Sound — 8
Tool has never been about formulaic music writing really. On this album, even more so than the previous, it shows, as does the polishing of their sound. "The Grudge" is a perfect example. It contains the quirky time changes, Maynard Jame Keenan lyrics, etc. Danny Carey seems to get better and better with the drums. Anyone who argues that this guy isn't one of the leading figures of drumming probably hasn't heard him, because the depth of his work on this album is pretty astounding. TOOL is worth listening to for this guy alone. The bass seems to show a little more, primarily on "Schism", which sports one of the best modern basslines outside of Primus. The guitar seems less murky than on Aenima, while still not as clean/polished as the sound on Undertow. It takes you through each song fine enough. However, and I know the guitarist has his own style of playing, there could've been more guitar solos.
Lyrics — 10
This is where most Tool haters become lost. Tool's lyrics are more of a tool (no pun intended) to use for expression rather than something meant to showcase intelligence. On this album, I'd say they're at their best personally - true, there's hardly any cynical wordplay like on previous albums, but its clean feel just adds to the polished effect of this album's sound. Maynard James Keenan will always be a major figure as far as singing goes, and this helps prove it. Tool is progressive, so naturally Maynard wrote some little vocal bits that just kick amazing ass - just listen to the last part of "Schism" or "Lateralus". He can deliver lines in very specific ways, from angelic to rough, to slurred to clearly pronounced. He seems to add a texture, or a way of delivering lyrics, that no other singer can. As far as how the lyrics go with the actual music, I'd say perfectly. Tool tends to write the music first, send it to Keenan so he can write matching lyrics, and then they throw it all together. Seems to work by my book.
Overall Impression — 10
"Lateralus" is to me more art than just music. Tool made a very fine record with this release, and they should be proud as it kicks the bejesus out of most other albums out today. One thing I don't like is the filler tracks they insist on including, but with songs like "Lateralus" and "Schism" and "Parabola", I'm not going to complain anytime soon.