It seems far too long since I bought Lateralus back in 2001. Smoking a s***load of ganja and having a lot of spare time meant that album was one of my most played CDs for a long period. It opened me up to a lot of ideas and fueled my love of music at a relatively early stage. I like the idea that Tool spent five or so years working on 10,000 Days - you know the band has the highest standards and weren't going to undermine the quality of their music for a timely release date.
For those of you unacquainted with Tool (and I would be surprised if there are a lot of you), the group play an experimental style of artsy, progressive metal, with elements of the psychedelic, often incorporating polyrhythms, ridiculously complex time signature changes and dissonance. Their lyrical content is usually focused around humanity, sex, religion, death, philosophy, abstractions and the occult. The group claim to be influenced by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson and (more recently) Meshuggah and Fantomas.
The first track "Vicarious" immediately hooked me with its ballsy, uptempo riffing and build-up to the hammering crescendo, where Tool mixed the more whacked-out, off-tap tripouts of Laterlaus with the more focused aggression and anger of Aenima. The lyrics are a scathing denouncement of our denial of human nature, outlining the idea that humans feed off death and tragedy, needing to watch others fall while we persevere as a matter of survival instinct - which manifests itself in today's world through sensationalist news headlines;
I need to watch things die, from a good safe distance. Vicariously, I, live while the whole world dies... the universe is hostile, so impersonal, devour to survive, so it is, so it's always been.
After listening to "Vicarious," I found myself hoping that Tool had returned to a more aggressive style. This turned out to be a half true, as while there are still extremely subdued moments, the lyrical content has moved to focus on more human issues. One of my favorite aspects of Tool has always been the way Maynard can reduce everything into simple logic in an extremely dark and cynical manner. I prefer these more focused outbursts to some of the more abstract pretentiousness of Lateralus.
The second song Jambi sets a slower pace for an outlandish reflection on love, nature and wealth (I think). The music is slow, soft and smooth for six minutes until the song concludes, bursting open in mid-paced, dark explosion.
"Wings for Marie" and "10,000 Days" act as a two part song. The first is a very calm and ambient quasi-prophetic type hymn on Judith Marie. The second, however becomes much more spirited and inflamed - something of a reflective tragic tale with some very challenging ideas. The content is very dense, and clearly required a bit of research. It turns out Judith Marie Keenan is Maynard's mother - a woman who was very religious, and was paralyzed at some point in her life. This of course, deeply angered Maynard, who wrote this and APC's Judith for her.
"The Pot" is a criticism of our (well, your) ridiculously warped justice system and the hypocrisy of lawyers, dripping with sarcasm. The main line 'you must've been so high' is hilarious, and the lyrics play around a bit with a dual meanings concerning justice, the laws and drug use. A killer song with a bit of a groovier tempo and a harder edge.
Liar, lawyer - mirror, for you what's the difference
"Lipan Conjuring" is something I could've done without; just over a minute of strange chanting, clearing trying to conjure some kind of, well, Lipan.... Great. Whatever floats your boat guys.
"Lost Keys" is a nice ambient soundscape track with some slow clean guitars overlaid, which builds up to a sound byte of an interesting exchange between a nurse and a doctor. "Lost Keys" acts as a leads in to the next song - "Rosetta Stoned." "Rosetta Stoned" is essentially an absolutely insane drug-addled paranoiac rambling that would put Benumb's vocalist to shame. It's more than a little difficult to make out what is being said, or if there is any real commentary hidden within the onslaught of thoughts, words and delusions. Tool Shed's translation seems to point to a drug-f***ed outburst.
"Intension" is a reflective, slow, ambient, droning song with some electronics mixed in. I'm nonplussed. Maynard then returns to his very cynical self with "Right in Two". The song starts very slowly as Maynard muses about mans choice and desire to destroy, squandering the ability to reason and self awareness, and builds up to another enouncement of our aggressive, uncivilized nature. The lyrics are written from the
point of view of an onlooker observing mankind.
Monkey killing monkey killing monkey over pieces of the ground.
Silly monkeys give them thumbs they make a club and beat their brother down.
How they survive so misguided is a mystery.
Repugnant is a creature who would squander the ability, To lift an eye to heaven, conscious of his fleeting time here.
The last song is a bit of a let down. Just a soundscape for a few minutes with a bit of noise here and there. Yey. Over all this is a brilliant album. I am strained to imagine how much better it could've been. There is just the right mix of spacey ambience and scathing
anger. The actual songs themselves feel more powerful in the absence of extreme lyrical abstractions. The pacing, structuring and arrangement of each track is spectacular as always, somehow commanding your attention from start to finish.
My only qualm is the anti-climax of track 11, and track 6 which is essentially just one minute of strange chanting. Critics being critics are sure to find something to whinge about - Tool are too pretentious, Tool are too slow, Tool are boring - f*ck em. Listen to me. Great, solid album. Impressive as always. Just what we all hoped and expected. Go check it out.