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Lateralus

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★★★★½
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  • We’ve witnessed Tool’s evolution, musically and lyrically. On their first full-length album (Undertow), the band spewed forth a large quantity of cathartic regurgitation, mostly on a “personal” level – telling tales of abuse, religious fraud and personal anguish. The following album (_├ćnima_) would express these same ideas. However, the second time around, the band became more elaborate and “universal” with their aura and message – while expanding the time-lengths in their songs, adding eerie interludes, and making the music more complex. On _Lateralus_, the boys seem less angry this time around, perhaps, arriving at a “spiritual” place the band were probably slowly heading toward to begin with. They still maintain the aggressive intensity found on their previous albums (as well as that distinct hypnotic, mysterious aura they always possessed), but, this time around, there seems to be a feeling of hope and salvation that most Tool fans probably thought could never have been achieved. To say the album is deep, complex and mysterious would be GROSS understatements. Conceptually, the band seems to be exploring Qaballah (or Kaballah, whichever choice of spelling is accurate) transcripts. If you’ve intently explored such areas as Qaballah, astrology, numerology, mythology and other such metaphysical/new age subjects, you may just have yourself an interesting, challenging and/or fun time exploring this album, as it’s soaked in equivocal references to each of these. You can find references to Saturn (god of depression, fears, sorrow, misfortunes, discipline, lessons learned through hard times), Mars (god of violence, strife, conflict, war), Mercury (god of communication, thought, travel), Pluto (god of transformation, regeneration and rebirth) and other mythological figures. There’s not much time or space for me to delve into every single detail, but, hopefully, this will help. Now, I’ll discuss the significance of the song “The Grudge” and it’s connection with the mythological figure, Saturn. There are references to the number “1″ scattered throughout the song. Depending on where you look, number “1″ can be a reference to the Sun (the god of life, power and vitality), or to Saturn. But on here, it’s obvious that the reference is for Saturn. 1 and 10 represent the same figure: 1, 10, 19, 28 all equal “1″ (“10″: 1+0=1. “19″: 1+9=10=1. “28″: 2+8=10=1). In this case, I’m referring to the lyrical references of the song, “The Grudge.” Singer Maynard James Keenan says lines like “Saturn ascends/choose 1 or 10″/Saturn ascends/comes around again.” In the latter line, Maynard may be referring to an astrological term called “Saturn Return.” This is where the planet Saturn takes approximately 29 years to plow through the 12 astrological signs of the zodiacal belt (Note: the planets and astrological signs are supposed to have, more or less, considerable influence on human beings and events on planet earth.) When this happens, everyone supposedly will go through a difficult time in their lives (particularly every 29 years.) And when this happens, we are supposed to learn and grow from this – as Saturn’s influence indicates. And perhaps, this is what Maynard & the rest of Tool have done: Grown, evolved, and learned through the tough times they’ve been through. Now, remember, this is only the significance of one track, as more of these lyrical/metaphysical correlations can be found scattered throughout the disc, but, the theme of evolution is a constant-running theme for the album. Musically speaking – polyrhythms, alternating time signatures, odd chord/note progressions can be found all over the place. The band seems more refined in their execution of the performances – playing with as much intensity as before, but not sounding as muddy or gritty as previous efforts. Maynard’s vocals sound haunting, mysterious and powerful as ever, but, this time (as I’ve said), he sounds like he’s in a state of salvation, as opposed to the agonized vocals found on previous efforts. But, he does let out some powerful screams as well, so watch out! Drummer Danny Carey is playing tasteful, complex rhythms, without sacrificing his more explosive pounding behind the drum kit, and the understated works of Justin Chancellor (bass) and Adam Jones (guitar) contribute to intensify the ever-present dark, hypnotic and mysterious aura of Tool’s music. At 79 minutes, this is a lengthy album, but one that’s so mysterious, entrancing and intriguing, you won’t even notice that the album was long to begin with. If you want to see the more evolved side of Tool, and/or want some challenging music with some seemingly transmorgifying subject matter, pick this up. And remember, to say this album is deep is a GROSS understatement.

    Posted on November 11, 2009