16 September 2008

Rock epic of the month: "Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)/Rosetta Stoned" (Tool) 2006

Rock epics of the month is a series of posts where I'll look back on classic examples of what I think is the greatest excess of rock and roll - the rock epic.

Get a few blokes drunk at a party, and inevitably the conversation will veer over to who is the greatest rock drummer going at the moment. I know this bloke who will maintain until his dying day that John Stanier (Helmet, The Mark Of Cain, Tomahawk, Battles) is "the hardest working drummer in rock and roll".

For me though, there really is only one choice: Danny Carey.

There is something truly amazing about this guy's precision. And unlike Stanier, the guy can swing a bit, too. Not swing, as in the genre, although I don't doubt for a moment that given half a go, he'd probably be able to have a crack at Gene Krupa's wildest work, but swing, as in fall off the beat and back on again in the blink of an eye.

Kinda like what a good jazz drummer is said to be able to do.

10,000 Days was Tool's fourth album, and in one of my rare album reviews, I wrote about being awestruck by not only Carey's stickswork, but by how well him and bassplayer Justin Chancellor work as a team. Tool's sound is very much built from the ground up, and you could probably release an album with just Carey and Chancellor on it - guitarist Adam Jones and vocalist Maynard James Keenan effectively become the flesh around Carey and Chancellor's bones.

I also wrote about being seriously blown away by this tune: I rightly described it as the "piece de resistance" of the whole CD.

Well, a year and several months later, and I'm no less over it. At 14:55, it's still an almighty bitch-slap of a tune, and anyone who says otherwise either hasn't got it, or hasn't listened the whole way through.

It's listed as two separate tunes on the CD, but they're really rammed together as one. "Lost Keys" starts with some eerie air raid guitar and a plaintive lament on Jones' guitar. Meanwhile, after about two and a half minutes, there's some trouble in ER:

Nurse: Excuse me Doctor? If you have a moment?

Doctor: A moment? What's the question?

Nurse: More of a situation. A gentleman in exam 3.

Doctor: What's the problem?

Nurse: That is the problem. We're not sure.

Doctor: Do you have the chart?

Nurse: Right here.

Doctor: Not much here, is there?

Nurse: No doctor. No obvious physical trauma. Vitals are stable.

Doctor: Name?

Nurse: No sir.

Doctor: Did someone drop him off? Maybe we can speak to them. Let's get some background on this fellow.

Nurse: No ID. Nothing. And he won't speak to anyone.

Doctor: Well then. Let's say hello.

Doctor, to patient: Good morning, I'm Doctor Watson. How are you today?

No response

Doctor, to patient: How are you today?

No response

Doctor, to patient: Look son. You're in a safe place. We wanna help you in whatever way we can. But you need to talk to us, we can't help you otherwise. Now, what's happened? Tell me everything.

Which is where it segues into "Rosetta Stoned". And this is where the fun begins to truly heat up.

We now return you to the action in Act 2. The video is just fantastic, just like all Tool's videos. (My apologies about the last minute of the tune or so being cut off)

Edit 16/09/2008: As regular commenter Taj points out, this is not an official Tool video. Not surprising really - who would normally film a video to a fifteen minute rock epic? It's still good:


Anonymous said...

Man is the second half of Rosetta Stoned absolutely fucking monstrous or what. Ok, Jones recycled his three-note-repetition riff that he's used often in the last two albums, but it just never gets old. It's become one of my favourite tracks over the last year.

(I can't remember what they said)

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, I haven't seen this video before and it appears to be (the latter part with the guy waking up in a cocoon) lifted from the movie "Fire in the Sky." Not such a great movie, though of course the abduction scene (featured in this vid) is kind of a mind-bender since it arrives unexpectedly at the end of an otherwise quiet and slow movie.

What I'm saying is, I don't think this video is genuine. Looks fan-made and cobbled together from various sources.

Dikkii said...

I don't think this video is genuine. Looks fan-made and cobbled together from various sources.

Thanks Taj, and well spotted. What I should have said was all Tool’s video’s are awesome. This is a tribute to that. And I can see that I’ll now have to edit my post.

Man is the second half of Rosetta Stoned absolutely fucking monstrous or what.

Yes. Yes it is, Taj.

Incidentally, you might like this.

Anonymous said...

I now have somewhat grudging respect for the piano as a medium of prog metal.

I agree that it's still a pretty good video btw, someone certainly put a lot of effort into it. And yes, the attention span of TV watchers doesnt really allow any value in videos for epic tracks and at best can only lead to butchery; just look at what they did to Bleed... they only left in the second best half!

Dikkii said...

It's a shame that YouTube is blocked here. I'll have to wait until I get home to see what you mean.

Dikkii said...

Well, Taj, now I'm curious about the first best half.

Anonymous said...

Well, here's the thing - you qualified Carey as the best drummer "in rock" very carefully. Because Tomas Haake kicks Carey's ass. I may be spoiled rotten but India is full of percussionists with the ability to "groove" and come up with odd rhythms like Carey, but there are few drummers in the world who can even copy Haake.

By way of example, here he is doing Bleed. Witness how he is keeping almost entirely different rhythms with his hands and feet, and from 2 min in it becomes clear that his hands are actually supporting the secondary rhythm with ghosts as well as playing the more 4/4ish groove. Truly mind-boggling. And he almost makes it look easy too.

Dikkii said...

Haake is a very good metal drummer, I agree. Although, I wonder sometimes if metal has evolved to the point that it's not a sub-genre of "rock" anymore, but its own fully-fledged genre.

For example, I remarked on Carey's ability to swing. You don't get much in the way of opportunities for this sort of thing in metal - usually, your typical metal drummer has to be so precise that things like fills and gratuitous paradiddles just don't have any space to go.

In that context, take Haake: I'm yet to see evidence that he has less than four arms or three legs. He really does pack quite a lot of hitting in.

Having said that, I expect that during the course of this series, the odd metal tune might crop up.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it can be considered anything more than a subgenre of rock. OTOH, "rock" itself is a nebulous enough term that it is in danger of losing any descriptive value; any term that tries to capture both Elvis and Meshuggah is bound to run into problems. It really means little more now than "music with one or more amplified guitars," and even that is not broad enough.

Carey has more "swing", no doubt, though I think that can be partially ascribed to Tool being comparatively downtempo. Also, when the whole song is a relentless paradiddle/doodledumpling/other-made-up-percussive-term, there's not much room left for that kind of standout fill.

There are a few metal drummers I can think of offhand with decent "swing" when the music allows it - Chris Adler of Lamb of God comes to mind, as does Brann Dailor of Mastodon (I think you might like Mastodon, give them a listen sometime).

Dikkii said...

Well, I think that you need to be downtempo a little sometimes. And, I'll be honest: I've always liked fills.

I'm intrigued by Mastodon, Taj. Any albums that you recommend?

Anonymous said...

Blood Mountain. A good mix of groove, heaviness and plain oddness.

Dikkii said...

Thanks Taj. I will be checking this one out.