LOUDER FEATURES: 20 years of TOOL's 'Lateralus'
Tool’s 2001 third record has come to be seen as their magnum opus over the years, marking a turning point where the band truly became critical darlings, and began cultivating their almost obsessive fanbase. All their albums are pored over by fans, but it is only 'Lateralus' that has a legendary ‘secret order’ that obsessives appear to have discovered.
Released on May 15th, 2001, the 1-hour-15-minute-long follow-up to 1996’s 'Ænima' broadly follows the same style that Tool established on their sophomore record, eschewing the more traditional metal style established on debut full-length 'Undertow', which initially had critics comparing them to alternative metal bands of the time such as Stone Temple Pilots and Helmet. 'Ænima' had the band move in a more experimental direction, using unique time signatures and really starting to stretch their boundaries as musicians. However it was 'Lateralus' that became Tool’s masterpiece, as the band leant even further into the world of progressive and experimental metal.
'Lateralus' also marks the band descent into the world of mathematical theory that often sees them derided as a ‘nerd band’ or made fun of for their perceived sincerity. The title track ‘Lateralus’ is written to the Fibonacci sequence vocally, as the length of each line corresponds to the first seven numbers of the Fibonacci sequence before descending back down to the first digit of the sequence.
It is this track specifically and the use of the Fibonacci sequence which has given rise to the ‘Holy Gift’ conspiracy, which attests that the band wrote the album with an alternate track listing in mind, which using their original track numbers permanently adds up to 13. For example, instead of opening with 'The Grudge', it rather opens with 'Parabol' and 'Parabola' (6+7=13), then 'Schism', 'Ticks & Leeches' (5+8=13), 'Mantra', 'Lateralus' (4+9=13), 'Faap De Oiad' (track 13), 'The Grudge', 'Triad' (1+12=13), 'Eon Blue Apocalypse', 'Reflection' (2+11=13), before closing with 'The Patient' and 'Disposition' (3+10=13).
Absolutely no one knows if this wild theory that the band wrote this alternative track listing is actually true or not, and the band have never confirmed it, but the songs do certainly flow when played in this order. It is this sort of mythology that has given Tool the admiration of thousands, and why 'Lateralus' is the most revered of their records. It holds a sort of mystique because the secret has never been cracked - and the band themselves are certainly not the type to give away a good secret.
However, aside from conspiracy theories, 'Lateralus' has largely been lauded as one of the classic albums of the 21st century. It is certainly one of the best things to come out of an era where heavy music was oft derided or entirely lumped in with the worst of nu-metal. Danny Carey’s drumming is nothing short of legendary, whilst Adam Jones’ guitar work brings the record to soaring highs and scorching lows, all underpinned by Justin Chancellor’s superb bass track. And it is Maynard James Keenan’s unique vocals that really elevate this record to the next level, not only does he track them in mathematical sequence in parts as revealed earlier, but the sheer emotion in each delivery really highlights how talented that man really is.
'Lateralus' is one of the greatest albums of all time. Putting aside the fact that it received fantastic reviews for two decades, has spawned its own conspiracy theory and makes use of mathematical theory – but have you ever heard a more impactful transition than when 'Parabol' goes into 'Parabola'. Tool manage to do all the mystical, pretentious stuff alongside making an album that is genuinely a delight to listen to. It’s not just one for the beard-strokers and fart-sniffers, but one of the few progressive albums that flies by. It’s 75-minute runtime feels like only half an hour, as the whole things is a piece of art.
'Lateralus' is available on all major platforms - stream it on Spotify here: