By Roman SokalTo achieve a state of autonomy within a megalopolis such as Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the planet, is practically impossible. The dark and infectious ethereal left-field hard rock collective Tool have managed to do so, avoiding the temptations to compromise that lead to eventual mediocrity. Instead of being an instrument to the business, the business has succumbed to them, but not without a fight. Having released only three full-length albums in their 11-year existence, they have maintained their artistic integrity and sense of self, even bypassing the requirement to be seen in their music videos, created (along with all album artwork) by the band themselves. Their infectious opuses are melodic and intelligent, built upon a spiritual struggle for self-awareness and the need to evolve. On May 15th the band finally released their third and long-awaited 79-minute aural epic Lateralus.
Drummer Danny Carey (Carole King, Pygmy Love Circus, Green Jelly) is introduced to guitarist Adam Jones (at the time working in special effects, having contributed to Jurassic Park and Terminator 2). The conduit is Jones's old high school friend, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello. They are joined by bassist Paul D'Amour and vocalist Maynard James Keenan, who is Carey's neighbour; he'd previously been in an industrial/ experimental band called Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty and released one album entitled Fingernails. According to their first official bio, their name is inspired by "lachrymology," a philosophic study of crying as a therapeutic tool conceptualised in a 1949 book entitled The Joyful Guide to Lachrymology by Ronald P. Vincent, whom D'Amour befriended in his dying derelict days in Hollywood. This is widely believed to be dis-information, one of the first examples of the band tinkering with the press and the public's gullibility.
Nirvana breaks the seal, and heavy riffage vibrates commercial radio waves and major label A&R reps scour the continent for grunge talent. Within three months of their formal inception, having played only a handful of gigs and with no recordings, Tool signs to Zoo/BMG, one of the first major labels to make an offer. They tour opening for the Rollins Band, Rage Against The Machine and Fishbone, gaining in popularity with every gig.
Tool releases Opiate, an EP that eventually sells gold (500,000 copies) in the U.S. This choice mixture of the band's heavier songs are released as both studio and live tracks. The video for "Hush," directed by Failure's Ken Andrews, portrays the band naked walking across a white room with Parental Advisory signs over their buttocks.
Their breakthrough, Undertow hits shelves. The track "Sober," with its innovative and creepy claymation video directed by Jones and surrealist Fred Stuhr, helps catapult the band to stardom. They play with the capabilities of CDs by adding an extra "hidden" track (still innovative at this time): track 69 is the highly abstract track "Disgustipated." The album is a thinking person's amalgam of metal, classic rock and the ruling "alternative" ethos, a heavy, progressive blend of the cathartic with the thought-provoking. Censorship advocates feast on the album's lyrical content and graphics, including photos of ultra-obese naked women, stuck pigs, and cows licking themselves. A "clean" version of the album is manufactured for more conservative audiences. In place of the artwork, a giant bar code is left on the cover. In May, a show is played at the Garden Pavilion in Hollywood. At the last minute, they learn that the venue is owned and funded by L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology, which betrays the band's ethics about how a person should not follow a belief system that constricts their development as a human being. Partway throughout the set, Keenan loudly bleats like a sheep over the P.A. to express his sentiments. The band's jovial Aussie manager (and co-founder of the Lollapalooza festival) gets the band on the summer festival's second stage; it proves to be the catalyst to their meteoric rise. They are quickly moved to the main stage based on their presence, prowess and power. When they finally get a touring break, Tool and Rage Against The Machine collaborate on an untitled seven-minute track (commonly referred to as "Revolution") for the movie Judgement Night, which never ends up in the final cut nor on the soundtrack CD.