Album Review by Mark Bayross
To describe LATERALUS as long-awaited would not be doing it justice, really. Not since “The Fragile” has an album been as keenly anticipated and discussed, fuelled in no uncertain terms by the campaign of disinformation waged by the band in the build-up to its release. The band smoke screened the world’s press with bogus song and album titles, defiantly refused to distribute any promo copies whatsoever, and would only be interviewed by a group of journalists so select they probably needed to pass DNA tests before the tapes started rolling.
Well, the wait is over. The album is on the shelves of every record store in the land, and anyone can hear it without fear of assassination. So, now the covers are off (and what a cover!), I can confirm that “Lateralus” is the astonishing record we all knew we would hear.
The album progresses the sound from 1996’s already-brilliant ÆNIMA, fusing Danny Carey’s pounding, tribal drums with Justin Chancellor’s clanking, metallic bass and Adam Jones’ spiralling, tempestuous guitars. On top of it all is that voice – Maynard James Keenan’s spectral croon, displaying a versatility that even outdoes his previous efforts.
To discuss ‘songs’ here is sort of missing the point. These are sprawling, gargantuan compositions, averaging seven or eight minutes long, packing a barrage of emotional punches that repeatedly knock you sideways. I lost count of the number of times I almost leapt out of my skin listening to this record.
Running the gamut from shimmering psychedelia (the tabla-driven DISPOSITION) to roaring cacophony (TICKS AND LEECHES), one of the album’s many tricks is to lull you into a sense of slightly uneasy calm, only to shatter the daydream with a wall of feral noise. Opening track THE GRUDGE pulls this off in a particularly succinct fashion, flooring you with a primal scream from Maynard that tears through the wall of guitars at the end.
Of course, the musicianship throughout LATERALUS is outstanding, with drum flourishes and virtuoso basslines aplenty (check Chancellor’s inspired performance on the stunning SCHISM – the album’s ‘single’), while the 11-minute long REFLECTION is just incredible – mixing doom-laden electronics with an eastern-sounding coda to jaw-dropping effect.
This is the sound of an incredible band surpassing itself. Beguiling, astonishing and like nothing else on earth.