Lateralus (song)

"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.

Tool lateralus
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".
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Overview and background

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 quote from one of the Seven Aphorisms of Summum and is also a direct reference to Hermeticism and the Emerald Tablet.

An interesting side note, in alchemy "The Great Work" begins with the Nigredo (black), then moves to the Albedo (white), then the Citrinitas (yellow), then the Rubedo (red).

Mathematical significance

In July 2017, Maynard's friend Joe Rogan described his writing process in a 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]

The song's introduction also ends at the one minute and 37 seconds mark, where the first verse then begins. This time is significant, as it is a reference to the Golden Ratio. Rounding the Golden Ratio to four places gives 1.618. When converted to minutes and seconds, 1.618 minutes becomes approximately one minute and 37 seconds. This also ties it to the Fibonacci sequence as the ratio of one Fibonacci number to its predecessor tends towards the Golden Ratio. In addition, 1:37 can be rearranged into 13:7, which is significant because 13 is the seventh number in the Fibonacci sequence.


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

Chart performance

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


  1. ^ "No. 1: Tool, 'Lateralus' – Top 21st Century Metal Songs". Loudwire. Retrieved 11 August 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 2010-01-06.
  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 (2006-06-01). "Finnegans Shake". New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  7. ^ Hartmann, Graham. "No. 1: Tool, 'Lateralus' – Top 21st Century Metal Songs", Loudwire. Retrieved on 05 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Tool Chart History (Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  9. ^ "Tool Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
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