Tuesday, January 28, 2003


Album: 'Lateralus'
Artists: Tool
CD: 18 May, 2001
Label: Music for Nations 79210132
Number of Discs: 1

This is a band that has been touted for some time as a forerunner at the more thoughtful end of the burgeoning progressive metal scene - not, it has to be said, much of a listening orbit for me. But I enjoyed Gordian Knot (see 23 January, below), and when I last caught Steven Wilson's art-rock outfit Porcupine Tree on their US makeover tour (for 'In Absentia'), Tool was a much-referenced comparison among the punters. I can see some affinities, but having spun what seems to be their most outré statement so far, 'Lateralus', I wouldn't put them in the same category.

Sure, they are an undeniably competent bunch of musicians, and there are moments when Louis Pattison’s epithets (‘sprawling, complex, ambitious’) make sense. In some of their quieter interludes, shorn of those testosterone-injected vocals that pass for 'emotion' (or, at least, emoting) among over-excitable young men, Tool produce some pleasing - if not overly remarkable - instrumental patterns. Moody atmospherics swap places with paradiddly rhythmic motifs and a certain brooding intensity. But then those loud, melodically-declined power chords smash their way in. 'Lateralus' comes across as something of a compromise between the conservative, crowd-pulling habits of stadium rock and a set of more creative, left-field instincts.

'Reflections' was, for me, the one to keep on listening to. And I wonder whether 'Faap de Oiad' is a calling card for an even more experimental Tool? That would be a good thing. They clearly have a fair bit of unrealised potential. Whether they have an audience and a record label to allow them to go further remains to be seen.

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