Music, Reviews

Tool – Fear Inoculum album review

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It’s been 13 years since Tool’s last album. I can imagine that there are rabid Tool fans out there who have children born 13 years ago who are about to be in for something of a shock…

The passion which “The Tool Army” has for the band can be seen in the fact that when they released their entire back catalogue on streaming services earlier this month, all of them entered Billboard’s Top 20, despite the most recent of them being released in 2006. Spin reported:

“All four of Tool’s studio albums are now charting on the Billboard 200, thanks to their recent debut on streaming platforms. Undertow sits at No. 19, with 10,000 Days just above it at No. 18, and Lateralus at No. 16. AEnima came in at No. 10, almost 23 years after its debut at No. 2. Tool’s Opiate EP also made the Billboard 200 this week, at No. 59”

Was it worth the wait? Certainly; this is a most excellent album. Is it their best work? No, but it is superior to their last album 10,000 Days.

Tool’s 1992 debut EP, Opiate, didn’t prepare the listening public for what was to come except for the title track. Five of the six tracks are relatively straight ahead alt-hard rock of the type that was very much in vogue at the time. Their debut full length album Undertow, while incorporating some of the “straight ahead” elements of the Opiate EP, also contained more of the dark, sprawling progressive rock that operates in the song “Opiate”. The album also of course spawned the huge hit single “Sober”.

Their next album, 1996’s AEnima, took the prog rock and the weirdness up a notch. The album contains a number of bizarre segues including “Die Eier von Satan” which sounds like a Nazi rally set to terribly ominous industrial, but the man haranguing us in German is actually reciting a recipe for hash cookies. Haha. The album contained the hit singles “Stinkfist” and “Forty Six & 2” and sold a truckload and with it the band became legend.

2001’s Lateralus was total psychedelia and yet was very popular. With the release of the next album 10,000 Days, the band of Opiate and Undertow was now another entity entirely and Fear Inoculum is the long awaited recording of Tool’s most recent descent into the vortex.

What is new about the album is its density and complexity. It’s like Lateralus, and then some, and then some more.

The album begins with the title track and lead single. Its sound is not unexpected; neither in truth is the entire album. It is more or less the same epic, multi-movement psychedelic progressive rock/metal that they’ve produced since the turn of the millennium. What is new about the album is its density and complexity. It’s like Lateralus, and then some, and then some more.

Second song “Pneuma” begins with gentle strumming before a familiar heavy bass groove kicks in. Third song (the album consists of 7 songs and 3 segues) “Invincible” is the standout. I could wax very purple and long about this song. It clocks in at over 13 minutes but it grabs you straight away. The melodies are delicious and memorable and when it rocks, naturally, it really goes for it. It also has a sing along chorus! What more, dear friends, could a Tool fan ask for?

“Descending” doesn’t quite work. It really is too much of a jigsaw and the dominant groove doesn’t leave an impression on your mind. The first ¾ of “Culling Voices” is mostly quiet guitars and Maynard singing about “psychopathy, misleading me”, before the rock kicks in.

The instrumental “Chocolate Chip Trip” is certainly aptly titled. It’s an eclectic cocktail of sounds, organic and electronic. Danny Carey’s drumming on this track is phenomenal. He is a drummer’s drummer. The last song “7empest” (Tempest) breaks with the album formula by unleashing the heaviness almost immediately. It is the most ferocious song on the album and it is the business.

Time will tell how the 10 tracks and 86 minutes of Fear Inoculum compare with the rest of Tool’s catalogue, but it is a superior album to 10,000 Days that’s for sure.

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