The "return of saturn," is a popular theme derived from astrology and is often used in literature as a symbol for a period of change in a person's life. The application of this motif usually focuses on the results of the change or the emotional effects experienced as a result. "The Grudge," by Tool, uses the "return of saturn" as period in the listener's life in which an opportunity for change, whether positive or negative, is presented. With this possibility comes an imploration to utilize this phase of change to release the person from their confining personality trait: their grudge. Elements illustrating these ideas can be found in the song's imagery, structure, tone, and in the interaction between musical and lyrical aspects of the piece. The structure of the song consists of three main ideas; a description of the person's situation with regards to their lasting grudge and the need for change, the negative direction of the person's current attitude and the introduction of an instrument of change, and finally an imploration to the person to use this opportunity to change and better him/her self.
Beginning with a steady, rhythmic, almost chant-like sound, the main concept of the song is defined in a particularly aggressive and constrictive tone of voice, paralelling the restrictive quality of the Grudge the person is holding. The symbol of a "crown of negativity," combined with a need to, "control all and everything," describes the superior attitude and unrelenting closed-mindedness the grudge exerts upon its bearer. Suddenly, Maynard's voice opens up and, like a black veil lifted from a bright light, the reality of the situation is revealed to the listener. Representing the "cornerstone" of the person's existence, this restrictive attitude must be strictly held to, or the full reality of the situation will dawn upon the person. Before Maynard's voice re-constricts again, the instrument of change is introduced as "saturn ascends. Choose one or ten. Hang on or be humbled again." In a return of the constrained aggression shown in the first verses, the grudge and its negative effects are reiterated to introduce the next idea of the song; the likely direction of change.
"Unable to forgive. And sinking deeper!" emphasizes the desperate need for a change in the person's life, because the current attitudes will only lead deeper into the false reality of the grudge. Combining the ideas of the first part of the song, Maynard's concise and explosive first climax provides a motive to help the person change their misconceptions. With the constrained aggressive voice, the two antagonistic symbols of the stone and the child are introduced. Paralelling "one or ten," of the earlier words associated with the phase of change, these symbols are used as opposite extremes that the person now has to choose from. This choice between the stone, representing the hard, closed-minded attitude of the grudge, or the child, representing innocence and open-mindedness, is made possible by this major phase of change in the person's life ( "Saturn comes back around!" ). Choosing to maintain the grudge will, "drag you down like a stone to consume you 'till you let this go," thus introducing the final idea of the song. The shift in tone between "consume you 'till you" and "let this go," denotes the final shift of tone of the speaker and introduces a calmer, more refined and clear sound to illustrate the final concept in the song.
The imploration to choose to be lifted up like a child instead of returning to the grudge is noted by this major shift in the song's sonic texture. The next stanza is sung in a desperate, almost begging melody and exhibits diction completely different from the rest of the song. Strong water imagery ( "Ocean, anchor, waters") is used to form the pleading argument to "Let go." The anchor is a very powerful symbol, describing both it's resistance to change ( anchors are supposed to resist current ) and it's restrictive nature ( designed to keep a boat tied down ). However, describing the anchor as "fated," coincides with the almost-positive message, pleading to the person that there is still hope for change despite being dragged down like a stone. Once fully described, the release of this message triggers a breakdown in the song, returning to the fast-paced, rhythmic music with Maynard chanting, "Let go" repeatedly. This quick, pulsing quality of the breakdown imparts a feeling of urgency, paralelling the importance of the change in the person's attitudes.
Ending with this urgency ( no final release ) finalizes the message of the song. The "saturn return" theme is used as an opportunity for the audience's attitudes to change. This change is explored in the syntax and tone shifts experienced after the problem of the Grudge has been identified, after the change is introduced, and after the imploration to use the opportunity to better oneself. Whom the message is directed towards specifically is, in this case, meaningless. The piece is a general statement about using periods of change for self-reevaluation and to better oneself physically, spiritually, or emotionally.
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