Written and produced by David Cavazos
While progressive rock slowly dwindled in the early 90s, there’s one band that surfaced reviving the creating what is called Progressive Metal. Their success in the 90s also brings Progressive Metal into the mainstream with albums such as AEnima, Saliva, and Lateralus. While both albums were positively accepted Lateralus is considered to be the band’s finest work. Now, while Tool and Lateralus is widely received in the mainstream critics overlook it for the albums “filler” songs and Rock scholars look past it for not making a big enough splash like Nirvana, for example, did.
Lateralus debuted on the top 200 billboard charts at No. 1 along with three top singles that are each relatively long. The shortest single, “Parabola,” cuts at six minutes with the longest self album titled single reaching upwards of nine minutes. With all three song receiving regular radio play, the band helped pierce the veil that is so rarely passed by breaking the normal three to four minute top chart songs. In addition, the singles regularly break time signature instead of staying to the pop norm. Lateralus for example jumps from 9/8 to 8/8 and 7/8. This in part is because of the composition of the album. Unlike most albums being composed at the time within the rock genre there is a strong conceptualization behind it. The entire album follow that algorithm of the Golden Spiral also known as the Fibonacci sequence. For instance, the vocals within the album are mostly broken down into a syllable sequence of 1,1,2,3,5,8.
As for the themes and tones of the music. Every song is written in a minor key which embraces the dark themes that Tool is known for covering. In interviews, singer James Keenan Maynard has stated, “Our music is like a long dark tunnel you run through to reach the light at the end”. A metaphor that is relatively true to their sound. Often lyrics cover ideologies such as the human experience and losing holds of reality whether through psychological breakdowns, drug induced states, or religious fanaticism. The minor tones combined with Maynard’s existential lyrics are also pushed forward by strong driving beats. Danny Carey is the band’s drummer and a classically trained percussionist who uses Native American and Folk influenced beats to help create Tool’s unique shamanistic tone. While this shamanistic tone was being developed throughout the band’s career, Lateralus is where the sound is solidified. A sound that within contemporary was completely unique. Recently, more bands such as Russian Circles and Dir En Grey have grabbed hold of the metal progressive sound and have began to move forward with it.
With an album that defines a band and a band that defined a genre. The album offers plenty to both critics and scholars to chew on, whether through the technical execution or the mainstream breakthroughs.
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