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Cover art for Lateralus, done by artist Alex Grey, featuring a translucent insert that flips open to reveal the different layers of the human body
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 15, 2001 (2001-05-15)
RecordedOctober 2000 - January 2001
StudioCello Studios, Hollywood, CA
The Hook, North Hollywood, CA
Big Empty Space, North Hollywood, CA
The Lodge, North Hollywood, CA
GenreProgressive metal[1]
LabelVolcano Entertainment
ProducerDavid Bottrill, Tool[2]
Tool chronology
10,000 Days
Singles from Lateralus
  1. "Schism"
    Released: January 15, 2001
  2. "Parabola"
    Released: 2002
  3. "Lateralus"
    Released: February 2002

Lateralus (/ˌlætəˈræləs/[3]) is the third studio album by American rock band Tool. It was released on May 15, 2001 through Volcano Entertainment. The album was recorded at Cello Studios in Hollywood and The Hook, Big Empty Space, and The Lodge, in North Hollywood, between October 2000 and January 2001. David Bottrill, who had produced the band's two previous releases Ænima and Salival, produced the album along with the band. On August 23, 2005, Lateralus was released as a limited edition two-picture-disc vinyl LP in a holographic gatefold package.

The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling more than 555,200 copies in its first week of release.[4] It was certified double platinum by the RIAA on August 5, 2003. On August 30, 2004, the album was certified silver by the BPI. It was also certified platinum in Australia, and double platinum in Canada. The band won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance for the song "Schism" in 2002.[5] Lateralus was ranked No. 123 on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "Definitive 200" list.[6]


Lateralus emerged after a four-year legal dispute with Tool's label, Volcano Entertainment.[7] In January 2001, the band announced that their new album's title would be Systema Encéphale and provided a 12-song track list with titles such as "Riverchrist", "Numbereft", "Encephatalis", "Musick", and "Coeliacus". File sharing networks such as Napster were flooded with bogus files bearing the titles' names.[8] At the time, Tool members were outspokenly critical of file-sharing networks in general due to the negative impact on artists that are dependent on success in record sales to continue their career. Keenan had this to say during an interview with NY Rock in 2000: "I think there are a lot of other industries out there that might deserve being destroyed. The ones who get hurt by MP3s are not so much companies or the business, but the artists, people who are trying to write songs."[9] A month later, the band revealed that the new album was actually titled Lateralus (supposedly a portmanteau of the leg muscle Vastus lateralis and the term lateral thinking)[10] and that the name Systema Encéphale and the track list had been a ruse.[11]

Lateralus and the corresponding tours would take Tool a step further toward art rock,[12][13][14] and progressive rock[2][15][16][17] territory, in contrast to the band's earlier material, which has often been labeled as alternative metal.[18] Rolling Stone wrote in an attempt to summarize the album that "Drums, bass and guitars move in jarring cycles of hyperhowl and near-silent death march ... The prolonged running times of most of Lateralus thirteen tracks are misleading; the entire album rolls and stomps with suitelike purpose."[2] Joshua Klein of The A.V. Club in turn expressed his opinion that Lateralus, with its 79-minute running time and relatively complex and long songs—topped by the ten-and-a-half minute music video for "Parabola"—posed a challenge to fans and music programming alike.[19] Drummer Danny Carey said, "The manufacturer would only guarantee us up to 79 minutes ... We thought we'd give them two seconds of breathing room."[20] Carey aspired to create longer songs like those by artists he grew up listening to. The band had segues to place between songs, but had to cut out a lot during the mastering phase.[20] The CD itself was mastered using HDCD technology.

Just as Salival was initially released with several errors on the track listing, early pressings of Lateralus had the ninth track incorrectly spelled as "Lateralis".[7] The original title of "Reflection" was "Resolution" before being changed three months prior to the album's release.[8]

The track listing is altered on the vinyl edition, with "Disposition" appearing at track 8. Because of the long running time, the double vinyl edition could not be released like the disc since the songs would not fit on each disc side in that order. By moving "Disposition" to an earlier point, the sides were balanced and could fit the material. However, this edit breaks the segue that occurs between "Disposition" and "Reflection" which, along with "Triad", are often grouped together.

Two of the singles from the album, "Parabola" and "Schism", are featured in the video game Guitar Hero World Tour.

The insert is translucent and flips open to reveal the different layers of the human body. Disguised in the brain matter on the final layer is the word "God". The artwork was done by artist Alex Grey, who would later design the 3D edition cover for the followup to Lateralus, 10,000 Days.

Composition and content[edit]

Drummer Danny Carey sampled himself breathing through a tube to simulate the chanting of Buddhist monks for "Parabol",[21] and banged piano strings for samples on "Reflection".[21] "Faaip de Oiad" samples a recording of a 1997 call on Art Bell's radio program Coast to Coast AM.[22] "Faaip de Oiad" is Enochian for The Voice of God.

"Disposition", "Reflection", and "Triad" form a sequence[2] that has been performed in succession live with occasional help from various tourmates such as Mike Patton, Dave Lombardo, Buzz Osborne, Tricky, and members of Isis, Meshuggah, and King Crimson.[23]

The title track, "Lateralus", incorporates the Fibonacci sequence.[24] The theme of the song describes the desire of humans to explore and to expand for more knowledge and a deeper understanding of everything. The lyrics "spiral out", refers to this desire and also to the Fibonacci spiral, which is formed by creating and arranging squares for each number in the sequence's 1,1,2,3,5,8,... pattern, and drawing a curve that connects to two corners of each square. This would, allowed to continue onwards, theoretically create a never-ending and infinitely-expanding spiral. Related to this, the song's main theme features successive time signatures 9/8, 8/8, and 7/8.[25] The number 987 is the sixteenth integer of the Fibonacci sequence.[26]

"Eon Blue Apocalypse" is about Adam Jones' Great Dane named Eon, who had died from bone cancer.[27] The track "Mantra" is the slowed-down sound of Maynard James Keenan gently squeezing one of his cats.[28]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[15]
Entertainment WeeklyB−[30]
Los Angeles Times3.5/4 stars[32]
Q4/5 stars[35]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[2]
USA Today3.5/4 stars[36]
The Village VoiceC[37]

Overall, Lateralus was critically well received, but its complexity provoked many responses akin to Spin's Ryan Rayhil's summarization of it as a "monolithic puzzlebox".[38]

Commercial performance[edit]

The album was a commercial success in the United States, debuting at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart with over 555,200 copies sold in its first week of release.[4] On August 5, 2003, the album was certified double platinum by the RIAA. On April 30, 2010, the album was certified gold by the BPI for sales of 100,000 in the U.K.[39] In addition, Lateralus was certified platinum by the ARIA[40] and double platinum by MC.[41]


Tool received the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance for the song "Schism".[42] During the band's acceptance speech, drummer Danny Carey stated that he would like to thank his parents "for putting up with [him]", and bassist Justin Chancellor concluded, "I want to thank my dad for doing my mom."[43]

Kludge ranked Lateralus at number two on their list of top 10 albums of 2001.[44] Kerrang! placed the album at #1 on their 2001 "Albums Of The Year" list.[45] Q listed Lateralus as one of the best 50 albums of 2001.[46]

In 2016, Loudwire named Lateralus the No. 1 hard rock/metal album of the 21st century.[47] The same magazine named the album at sixth in the list "Top 25 Progressive Metal Albums of All Time."[48]

The album was ranked number 32 on Rolling Stone's 50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time list.[49] TeamRock placed the album at No. 33 on their Top 100 Prog Albums of All Time list.[50] ranked the drumming performance by Danny Carey on the song "Ticks & Leeches" #3 on their list of Top 100 Rock Drum Performances.[51]

Special editions[edit]

A vinyl edition and two DVD singles from the album were released later. The "double vinyl four-picture disc" edition of Lateralus was first released as a limited autographed edition exclusively available to fan club members and publicly released on August 23, 2005. Two music videos were produced; one for "Schism" (with the short ambient segue "Mantra" at the beginning) and one for "Parabol/Parabola". These were subsequently released as two separate DVD singles on December 20, 2005, featuring remixes of the tracks by Lustmord.

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Maynard James Keenan; all music composed by Adam Jones, Danny Carey, Maynard James Keenan, and Justin Chancellor.

1."The Grudge"8:36
2."Eon Blue Apocalypse" (instrumental)1:04
3."The Patient"7:13
4."Mantra" (instrumental)1:12
8."Ticks & Leeches"8:10
12."Triad" (instrumental – the song "Triad" ends at 6:32, before 2:14 of silence)8:46
13."Faaip de Oiad"2:39
Total length:78:51

On the vinyl version of the album, "Disposition" follows "Parabola". On the first presses of US CD, "Lateralus" is misspelled "Lateralis" on the tracklist of the outer packaging.



  • David Bottrill – production, engineering, mixing
  • Vince DeFranco – neurocistance, engineering
  • Alex Grey – illustrations
  • Statik (Collide) – machines on "Triad"


Lateralus sold 555,000 copies in its first week, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200.[52] As of July 7, 2010, Lateralus has sold 2,609,000 copies in the US. It is ranked number 123 on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "Definitive 200" list.[53]


Chart Peak position Ref.
Billboard 200 1 [54]
Billboard Top Internet Albums 1 [55]
Australian Albums Chart 1 [56]
Austrian Albums Chart 9 [57]
Canadian Albums Chart 1 [55]
Dutch Albums Chart 7 [58]
Finnish Albums Chart 11 [59]
French Albums Chart 21 [60]
New Zealand Albums Chart 2 [61]
Polish Albums Chart 1 [62]
Swiss Albums Chart 31 [63]
UK Albums Chart 16 [64]


Year Song Chart peak positions

2001 "Schism" 67 2 2 54
"Parabola" 31 10 56
2002 "Lateralus" 18 14
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


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External links[edit]