HomeMusicReview: Tool, 'Fear Inoculum'

Review: Tool, ‘Fear Inoculum’

Fear Inoculum

It’s been 84 years…  Well, actually it’s only been 13 years since Tool released any new music. But for fans of the band’s unique sound, it feels like a lifetime. Waiting for the next album has reached nearly meme-like levels, essentially becoming the Half-Life 3 of music. On August 30th, all of that waiting was dispelled by the release of Fear Inoculum, a 10 track, 86 minute effort that is sure to both delight and frustrate fans of the band. It’s an album that, by Keenan’s own admission, was delayed due to fear and self-doubt. The question is, did all of the waiting help, or hurt, the quality of the album?

Opening the album is the title track, and it doesn’t disappoint. Taking listeners on a 10 minute ride through delay infused jams and punishing drums, this sets the table for the rest of the album. It isn’t a huge departure from the band’s past material, which isn’t really an issue this early. Following that is my second favorite song on the album, “Pneuma.” It’s a slow burn that introduces and carries a melody through a number of variations and, if not actual time changes, changes in feel and rhythm. When the bass riff kicks in at 1:20, followed by the guitar at 1:38, you know you’re in for a truly epic ride. I’m a sucker for songs that build around a theme, and when “Pneuma” hits its crescendo, you’ll be hard pressed not to crank up the volume.

I am a huge fan of the three song section of “Culling Voices,” “Chocolate Chip Trip,” and “7empest.” “Culling Voices” is a delightfully ambient song that showcases the bands incredible command of dynamics behind a powerful vocal performance by Keenan. It’s a refreshing departure that sets up the electronic/drum track “Chocolate Chip Trip,” which is an absolute clinic for those of you that enjoy a good drum solo. Following that is “7empest,” a nearly 16 minute whirlwind of a track that reminds us why we waited 13 years for this album. It is truly a masterpiece. A guitar through a half-cocked wah, thunderous drumming, and cutting vocals make this my favorite track on the album.

The remaining meat of the album is good, but is largely predictable. Not much new ground is trend, and the songs, for the most part, start to blend together. This is where I’m torn: one way to look at this album is that is doesn’t deviate from the formula, and another is to say that each song builds the same base to serve a variety of different details. Five listens into the album, and I can’t honestly say which it is.

While the album is largely comprised of longer tracks, there are four shorter “interludes” which are, in short, strange. Each one is unique, and features modulated instruments over various sound effects. They function best in the context of the entire album, and this brings me to my last point. This album is best listened to in its entirety. Of course there are certain tracks that stand alone, but Fear Inoculum is transformed from an album to an experience when you listen to it uninterrupted. Tool haven’t forgotten their bread and butter on Fear Inoculum. They bring precision, musical prowess, and cerebral lyrics into a modern world that sometimes feels like it lacks all three.

This album gets an 8/10.

Fear Inoculum by Tool is now available on all streaming platform, online stores, and brick and mortar music shops.


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