Thankfully, Tool aren’t one of the bands that you expect to make the same album again and again. Each new release, sparse as they are, moves the sound and approach of the band on in a new direction. And for all of you people worried that Lateralus might just be a re-tread of old territory… It’s not. It’s very hard to give an in-depth review of something that’s only been in your posession for 24 hours, but I feel that I’ve got enough of a grip now to write a bit. The things that immediately hit me: 1) Production. It’s less “mushy” than Aenima. Not suggesting that Aenima was badly produced, the sound worked great for the music. But Lateralus has cleaner sounds, generally. Adam Jones’ guitar is still huge and crunchy, but it doesn’t obscure the rhythm section in the way that it used to. The drum sound is superb, and the variety of lovely bass tones on the album are a nice surprise. I have to admit, “lovely” was never a word I’d previously associated with Tool and bass. 2) Maynard sounds quite a bit different. In the same way that his vocals changed between Undertow and Aenima, they’ve shifted again here. There’s a fair bit of stuff that sounds like A Perfect Circle, but there’s also some viscious distorted screaming that sounds harsher than anything I can recall on Aenima. 3) Rhythm. This album goes through almost every time signature in the book! The album kicks off in 5/8 (or 3/4 subdivided into quintuplets.. you choose!) on The Grudge, and stays similarly obtuse for much of the album. You’ve got to love a band this popular that releases a single with sections in 13/8! 4) Long songs. Sometimes they hold sections for what seems like a very long time, longer than on any of the previous releases. These tracks worked better for me when I was lying in bed in the dark, with the music up floor-shakingly loud. It’s almost like listening to a drum&bass track – you don’t expect fast changes, more a hypnotic wash. 5) Great quiet sections! Eon Blue Apocalypse vaguely reminded me of some of Bill Frisell’s guitar tones on Grand Guignol (the track, not the album) by John Zorn/Naked City, and the other “segue” tracks (like Mantra) are equally pretty. All in all, a lot to get your ears around. Considering the level of anticipation surrounding this album, the fact that it’s not a massive let-down is a vast achievement in itself. And I’m still laughing over the fact that Schism was the #1 new release in terms of radio airplay in the states. Seven minutes long, with some slightly baffling odd time signatures and lyrics that aren’t exactly of the “I did it all for the nookie” variety. I love these guys!