in at a whopping 25 minutes
of constant guitar fuzz and science fiction sound effects. Listen
closely, though, and despite its apparent chaos, each note is
exactly where it should be.
artfully concocted insanity is intentional or not, there is no
disputing that Keenan is one messed up son of a bitch. Come to
think of it, every member of Tool could use a psyche evaluation.
Guitarist Adam Jones was the mastermind behind the band's four
stop-action videos of human-cloning experiments gone wrong. But
of the four of them, Keenan should be the first in line at the
straightjacket tailor. Don't forget, though, that some of the
craziest artists in history gave us some of the most memorable
art. Van Gogh cut off his own ear and sent it to a lover. It's
with that kind of devotion that Keenan throws himself into every
syllable of every thing he sings. Even his disarming whispers
in "Schism" quiver with tension and warn of the inevitable
screams to follow.
The line between
scary and ham-handed cheese is precariously thin, as we've been
reminded over and over by the countless horror movies that clog
cineplexes. By the third installment of Friday the Thirteenth,
the fear-factor had long since been diluted. But Lateralus
proves that Tool still know how to crawl into your brain and raise
the hairs on your neck - whether the lights are on or not.