Sound — 10
Tool. Few bands have defined prog metal like they have, and their sound is like no other. Yet, this album goes beyond even the regular high quality of their music, and ascends to the title of masterpiece. This is their Mona Lisa, their Pulp Fiction, their magnum opus which defines what Tool truly is.
First of all, the vocals. Maynard James Keenan is known across the metal community for his versatile, beautifully aggressive voice, and this album only serves to heighten that reputation. His vocals change constantly, from an angry, crushing performance on "The Grudge," to his melancholy, angelic singing on "Parabol," to the mystic drawl of "Reflection." He is truly one of the greatest rock and metal vocalists I have ever come across.
Next, the guitar. Adam Jones, although he is no virtuoso, proves to be the perfect match for Tool with his complex, melodic, and often beautiful guitar work, all delivered with big, thunderous tone. "Parabola" and "Lateralus" shows his skill on the six stringer.
On the bass, there is Justin Chancellor. Whereas Adam Jones follows a supportive role, Justin defines Tool, in several ways. His tone is miraculously aggressive and bright, and his picked bass lines show no lack of creativity and virtuosity on the instrument ("Schism"). His use of effects is near genius (see "The Patient" or "Disposition"). JC truly brings Tool to the next level.
Finally, we have Danny Carey, arguably the most technically talented member of the group. With a uniquely mystic and complex style, Danny rounds out Tool and adds a whole other layer to their music, with his pounding, primal, yet completely bewildering odd-meter drum lines. See "Ticks and Leeches."
Overall, the album is incredibly revealing and is bound to strike a chord in any listener. This incredible music is delivered with great sound, thanks to an HD-CD format. Great sound, simply put.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics on this album explore themes which reach far beyond the mundane lyrics of regular metal. The themes explored often involve those of prejudice, human relationships, and the many twist and turns of life itself. MJK delivers these vocals beautifully, and caps the creative genius of the Tool juggernaut with his astounding voice. Often, the lyrics follow the mood of the music, leading to an almost 3-dimensional expression of emotion to the listener. For example, "Lateralus" discusses the ever changing ways of life, and the song itself has many parts, major and minor, energetic and thoughtful, to echo these lyrics, and give more power to these themes. Every song showcases this excellent match, and leads to an even greater experience during listening.
Overall Impression — 9
This album, overall, in my humble opinion, is one of the best rock records ever made. Tool simply carries a refinement that is lacking in other rock and metal bands of the same type, an overwhelming complexity which overshadows all doubt in their creative skill. Although bands like Mastodon and Dream Theater are prime example of prog metal, Tool simply carries with them a greater, deeper perspective, and a more overarching creative vision than any other band I have had chance to encounter, save perhaps Pink Floyd or Jethro Tull.
The album is filled to the brim with great songs, but my personal favorites are "Parabol/Parabola," "Schism," "The Grudge," "Lateralus" and "The Patient." I have only two minor complaints of the album; first of all, "Ticks and Leeches," despite being a great and energetic song, seems like more of an "Aenima" song, and really sticks out on the album. Secondly, although I know Tool has filler and that it is a prime part of their sound, the last track "Faiip de Oiad" throws the listener for a bit of a loop at the end of the album, and proves a bit unnecessary, but it is still a terrifying yet good conclusion to this wonderful album. If this album were stolen or lost, I would buy another copy immediately.