My journey through the records of Progressive Metal behemoth Tool hits an elongated fumble as we arrive at one of their most talked about records. Its been over a month since Ænima and with that time Ive sunk my teeth into this meaty eighty minutes of progressive epics many times. I have found myself at the same conclusion many times, Lateralus is slow to get going and its best moments are spun from lengthy build ups that dispel the tension and immediacy yet its best stirrings of musical gusto lurk from these meanderings like a switch that changes nothing. My favorite moments seem to stem from apex of these unending tangents as a final piece of the puzzle falls into place. Its been a fascinating listening experience but as I turn my thoughts into words, the semblance of their meanings feels like a key starting to turn the lock.
Dissecting the musics continual unwinding, one can see the markings of mathematics and music theory manifesting in its song structures and riffs. A lot of the guitar works repeats with obvious cycled counts and poly measures. Its song structures play out linear paths of slow methodical builds in atmosphere and intensity. The guitars often play out pivoting on this principle as slabs of slicing distortions grind through the timely measures with a repetition that always deceives itself, a niche touch. Danny Carey and his presence on the drums are as powerful as ever. He finds himself with one heck of a task to take that big and busying drumming style and play it out through unending passageways. His ability to hold the music together through massive segments should not be understated, its an essential performance.
Lateralus as a whole encapsulates the tone Tool built so far but channels it rather directly into these deeper atmospheric tunnelings that take out the raw emotions. Maybe it is to be found in Keenan's words but with most of that passing me by his performance plays more like another instrument with occasional outbursts of raw screams and energy in the musics peaking moments. The record really gets going with Parabola, a song that perhaps most sounds akin to their previous work. It opens with a groovy crowd bouncing riff that flows into big, engulfing lead guitar notes in the upper range, immediately gratifying. It mostly manages to avoid the number shuffling riffs and compositions while still sounding keenly progressive.
After this track it feels like almost every song is illuminated in its crowning moments with riveting moments of electricity. With that in mind the meandering in between is far more enjoyable as its droning quality suddenly swallows you whole in these moments of brilliance. Lateralus, at eighty minutes, seems to be a deep cut but even after a whole month of devouring it I came to a point where I felt as if the album was too big for itself. Then in the listens leading up to writing this post its as if the magic finally started to click. Its almost like I am only now just starting to actually hear it. Although 10,000 Days is next I will undoubtedly keep this one spinning from time to time.
Favorite Tracks: Parabola, Ticks & Leaches, Reflection