Tool – “Fear Inoculum”

Album Reviews | Sep 11th, 2019

Tool - "Fear Inoculum"
Image used with permission for review purposes.

Genre: Progressive Rock, Metal, Alternative Metal
Record Label: Tool Dissectional/Volcano
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It’s been 13 years since Tool last graced us with a new album and a lot has changed in the world. 10,000 Days was very experimental, building on the foundation laid by Lateralus, it seemed as if it was an album people weren’t ready for. During that 13 years we saw many bands come and go, but the big change came in how most listeners receive music. With the introduction of streaming, the art of albums and experiment-ability seemed a bit diminished. Coupled with the fact a segment of our society has become normalized to expect instant gratification; how exactly would a new Tool album be received? After all, what’s displayed here certainly isn’t formulaic pop songs with simple verse/chorus structures and it’s not very idealistic to fit into a random playlist. Pack your patience folks, we’re going in.

The album itself is quite an experience, whether or not you’re able to obtain the special edition CD release with the accompanied rechargeable screen for visual accompaniment, or just the standard digital album. The album clocks in at almost an hour and 27 minutes and is made up of rather lengthy songs that go 10 to 15 minutes as well as interludes and postludes.

The album starts out with the title track, which has a swelling instrumental intro before Maynard graces us with his first vocals at the 2-minute mark. The song slowly builds until a little after the 5 minute mark where the band culminates together in a bit more heavier fashion and goes back to it’s more subtle instrumental swells before closing on a much more triumphant conclusion with the full band as we’ve come to expect. A lot of this record is an experiment to see how tuned in you really are. There’s stuff you won’t catch on the first few passes. It bears repeating, but if you think you’re getting “Sober” part 2, or you’re going to digest this in one listen, this album is not for you. A lot of slow builds, especially in a track like “Pneuma” which gives off a very educated jam like feel for a song that was well thought out. It’s almost like the theme to a long horse ride at sundown.

I won’t go into detail about the interludes, but a lot of them don’t really serve as transitional tracks such as an introduction to the next song, more of areas for them to experiment with different sounds and effects, with the exception of “Chocolate Chip Trip” which is a drum solo as if the rest of the record didn’t display enough of Danny Carey’s brilliant drumming. “Invincible” at times recalls some riff patterns similar to that of “Jambi,” while also channeling a bit of ‘Aenima’ era Tool in the song’s pacing and structure. Moving onto the next song “Descending” past the 7 minute mark is a great time for Adam to shine with a few ripping guitar solos throughout the last half of the song. One would be remised to not mention how bizarre it is to incorporate an almost Iron Maiden styled guitar solo in the middle of a Tool song, but at the end of the song it’s capped off by a cooler solo later in the song.

The last 2 official songs on the album kick off “Culling Voices” is mostly a subdued number that doesn’t really build too much heavily but rides out in a very jammy fashion. If you’re still with the album at this point and are angered by the lack of more easily accessible material you unlock the final full song “7empest.” “7empest” is the full embodiment of what everyone has grown to love in Tool and it never relents throughout its 15 plus minute run time. If we were to pinpoint a “song” on the album, I’d suggest this is the best part of it. The album closes out with a postlude, or could be considered a bit of a palate cleanser in “Mockingbeat” which brings you back out of this Tool soaked reality you just enveloped yourself in for more than an hour.

Overall I think this was well worth the wait, although the interludes could have did a little more to glue the album together. If you’re venturing in to see what all the fuss is about I’d suggest you take your time with this, soak in a few uninterrupted listens and enjoy the fact another legendary band released an album that furthers their legacy.

Notable Tracks: 7empest, Invincible, Fear Inoculum
Overall Rating:


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