“Schism” is a song from the Tool’s third full-length album “Lateralus,” released in 2001.
Songs from “Lateralus” use the constructs of math and science as metaphors for human life. Maynard James Keenan explained, “They’re all about relationships. Learning how to integrate communication back into a relationship. How are we as lovers, as artists, as brothers – how are we going to reconstruct this beautiful temple that we’ve built and that’s tumbled down? It’s universal relationship stuff.”
Unlike on earlier Tool records, Keenan found these lyrics – in a sort of Freudian free-associative way – from scatting lines and responding to the emotions suggested by the music itself, which rises, ebbs, and crystallizes with a nearly Beethoven-ish deliberation. The debut single, “Schism,” builds a rippling arpeggio into a heady harmonic-minor groove. The title track begins with an ominous, Autechre-ish pulse and morphs it into a tightly packed metal riff, as Keenan’s lyrics chart a history of consciousness over digitally triggered tablas and congas.
“Schism” is known as a prime example of Tool’s use of complex rhythms and changing meters. It is also well known for its distinctive bass line at the beginning. An extended version of the song is performed live.
There are plenty of occasions on “Lateralus,” such as on “Schism,” where you couldn’t tell which parts were the work of Justin Chancellor and which came from Adam Jones. Jones’ staccato style meshes beautifully with Chancellor’s melodic sensibilities, the ensuing effect being akin to a maelstrom of mid-air sonic collisions (and a multitude of near misses). Justin Chancellor admitted:
Obviously, Adam can go a lot higher than I can, and I can go a lot lower than him, but there’s a lot of middle ground that we can share and explore… Adam’s got a very unique feel for tone, and the different strengths that he plays various parts… it’s a real emotional vibe, the way he plays. Before playing with him, I was a lot more just pumping away as a bass player. He’s inspired me to not be scared to be a little more sensitive. People often have a very narrow view of what the bass guitar can do, but there’s an unlimited world for the instrument you’re playing. And that applies to all instruments.
Justin also mentioned, that “the twiddly ‘Schism’ riff came from fooling around. I just play as much as possible, and I don’t write stuff down – so when I get a good idea, I play it until I can’t forget it.”
“Schism” peaked at number 67 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed on the charts for 20 weeks. It also hit number 2 on both the Modern Rock Tracks and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts but was unable to move down Staind’s “It’s Been Awhile.”
In 2002, Tool won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance for the song. When they went to receive the award they thanked Satan for the award.
The official music video for “Schism” was directed by Adam Jones and shot in Los Angeles. It features a combination of real life footage and the stop motion techniques known from previous Tool videos.
The video opens with “Mantra,” a short track that comes right before “Schism” on the album. The guitar part in the middle was shortened for the video.
The video, which has a lot of variants of interpretation, has a psychedelic feel and full of various concepts like the alchemical concept commonly known as “squaring the circle,” male and female interacting at a subhuman level, symbols of purification human mind and body, and the union of the opposites.
Adam owns three Gibson Les Paul Custom Silverbursts, models made from 1979 to 1981. His main one has a headstock ornament. It appears to be a blue mirror, which covers the usual split diamond inlay Gibson Les Paul Customs are known for.
But in the 2001 interview he admitted, that he isn’t a fan of Gibson guitars:
For me, it’s just all based on the wood, you know. For me, it’s one piece of wood, and the way you can check it, have a look where the guts are, the electronics. If you open the thing you can usually see if it’s one, if it’s routed out, one piece of wood. I don’t know, it’s just that the newer Gibson’s aren’t very good and I don’t think. I mean, I don’t endorse Gibson at all.