In May of 2006 Tool unleashed their masterful 10,000 Days and within that release lay their epic aural experience “Rosetta Stoned.” At over eleven minutes long, it is an assault of music, imagery and ideas that stretch and redefine the boundaries of music. While Tool’s music may have influences, “Rosetta Stoned” defies definition. It is so innovative and inventive that even if one is not a fan of metal the song captivates. The preceding track, “Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)” serves as a conceptual prologue for the song. It depicts a conversation between a nurse and the doctor (R. Gordon Wasson) about an unconscious patient (Albert Hoffman) which occurs after the events described in “Rosetta Stoned.” Maynard James Keenan thrusts the listener into the mind of the comatose Hoffman with a stream of consciousness tirade. His scattered, alarmingly paranoid thoughts race from delusional confessionals and observations to the realization that he is a chosen one who will deliver a message “of hope for those who choose to hear it and a warning for those who do not.” Whether Keenan is portraying an acid trip, an alien encounter or is offering an obscurely poetic autobiographical message of higher meaning is immaterial. “Rosetta Stoned” can be appreciated on any of those levels or simply as an original and highly imaginative work of art.
The Rosetta Stone, a 1700 pound piece of rock discovered in the sands of Egypt, was the key to modern understanding of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Perhaps Keenan chose the title to make a statement about alienation and lack of communication in the modern world. The listener is immediately engaged by the words “Alrighty, then … picture this if you will,” and what follows is a madly colorful psychotic diatribe. The music follows his scattered thoughts and feelings with striking exactitude and vacillates between tempos and moods like a passing storm. An overwhelming sense of the distortion of reality is made clearer by repeated references to LSD, “It’s gotta be the Deadhead Chemistry.” Musically the song is a complex jam highlighting the extraordinary talents of each member of the band. Drummer Danny Carey, fiercely experiments with time signatures and showers with an array of provocative beats. Guitarist Adam Jones offers breathtaking riffs and feedback driven leads that light the song’s dark sky like exploding bolts of lightning, and bassist Justin Chancellor’s dazzling mastery of his instrument provides the unrelenting thunder and lends a consistency, an unyielding unity, serving as a bridge connecting Carey and Jones. The intuitive interplay between Keenan, his concept and delivery, and the band results in a distinctively unique and engrossing musical experience.
“Alrighty, then … picture this if you will.
10 to 2 AM, X, Yogi DMT, and a box of Krispy Kremes,
in my “need to know” pose, just outside of Area 51
Contemplating the whole “chosen people” thingy
when a flaming stealth banana split the sky
like one would hope but never really expect to see in a place like this.
Cutting right angle donuts on a dime and stopping right at my Birkenstocks,
and me yelping…Holy fucking shit!
Then the X-Files being,
Looking like some kind of blue-green Jackie Chan
with Isabella Rossellini lips, and breath that reeked of vanilla Chig Champa
Did a slow-mo Matrix descent outta the butt end of the banana vessel
And hovered above my bug-eyes, my gaping jaw, and my sweaty L. Ron Hubbard upper lip,
and all I could think was: “I hope Uncle Martin here doesn’t notice that I pissed my fuckin’ pants.”
So light in his way, Like an apparition, [that]
He had me crying out, “Fuck me
It’s gotta be the Deadhead Chemistry
The blotter got [right] on top of me
Got me seein’ E-motherfuckin’-T!”
And after calming me down with some orange slices
and some fetal spooning,
E.T. revealed to me his singular purpose.
He said, “You are the Chosen One, the One who will deliver the message.
A message of hope for those who choose to hear it and a warning for those who do not.”
Me. The Chosen One? They chose me!!!
And I didn’t even graduate from fuckin’ high school.
You’d better… You’d better… You’d better…You’d better listen.
Then he looked right through me with somniferous almond eyes
Don’t even know what that means
Must remember to write it down..This is so real
Like the time Dave floated away
See, my heart is pounding ’cause this shit never happens to me
I can’t breathe right now!
It was so real, Like I woke up in Wonderland…All sorta terrifying.
.I don’t wanna be all alone while I tell this story.
And can anyone tell me why Y’all sound like Peanuts parents?
Will I ever be coming down? This is so real
Finally, it’s my lucky day..See, my heart is racing ‘Cause this shit never happens to me
I can’t breathe right now! You believe me, don’t you?
Please believe what I’ve just said!
See the Dead ain’t touring and this wasn’t all in my head.
See, they took me by the hand and invited me right in.
Then they showed me something
I don’t even know where to begin.
Strapped down [to] my bed
Feet cold [and] eyes red
I’m out of my head
Am I alive? Am I dead?
Can’t remember what they said
God damn, shit the bed.
Overwhelmed as one would be, placed in my position.
Such a heavy burden now to be the One
Born to bear and bring to all the details of our ending,
To write it down for all the world to see.
But I forgot my pen…Shit the bed again … Typical.
Strapped down [to] my bed..Feet cold and eyes red
I’m out of my head..Am I alive? Am I dead?
Sunkist * and Sudafed..Gyroscopes and infrared
Won’t help, I’m brain dead..Can’t remember what they said
God damn, shit the bed
I can’t remember what they said to me
Can’t remember what they said to make me out to be the her
Can’t remember what they said..Bob help me!
Can’t remember what they said
[We] don’t know, [and we] won’t know
God damn, shit the bed!”