Sound — 10
Personally, I love every Tool album, but this is mostly likely my favorite. Everything on this album is basically perfect. From the sometimes vague, but always powerful lyrics of Maynard James Keenan, to the tight, complex, and amazing music of the band (comprised of Adam Jones-Guitar, Justin Chancellor-Bass Guitar, and Danny Carey-Drums). To get the complete scope of this album, I will describe every track individually. 01.The Grudge: as far as opening tracks go, this is nearly perfect. The musicianship is super tight, with all the members of the band at their best. The song is very heavy, and has some amazing riffs! Plus, Maynard is on top form, producing one of his absolutely best screams. 02.Eon Blue Apocalypse: a very short, yet beautiful, instrumental bridge to the next song. This is mostly a showcase of Adam Jone's guitar skills. 03.The Patient: an amazing song, which begins with a soft guitar line, and a watery wah-bass line. The song lulls the listener into a false sense of security, before bashing it with a powerful riff, and anthemic chorus. The song continues in this fashion, shifting between moods, before finishing off with yet another powerful riff and chorus. 04.Mantra: another fantastic bridge, that is a perfect mood setter for the song that is yet to come. The track contains no lyrics or instrumentation, and is basically just eerie noise and atmosphere. 05.Schism: while the band as a whole is amazing on this track, I would consider this Justin's showcase of skill and style, shifting between tine signatures as if they don't exist. Beginning with a quietly picked bass intro, and then hitting into the infamous bass riff. The song then shifts between the hypnotizing verses, and heavy and exhilarating bridges. The song then shifts into a peaceful bridge, before finishing with the heaviest riff of the song. 06.Parabol: while some consider this just another transition song, I consider this part one of a whole song. This could be considered the calm before the storm. I consider this song the peaceful introduction to the sheer piece of metal that is to follow. The lyrics are very similar, if not identical to it's sister song, but as the songs piece together, it is clear that is basically the only thing they have in common. 07.Parabola: the song is very immediate, kicking in with full force. The riff is heavy, and straight to the point, while still remaining the mood of the first half. Maynard and the band maintain a huge groove through the song, with his singing gaining top position on this piece of music. Overall, a fantastic song. 08.Ticks & Leeches: by far, the heaviest and most brutal song on the whole album. This song reaches back early into Tool's career and echoes Opiate/Undertow era brutality, while marrying that with a new found sense of melody. Kicking in with an amazing drum intro, it is clear from the get go that Danny is going to lead the band all the way. Maynard has rule over this song, with his overpowering screams and wails. His vocals are just as brutal and heavy as the music, and shows that his voice can still kick the sh*t out of any other singer in the music business. 09.Lateralus: - This could possibly be Tool's best song ever, in my opinion. I consider this 9 and a half minutes of pure perfection. The intro starts with a quiet and peaceful guitar riff, but it is clear with the rumbling double bass drum in the background, that keeps slowly getting louder, this peace is not going to last long. When the double bass drum sounds as if it gets an louder the speakers might explode, the first heavy riff kicks in. With the force of a freight train, this riff just beats the listener, before heading into the verse, where Maynard whispers his lyrics in the front of Danny's powerhouse drumming. After Maynard stops singing, Justin and Adam quietly join in, before heading into the chorus. After repeating this one more time, Adam takes center stage with a wah-driven solo, before a bridge, that seems to repeat the intro, only in reverse. Adam then takes another amazing solo, before the outro. The riff that comes after the solo is extremely simple, but unbelievably heavy. Maynard's vocals are just as powerful as the bands intense riffing, yelling out his lyrics with such conviction, it's almost impossible to not get carried away with the intensity. The band then comes crashing down with an outro that is the perfect complement to the masterpiece that just followed. 10.Disposition: the first song in the end cycle of songs that ends the album. The song is based around another of Justin's genius bass riffs, with this one relying on harmonics. Adam and Danny join in, complementing Justin's bass in the perfect manor. Maynard's singing is almost hypnotic, bordering on beautiful. 11.Reflection: the longest song on the album, and the second song in the climatic cycle of the album. The song builds on the song that just preceded it, again relying on a fantastic Justin Bass riff. The song just seems to fall together, with it's mesmerizing rhythms and hypnotizing melodies. The minutes seem to melt away, and by the end, the listener is left in disbelief that they just listened to and 11 minute long song 12.Triad: the final song in the cycle is an extended instrumental/jam, that is just amazing. Every member pulls out all the stops, and almost elevates the song into a competition, while still maintaining an element of teamwork and cooperation, that makes this song fantastic, and almost transcendent. It is clear that Tool new that this was the only right way to end an album of this caliber. 13.Faaip de Oiad: a small outro to the album, that evolves from static and feedback, to a frazzled phone message from a so-called ex-agent from the top-secret Area 51. A great glimpse into the fascination Tool has with the extraterrestrial.
Lyrics — 10
Lyrically, Maynard is sometimes vague with the first listen, but will slowly bloom into meaning upon repeated plays. While older Tool albums relied on anger and angst to push the lyrics forward, but Maynard seems to have gotten inner peace, and some sort of faith, so the lyrics stray from the rage, and tackle much more broad subject matter. While the anger is still relevant in some songs (particularly Ticks & Leeches), but they also tackle faith (Parabol and Parabola), relationships (Schism), and self-insight (Disposition and Reflection). While Maynard is not a pissed off and full of rage, he is still one of, if not the absolute best singer in modern Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. He can scream, wail, yell, shout, whisper, and sing in a variety of ways, full of skill and passion. The spiteful yells of old are gone, replaced with vocals that suit the new style of Tool's music perfectly. Far more lyrically evolved from it's predecessors, Lateralus is full of a variety of subjects, power and meaning, and incredible vocals.
Overall Impression — 10
While Lateralus does not contain the sheer power of Opiate, rage of Undertow, or the Psychedelic Heavy Metal of nima, it does contain everything that makes Tool, Tool. Melody within chaos, seamless blending of time signatures, entering a song with peaceful riffs and melodies, and then exploding into heavy riffs without ever putting out the impression that they are even trying. It is almost impossible to choose the best songs on the album, since every song seems to be a piece to a much larger, much more powerful piece of music. This album seems to be almost a puzzle of sorts, that only can be unlocked if the songs are played in order, and completely. While the songs are almost perfect when listened to individually or in pairs, there is something almost transcendent about the whole album when listed to in it's complete form. This album is as close as Progressive Metal can get to sheer perfection.