Tool Lateralus (Volcano)
Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., June 8, 2001
Lateralus (Volcano)Never let it be said Tool doesn't give you your money's worth. At one point on Lateralus, only the band's second release since their 1993 debut Undertow, Maynard James Keenan even sings about "this tedious path I've chosen." If nothing else, this 80-minute opus will cement Tool's standing as the King Crimson of alt.rock. It's the sort of LP where a six-minute communication breakdown like "Schism" gets released as a single -- that is, after some of the more Dr. Who flourishes have been excised. By design, Tool's songs often take several minutes to get truly cranked, but when they do, the payoff's usually brutal. If they didn't take meticulous care to fashion such intricate webs of deceptive harmonic calm, it wouldn't be nearly as impressive when they inevitably shatter them to pieces. Though this formula is present in some form or another largely throughout Lateralus, it's best distilled on midlength (for Tool) numbers like grinding opener "The Grudge" and the withering "Ticks & Leeches." Elsewhere ("Reflection"), the band crafts these yawning vortexes of circular riffs and tribal drums that all at once coalesce into a fearsome thundering metal beast with laser-beam eyes. Such overwhelming barrages of blunt yet also refined musical force continue to define Tool, offering the added bonus of largely obscuring the fact that, sometimes, Keenan sounds a like he's having a Depeche Mode/Martin Gore "piano" moment.