Having completed their fourth album, Silence (clocking in at a Crowleyan five years in length), Tool return with their Blue Equinox, Lateralus. As the title implies, Tool once again step sideways into the tangential worlds that border the material, seeking to illuminate what lies beyond the thin membranes of reality. Lateralus is a grimoire of dark poésies, dense guitar clusters and sinuous rhythms that hint at the possibilities and pitfalls of deep psychic exploration; it offers no answers or guidelines, only metaphors and hints. Power is attainable. Loneliness is real. You are capable of something greater.
"As below so above and beyond, I imagine/Drawn outside the lines of reason/Push the envelope/Watch it bend," Maynard James Keenan sings in "Lateralis," encapsulating three ages of Western occult theory in nine minutes of churning music. But "Lateralis" also contains an admonition against theorizing: "Overthinking, overanalyzing/Severing the body from the mind...." This boundary between body and mind must not only be crossed, it must be erased. It is a caul obscuring the vision of the soul. Rigid adherence to any school of thought is as futile to the true seeker as searching for answers without knowledge of the questions. Intellect and soul must be united, and this is true for both magicians and musicians.
The individual members of Tool have struck such a balance, switching deftly from the towering blasts of guitar-and-drum vitriol that galvanize the opening of "Ticks and Leeches" to the slowly unfolding bass ripples that drift through its center, consistently harnessing a power both terrible and beautiful. Lateralus stands alongside Throbbing Gristle's Heathen Earth, Vagtazo Halottkemek's Jumping Out the World -- Instinct and the Master Musicians of Jajouka's Apocalypse Across the Sky as a document of what exists beyond the pale.