The silver cord that has tentatively linked all Tool albums (including Lateralus, their latest aural enigma) is an underlying longing for release and reunion with some version of divinity. Here, singer Maynard James Keenan charts more hopeful territory than usual with lyrics that find the band searching for deeper meaning and connections with a higher power.
"The Grudge" opens up the album with Tool's signature churning, volatile style, highlighted by drummer Danny Carey's inhuman eighteen-limbed playing and bass player Justin Chancellor's melodic, deep rhythms.
Experts at creating dark, eerie and alien landscapes, the band uses these atmospherics to reach deep into the subconscious realms of the human psyche. Guitarist Adam Jones does not play his instrument so much as use it as to channel ancient sonic entities from other worlds into this one. The shimmering track, "Eon Blue Apocalypse" lifts you to loftier dimensions only to bring you crashing back to the flesh with fierce, molten-rock heaviness.
Questions of mortality vs. immortality and spirit vs. body are addressed on the first half of the album, while the second half continues on more healing, ethereal levels.
In these times, there seems to be a sharply declining number of rock bands that are artistically dedicated, non-superficial and gutsy. Tool has now returned to show all the cheap imitators what music with heart, intelligence and powerful magic really sounds like.