"Lateralus" is apparently the title of Tool's next album, to be released May 15, 2001. This was just anounced on the official Tool website (www.toolband.com). Of course, as with all things Tool, a little scepticism is still warranted.

Specifically, the band's site previously stated that the album would be titled "Systema Encéphale" and contain the tracks "Malfeasance", "U.V.R.", "Numbereft", "Encephatalis", "Musick", "Coeliacus", "Pain Canal", "Lactation", "Smyrma", and "Riverchrist". The site then quickly revised the listing, replacing "Musick" with "Mummery". This listing was picked up by several news sites, including ALLSTAR/CDNOW, Rolling Stone, and Kerrang, who ran stories announcing the track list. The site then completely changed the list to "Evasion", with the tracks "Prescipissed", "Bindlecup", "Alcawhorlick", "Alcaharlot", "Bushwhacker", "Munge", "Poopy the Clown", "Gullabored", "Smell Me", and "Buzz's Revenge". Then the band replaced "Poopy the Clown" with "48/14." After these changes, ALLSTAR/CDNOW ran a new story declaring Tool to be likely winners of the Prick Band of the Year Award.

It is generally belived that the band posted fabricated titles to expose the abundance of bogus tracks on Napster. Already, what purports to be Tool's "Riverchrist" from "Systema Encéphale" can be downloaded, though the actual song contained in the file seems to be "Down By The Lazy River" by the "Osmond Brothers". Barring a radical departure from past works, it is unexpected that Tool will be covering the Osmond Brothers in the near future. Another, equally likely explanation is the band's simple desire to piss people off.

On January 28, 2001 the band revised the website again, this time removing any mention of the old track listings and announcing that the new CD will be titled "Lateralus". As previously stated, an amount of sceptisicm is still recomended, however evidence seems to suggest that the new announcement is in fact legitimate. Shortly before the title was announced, the band also declared that the final mixing and mastering of the album was complete, and other details were being worked on - including liner artwork and tour plans. The true track list has now been posted to Tool's website - see Uberfetus's post for the complete list.

the Background

There are four distinct possibilities to look at when attempting to analyze what Tool is and represents as artists and musicians. They are perhaps the greatest merry pranksters ever, dangling some pseudo intellectual nuggets in front of our faces and delighting as we pore over them for a deeper meaning which isn't there. They may be Rainman-esque, not comprehending the depth of their own work. Or perhaps they are the most intellectually, musically, and philosophically-gifted quartet ever to see the face of this earth.

Or perhaps it's some permutation of the previous three. Perhaps they're just being Tool. I don't think we'll ever know, and honestly, that's a great part of the beauty of Tool. One'll never know what shit they're going to throw at you, and whether or not they're fucking with you, so it keeps you on your toes. Anagram websites and places with information on mysticism and bizarre pop psychology don't see so many hits as the day after Tool's latest lands on store shelves.

I'll admit I was no Opiate addict. But my subconscious was hooked the moment Jesus wouldn't fucking whistle. It wasn't until Ænima that I picked up a Tool album, but to my credit it wasn't long after that I immediately snatched up their previous works price be damned. I can also argue my youth as being a delaying factor, as I was merely 15 when Ænima hit the shelves. And I still have the 8" limited-edition vinyl EP that I received with my day-of-release purchase, too, thank you very much.

But that was 1996. Record company snafus and revered vocalist Maynard James Keenan's flirtation with ideal geometric curvatures delayed the recording of what was to be their 4th full-length release. While he was off selling out stadiums in BFE with one of their guitar techs, the remaining members of the band began laying down some musical ideas. By the time Maynard had returned and the record company issues were resolved, a great deal of musical work was completed, and all that was left was refinement and the penning of vocals.

Shortly thereafter, thus spake Zarathustra, and the peasants rejoiced. I grabbed my copy day of release, track name mispellings and all.

the Album

My first observations about this disc occured after arriving back at my car, 20 seconds after furiously tearing the weapons-grade plastic from the jewel case. I was confronted by what can only be called a true work of art in CD form. The disc is sheathed by a translucent grey housing, with a darkness value close enough to the black so as to make the newly designed Tool logo and Lateralus label difficult to read basked in the bright noon sun. Sliding the sheath off, one is confronted by the album's true cover; worthy to accompany a H.R. Giger poster above your living room sofa. Technicolor flaming eyes arranged in a circle around the centerline of what appears to be a medical diagram of a human male's chest and head. Other flaming eyes are scattered on points seemingly poignant, and a projection of light spiraled in a twin helix of rainbow flames projects vertically from the figure's heart chakra. A circle, enclosing both a pentagon and a 5-pointed star, lays behind the being, glowing the same blue as its aura.

And that's only the half of it.

Taking the booklet out of the case, one finds it is composed of the same translucent material as the sheath, only clear. Opening the first page takes us from what appeared to be a muscle diagram of the subject to the bones and major arteries. The next page turn shows us the major organs, and the aforementioned pentacle/pentagon amalgamation appears again, smaller, located just below the brainstem. Another turn and we see the cross-sections of the organs, and interestingly, the word "God" is spelled out by the patient's spaghetti-like brain matter. The final page in the booklet presents us with an equal-sided cross with flared ends which come back to a point.

A musical composition has not been accompanied by such sheer artistry and attention to detail since the heyday of LPs.

I popped the disc into my player, left the parking lot, having wasted at least 10 minutes staring slack-jawed at the art production. Adam Jones and Alex Grey deserve an honorary Grammy for their work on that aspect of this disc.

As it spooled up, I braced myself against the predictably imminent waves of aural pleasure that I imagined would be washing over my ears by now. Instead, nothing.

Thus I came to a snap judgment about this CD after about 15 minutes - Worst Tool release EVAR.

I spoke too soon, though, as sometimes occurs with discs that are album-oriented. My mistake was rather simple. Up until now, while Tool has certainly been prolific, genius, and flirted with progressive rock tendencies, they've never been wholly album-oriented. Ænima was certainly a foreshadowing of that potential, but despite a half-dozen segues, similar themes, it nonetheless felt more like a collection of individual songs than a collection of ideas in song form.

Lateralus, however, is such an album. There is definitely a message running through the album, a story to be told, and the tracks are deliberately arranged to provoke an intentional interpretation. Analysis of songs and the overall message of the album is something I'll leave to song-specific nodes, and ultimately, to the listener, but suffice to say this is a cohesive piece of album-oriented, borderline progressive album which has to be appreciated as a whole before it can be appreciated for its parts.

Upon my first few listens, only a few tracks jumped out at me, and there were none of the expected toolgasms. It wasn't until one day, driving on a 50 mile road trip, my mind wandering with the album playing in the background, did the music's potency and grandeur strike me. It was only after stopping all conscious analysis that the message was able to get through to me, and suddenly, songs that felt black and white were suddenly red, yellow, and every color of the rainbow.

Maynard chastises in the title track, "Over-thinking, over-analyzing separates the body from the mind, withering my intuition, leaving opportunities behind. Feed my will to feel this moment." One would do well to heed that advice while giving this disc several spins through the player.

Once I'd done that, I was able to embrace my desire to feel the rhythm. Feel connected, enough to step aside and witness the beauty. I swung on that spiral, goddamnit.

And I realized that what I'd labeled the worst Tool release to date was in fact their best, and probably one of the greatest concept albums ever created.

Spiral out. Keep going. There's something worth living your life to.

the Details

#............Time........Track Title

01....(8:36)..The Grudge
02....(1:04)..Eon Blue Apocalypse
03....(7:13)..The Patient
08....(8:10)..Ticks & Leeches
13....(2:39)..Faaip de Oiad


Other info:

Released May 15th, 2001 by EMI Virgin Music
Recorded and mixed at too many damn places to attempt to name and date
Encoded in 20-bit HDCD glory for those with the proper equipment.
Total running time of 79 minutes, 3 seconds

the Song

                       black                              1
                        and                               1
                     white are                            2
                    all  i  see                           3
                   in my infancy                          5
           red and yellow then came to be                 8
                 reaching out to me                       5
                    lets me see                           3
       as below so above and beyond I imagine            13
          drawn beyond the lines of reason                8
                 push the envelope                        5
                   watch it bend                          3

       Over-thinking, overanalyzing,
       Separates the body from the mind.
       Withering my intuition,
       Missing opportunities and I must
       Feed my will, to feel my moment,
       Drawing way outside the lines.

                       black                              1
                        and                               1
                     white are                            2
                    all  i  see                           3
                   in my infancy                          5
           red and yellow then came to be                 8
                 reaching out to me                       5
                    lets me see                           3
                      there is                            2
                         so                               1
                        much                              1
                     more  that                           2
                     beckons me                           3
             to look through to these                     5
           infinite       possibilities                   8
       as below so above and beyond I imagine            13
         drawn outside the lines of reason                8
                 push the envelope                        5
                   watch it bend                          3

       Over-thinking, over-analyzing
       Separates the body from the mind. 
       Withering my intuition,
       Leaving opportunities behind. 
       Feed my will to feel this moment 
       Urging me to cross the line. 
       Reaching out to embrace the random. 
       Reaching out to embrace whatever may come. 

                   I embrace my 
                      desire to 
                   I embrace my 
                      desire to 
            feel the rhythm, to 
            feel connected 
             enough to step aside and 
                weep like a widow, to 
                    feel inspired, to 
                 fathom the power, to 
               witness the beauty, to 
            bathe in the fountain, to 
              swing on the spiral, to 
              swing on the spiral, to
              swing on the spiral of 
                our divinity and 
                still be a human.

         With  my  feet upon  the ground
       I  lose  myself  between the sounds
       and   open  wide  to   suck  it  in
       I  feel  it  move  across  my  skin
       I'm  reaching  up  and reaching out 
       I'm  reaching  for  the  random  or
       What  ever    will    bewilder   me
       What  ever    will    bewilder   me
       And following  our  will  and  wind
       We may just go  where no one's been
       We'll ride  the spiral  to  the end
       and may just go where no one's been

       Spiral out. Keep going.
                        Spiral out.
                           Keep going.
                              Spiral out.
                               Keep going.
                                Spiral out.
                                Keep going.

Myriad questions arise from close listening to this song. What's the deal with the oddball lyric grouping in the "black and white" sequences? Why does something feel "off" about the rhythm of this song? And, what is up with this spiral?

All valid questions, certainly. There's some interesting things going on in this song, but before these queries can be addressed, some background information is necessary.

Drummer Danny Carey has been quoted as saying the song was originally entitled 9-8-7, before it was renamed to Lateralus. The name is drawn from the vastus lateralis, though Maynard says the title refers more to lateral modes of thinking; abstract as opposed to the intellectual. One can certainly see this from the "over-thinking, overanalyzing" lines.

The song seemingly endorses such abstract thought, and portrays the separation of body and mind in a dismal light. You must see things for what they are, and to glean everything that you can without becoming obsessive about it. Devoting time and energy to searching for the patterns and deeper meaning behind everything cripples your ability to see the real truths, and our intuitions must be relied upon if one is not to leave "opportunities behind."

So what's the deal with 9-8-7? Quite simply, it refers to the time signature of the song's rhythm. The first measure is 9/8, the next 8/8, and the last 7/8, starting over at 9/8 and alternating thus throughout the song. The bizarre time signatures, long present in Tool's work and a staple of progressive music, are the reason this song is nigh impossible to properly mosh to.

But is there more to it than that? Perhaps. Listening to the "black and white" lyric segments, one notices an odd spacing between word groupings. It sounds aesthetically pleasing, even as one notices its uniqueness. Why is this? The answer can be found in Fibonacci numbers. The number of syllables spoken together in each line are Fibonacci numbers, as one can see denoted on the right of the lyrics above.

The Fibonacci sequence's 16th numeral, coincidentally, is 987. Could this be intentional, or was it just an accident? Danny Carey claims so. "It was originally titled 9-8-7. For the time signatures. Then it turned out that 987 was the 16th step of the Fibonacci sequence. So that was cool."

And the spirals? Many people note the relationship between the Fibonacci sequence and Phi - also known as the golden ratio. Spirals produced by both nearly overlap perfectly, as the ratio between each successive numeral approach Phi towards infinity. Phi has a long-believed positive effect on aesthetics, and its influences seem to be present in nature to a great magnitude.

To add to the mystery, there are 13 tracks on the album. On the cassette version, there are 8 tracks on the first side, and 5 on the next side. If one counts Disposition, Reflection, and Triad as a single song, since it was composed as one, then there are 3 tracks on the second side of the tape. Every single one of these numbers is a Fibonacci number. Was Tool trying to get at something by making so many references to this much-studied area of mathematics?

Perhaps. While some speculate that they intend to suggest some divine nature to the sequence and the spirals, I believe they think something else altogether. They planted these numbers in the lyrics, but guess what? They're just there. You can go around trying to find mathematical patterns in nearly everything, and you can obsess and analyze and deduce to your heart's content, but in doing so, you're going to be utterly blind to the real truth. Don't be Max Cohen. Beauty isn't going to be found in equations and analysis, but in the experience of life. As soon as you lose sight of this, you forfeit everything that matters. Just sit down, strap in, and ride the spiral to the end. It's just a ride. Appreciate it for what it is. Then will you bask in the grandeur of existence, it will wash over your spirit, and only then will you be whole.

Appreciate it for what it is: one of the most awe-inspiring songs ever composed.

the Double-Take

Okay, maybe there's more to it than I let on. Maybe I was hiding something when I suggested that you shouldn't look too deep, lest your intuition wither. Maybe there's something deeper here after all than just the linear storyline presented by the tracks, in their mass-distributed order. Maybe...

You may be right. Watch this space for more, sometime in the near future.

the Resources


One common criticism some people throw at Lateralus is that, while the song progression indeed makes sense lyrically (if you give the proper time to dig your way that deep into the album), the individual tracks do not segue together musically (at least not as well as they should, the only excpetion being the songs Disposition and Reflection). If you are one of those people who would much rather enjoy an album that effortlessly flows from one track to the next, without caring about the lyrical and thematic progression of the album as a whole, here's something you can do.

A secret track listing has been suggested, one that seems so coincidental it's hard to believe that the band didn't intend for it to be stumbled upon. What you do is simple. You grab a piece of paper, and write down the track numbers 1 to 12 in a straight line, from left to right. You should end up with something like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Now, take a pencil/pen, whatever, and draw a line up the paper, from the number 6. Curve this over to number 7. Then draw a line down, and curve over to number 5, and then to number 8, and so on and so on. Notice we are getting a spiral pattern going (note the lyrics to the title track). Once you incorporate all 12, follow the spiral round, and write them out in the order they appear (i.e. starting with 6 and ending in 12). You should end up with this track order:

6 7 5 8 4 9 3 10 2 11 1 12

Add 13 onto the end of this. The new track listing is now:

  1. Parabol
  2. Parabola
  3. Schism
  4. Ticks and Leeches
  5. Mantra
  6. Lateralus
  7. The Patient
  8. Disposition
  9. Eon Blue Apocalypse
  10. Reflection
  11. The Grudge
  12. Triad
  13. Faaip De Oiad

It's Unbelievable (and honestly quite stunning) that this works. Reading the lyrics to the title track after coming across this will quite possibly be the largest toolgasm you'll ever experience. So instead of the default track listing, which focused on lyrical progression, we have a spiral track listing, one that focuses on the musical aspect. Spiralling out, if you will. This can be further explained if I quickly quote machfive:

The song seemingly endorses such abstract thought, and portrays the separation of body and mind in a dismal light. You must see things for what they are, and to glean everything that you can without becoming obsessive about it. Devoting time and energy to searching for the patterns and deeper meaning behind everything cripples your ability to see the real truths, and our intuitions must be relied upon if one is not to leave "opportunities behind."
Is this is a coincidence, I'll eat Danny's hat and kiss Maynard's hairy arse. Whether this is down to Tool wanted to add several more layers of depth to their masterpiece, or they're simply just fucking with our heads again, we don't know, and, as machfive has suggested, we will probably never know. This is the mother of all toolgasms, and another example of why Tool are simply one of the most intelligent, thought provoking and downright best (if not, the best) bands on the planet today.

There are also rumours of another secret track listing other than the one detailed by Kane in his writeup. This one is very simple, just follow the Fibonacci sequence from the title track directly: 1 2 3 5 8 13, then run through the remaining tracks 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 and 12 in numerical order, this becomes:

The Grudge
Eon Blue Apocalypse
The Patient
Ticks & Leeches
Faaip De Oiad

Like the listing outlined above it pairs Schism to Ticks and Leeches as well as keeping Parabol and Parabola together. However I have personally found this more pleasing as it keeps the sequence of Disposition, Reflection and Triad which could be seen as one song; they are edited to flow easily into each other and often played in this order at concerts.

Lateralus has always felt to me like an almost complete album, and this order seems more a "cleaning up" of loose ends rather than a sweeping change. In the original track listing it was strange to have Ticks and Leeches ("I hope you choke") between two of the most positive tracks. Placing it in between Schism and Faaip leads you to notice some interesting similarities in the style of drumming. Without it, Mantra to Parabol to Triad drift beautifully together musically, dynamically and lyrically. It also seems to group the album into two parts with the angrier, more pessimistic tracks at the beginning, and the more contemplative, optimistic ones at the end. This fits in perfectly with the lyrical theme of change and growth.

"And as I pull my head out I am without one doubt
Don't want to be down here feeding my narcissism
I must crucify the ego before it's far too late
I pray the light lifts me out before I pine away

So crucify the ego before it's far too late
To leave behind this place so negative and blind and cynical
And you will come to find that we are all one mind"

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