The band can be described as progressive rock, yet the ideas in their songs are far more layered and complicated than meets the eye. Here, I attempt to examine some of their lyrics from album Lateralus, with emphasis on certain lyrics or words in bold. Remember, these are not facts, only interpretations.
“Wear the grudge like a crown of negativity.
Calculate what we will or will not tolerate.
Desperate to control all and everything.
Unable to forgive your scarlet lettermen.
Clutch it like a cornerstone. Otherwise it all comes down.
Justify denials and grip ’em to the lonesome end.
Clutch it like a cornerstone. Otherwise it all comes down.
Terrified of being wrong. Ultimatum prison cell.
Saturn ascends, choose one or ten. Hang on or be humbled again…
Defining, confining, controlling, and we’re sinking deeper.
Saturn comes back around to show you everything
Let’s you choose what you will not see and then
Drags you down like a stone or lifts you up again
Spits you out like a child, light and innocent.
Saturn comes back around. Lifts you up like a child or
Drags you down like a stone
To consume you till you choose to let this go.
Give away the stone.
Let the waters kiss and transmutate these leaden grudges into gold.
The concept of turning lead into gold is a key theme in Gnosis. Saturn is known as “Chronos” (or time,) as well as lead (or stone.) This shift from lead to gold is thought to represent a shift in time, as well as a shift in all the senses. “Give away the stone” represents this transformation. Once the stone is given away, we can become one with the true Holy Spirit (Sophia.) This is not the same Holy Spirit as portrayed in religion laws, such as the Ten Commandments (“Saturn Ascends, choose ONE or TEN.)
“Draining patience, drain vitality.
This paranoid, paralyzed vampire act’s a little old.
But I’m still right here
Giving blood, keeping faith
And I’m still right here.
Wait it out…
Be patient (wait it out).
If there were no rewards to reap,
No loving embrace to see me through
This tedious path I’ve chosen here,
I certainly would’ve walked away by now.”
Faith is blind in the eyes of Gnostics. “I know” and “I believe” are two different sayings. This song represents the idea of blind faith in all world religions, which have their followers waiting endlessly for the return of a Christ-like figure to “save” them.
“Pure intention juxtaposed will set two lovers souls in motion
Disintegrating as it goes testing our communication…
Point the finger, blame the other, watch the temple topple over…
Cold silence has a tendency to atrophy any
Sense of compassion
Between supposed lovers/brothers”
Soma Sema is the idea that the body is a tomb. When you form a sexual union with someone, this “two” becomes one, transforming the body from a tomb to a temple. This song is describing how lack of communication can cause this once united being to become easily divided, and I feel it applies to relationships beyond sex.
“This holy reality, this holy experience.
Choosing to be here in
This body. This body holding me. Be my reminder here that I am not alone in
This body, this body holding me, feeling eternal
All this pain is an illusion.
Twirling round with this familiar parable.
Spinning, weaving round each new experience.
Recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing.
This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality.”
This song represents the union (vs. the division present in “Schism.”) “Pain is an illusion,” essentially means we live in a painful, imperfect world because we were created by an imperfect being. Unlike this being, we are mortal, yet we should still treat each breath as a “holy gift,” and remember that mind and body should not separate.
“Ticks & Leeches”
“Fat little parasite.
Suck me dry.
My blood is bruised and borrowed. You thieving bastards.
You have turned my blood cold and bitter,
beat my compassion black and blue.
Hope this is what you wanted.
Hope this is what you had in mind.
Cuz this is what you’re getting.
I hope you’re choking. I hope you choke on this.
Got nothing left to give to you.
Blood suckin parasitic little tick”
This song essentially represents the Old World Order an everything it has created.
“As below, so above and beyond, I imagine
drawn beyond the lines of reason.
Push the envelope. Watch it bend.
Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must
Feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.
Black then white are all I see in my infancy.
red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
lets me see there is so much more
and beckons me to look through to these infinite possibilities…
I embrace my desire to
feel the rhythm, to feel connected
enough to step aside and weep like a widow
to feel inspired, to fathom the power,
to witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain,
to swing on the spiral
of our divinity and still be a human.
With my feet upon the ground I lose myself
between the sounds and open wide to suck it in…
I’m reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me.
And following our will and wind we may just go where no one’s been.
We’ll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one’s been…”
“As above, so below,” is a key concept in Gnosis. The symbol of a spiral is also important in relation to Gnosis and Sophia (the spiral could be seen as “8,” an infinity symbol, as well as the symbol of the snake).
I may find peace within the emptiness…
And in my darkest moment, fetal and weeping
The moon tells me a secret – my confidant
As full and bright as I am
This light is not my own and
A million light reflections pass over me
Its source is bright and endless
She resuscitates the hopeless
Without her, we are lifeless satellites drifting
And as I pull my head out I am without one doubt
Don’t wanna be down here feeding my narcissism.
I must crucify the ego before it’s far too late
I pray the light lifts me out
Before I pine away…
To leave behind this place so negative and blind and cynical,
And you will come to find that we are all one mind
Capable of all that’s imagined and all conceivable…”
In our culture, the Moon is often representative as the Feminine (vs. the Masculine Sun.) She waxes, wanes and becomes whole, going along with the idea of Yin and Yang (ebb and flow.) The moon also represents the Underworld. To “crucify the ego” is to let go of current mindsets and allow the Shadow archetype to shine through; this Shadow is often referenced as the dark side of one’s persona, or an aspect of the human Underworld. “We are all one mind”; we all have these light and dark sides to our being.
“Faaip de Oiad”
“The disasters that are coming, they, the military, I’m sorry, the government knows about them. And there’s a lot of safe areas in this world that they could begin moving the population to now. They are not! They want those major population centers wiped out so that the few that are left will be more easily controllable.”
I think what is said here is self-explanatory.
For more TOOL related articles, click here and here. Be sure to check back for my look into other albums as well.