Lateralus (song)

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Tool lateralus.png
Single by Tool
from the album Lateralus
ReleasedFebruary 2002
GenreProgressive metal[1]
  • 9:24 (album version)
  • 5:47 (radio edit)
Tool singles chronology
Audio sample
Excerpt of "Lateralus".

"Lateralus" is a song by American progressive metal band Tool. The song is the third single and title track of their third studio album Lateralus.

Overview and background[edit]

The song is known for its distinct time signatures and corresponding lyrical patterns. The time signatures of the chorus of the song change from 9/8 to 8/8 to 7/8; as drummer Danny Carey says, "It was originally titled 9-8-7. For the time signatures. Then it turned out that 987 was the 16th number of the Fibonacci sequence. So that was cool."[2]


In a 2001 interview, singer Maynard James Keenan commented on the lyric mentioning black, white, red and yellow: "I use the archetype stories of North American aboriginals and the themes or colors which appear over and over again in the oral stories handed down through generations. Black, white, red, and yellow play very heavily in aboriginal stories of creation."[3]

The song could also be about the order of colors seen while under the influence of LSD. Alex Grey (the visionary artist who did the album artwork for Lateralus) stated that when he closed his eyes on an LSD trip, he saw a black and white spiral, and when he tried it a few more times it became a red and yellow spiral.[4]

The line "As below so above and beyond, I imagine" is a reference to Hermeticism and the Emerald Tablet.

Mathematical significance[edit]

In July 2017, Maynard's friend Joe Rogan described his writing process in his podcast; "He wrote a song to the Fibonacci sequence. The Fibonacci sequence is a mathematical sequence. It starts from one, the next number is one, and the next number being two, creates the 2+1 which is three, continuing in this mathematical progression. That's how they found the chord progression. It began linking up to the Fibonacci sequence." The syllables Maynard sings in the first verse follow the first six numbers in the pattern, ascending and descending in the sequence 1-1-2-3-5-8-5-3. "Black (one), then (one), white are (two), all I see (three), in my infancy (five). Red and yellow then came to be (eight), reaching out to me (five). Lets me see (three)." In the next verse, Maynard begins with the seventh number of the Fibonacci sequence (13), implying a missing verse in between. He descends back down with the following pattern; 13-8-5-3. "As below so above and beyond I imagine (13). Drawn beyond the lines of reason (eight). Push the envelope (five). Watch it bend (three)." The second verse adds the missing line to complete the sequence; "There is (two), so (one), much (one), more and (two), beckons me (three), to look through to these (five), infinite possibilities (eight)." 1-1-2-3-5-8-5-3-2-1-1-2-3-5-8-13-8-5-3.[5][3][6]


Loudwire listed "Lateralus" as number one on the list of the Top 50 Metal Songs of the 21st Century.[7]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2001–02) Peak
US Alternative Airplay (Billboard)[8] 18
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[9] 14


  1. ^ "No. 1: Tool, 'Lateralus' – Top 21st Century Metal Songs". Loudwire. Retrieved August 11, 2015.
  2. ^ Norris, Chris (2001). "Hammer Of The Gods". Archived from the original on April 20, 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2007.
  3. ^ a b diCarlo, Christopher (2001). "Interview with Maynard James Keenan". Archived from the original on April 20, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2007.
  4. ^ Maititab. "Lateralus Tab". Retrieved January 6, 2010.
  5. ^ Buchanan, Brett (January 14, 2018). "Joe Rogan Reveals How 'Fucking Maniac' Maynard James Keenan Got Him Sick". Alternative Nation. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  6. ^ Lewis Goldberg (June 1, 2006). "Finnegans Shake". New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Retrieved January 27, 2008.
  7. ^ Hartmann, Graham. "No. 1: Tool, 'Lateralus' – Top 21st Century Metal Songs", Loudwire. Retrieved on 05 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Tool Chart History (Alternative Airplay)". Billboard. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  9. ^ "Tool Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved August 7, 2017.