We Reviewed Tool's First Studio Album in Over a Decade!

It’s finally here. After thirteen long and grueling years without new music, Tool’s fifth studio album Fear Inoculum has officially been released. And let me tell you, it was worth the wait.
Tool First Tweets About Album Release in July 2019
Although the legendary rock band continued to tour throughout the songwriting hiatus, there was always a slight concern over their status as a band. From family commitments to creative differences and lawsuits, Tool was creating the perfect recipe for a disastrous news headline. Yet, fans refused to lose faith in their guiding power. To them, Tool is much more than a popular band. Known for their art beyond the medium of music, Tool fans are fully invested in the entirety of the band and treat them like a higher being.
"We all have our own things going on — lives, families, other projects, other interests — so it's ready when it's ready. But I appreciate the dedication from our fans — the very strong dedication. [Laughs] But the record turned out cool and it's very different than our last record. I think that's what we all wanted." - Adam Jones (guitar)
If you really think about it, Tool’s influence is somewhat magical in that regard. It takes a special band to keep fans just as invested in them as they were over a decade ago. In the end, Tool is simply just that good. Their sound and pure force is truly timeless. They deserve the legendary status that they exhibit and part of that is attributed to this album.
Despite all the chaos that was happening around them, Tool managed to deliver a new record that perfectly encompasses everything we know and love about Tool, while also presenting a slightly different flair than what we’ve previously heard. What else do you expect from a band that hasn’t made an album in over a decade? Music has evolved with the passing of time and luckily Tool has discovered a way to stick to their roots, while simultaneously adjusting to the times.
So don’t fret. Expect to hear the unmistakable Tool sound throughout the entire album. Typical for Tool, songs are driven by the heavy bass and percussion moments by Justin Chancellor (bass) and Danny Carey (drums) respectively. In between it all, you’ll find Adam Jones’s (guitar) hammer-ons and pull-offs as Maynard James Keenan’s (vocals) smooth and subtle vocals effortlessly blend with the chaos around him. Together, they create a euphoric state for listeners.
Known for the lengthy tracks on their four previous albums, Tool was sure to stick with the same trend on Fear Inoculum. In fact, the three-time Grammy Award winners took it a step further with six of the ten digital tracks lasting over ten minutes, including the opening title track “Fear Inoculim.” Released as the first single off of the album at the beginning of August, this ten-minute piece perfectly embodies the Tool motto— intense bass lines, long guitar riffs, manic percussion, and rooted vocals. The biggest twist of the song comes via the seemingly Eastern drum influence with frequent bongo and high hat hits.
Tool "Fear Inoculum"
The next track, “Pneuma,” has a sort of movie score feel to it. The slow intensity of the percussion combined with reverberated vocals and somewhat intense guitar distortion, lends itself perfectly to an action sequence on the big screen. Following the second track is “Litanie contre la Peur” which translates to “Litany Against Fear” (only available on digital). The two-minute track bears a simple, yet somehow complex communion of sounds that make you feel like you are caught in a wormhole to another universe. It’s as if we are being transferred to another place... a perfect transition into track four.
The twelve-minute song entitled “Invincible” features a long buildup of guitar and heavy bass as a ticking clock is heard in the background to signify the story behind the music. As the buildup enters its peak, Carey’s drumming reaches another level of intensity as he shows off his double bass skills like no other.
Tool "Invincible"
Another digital-only transitional tune is next on the track list. “Legion Inoculant” presents a similar tone to “Litanie contre la Peur” using a unique combination of sound effects and voices to transport the listener to another universe. Looking at the cover art, these transitional pieces make the listener feel as if they are diving into that mysterious light at the end of the warped tunnel. It’s an entirely new listening experience that takes us to the sixth track of the album, “Descending.”
Considered one of the least heavy songs on the album, there aren’t many soft parts to the song, especially when we reach middle buildup of nonstop guitar and bass riffs under a frequent double bass scheme. It’s the perfect list partner to the seventh track, “Culling Voices.” Using a guitar picking intro into Keenan’s vocals sets up the listener for a bit more of a calmer track which really does wait for the final end buildup to reveal its heavier support.
Tool "Culling Voices"
The final three tracks stand out a bit from the rest. Beginning with the shorter “Chocolate Chip Trip,” it’s easy to compare its digitized sound with that of “Litanie contre la Peur” and “Legion Inoculant” except this time, instead of journeying into a mystery, the more electronic sounds make us feel like we’ve reached our destination. In the end, the culmination is a bit trippy as Carey's sudden drum beat kicks in.
The final track of the hard-copy list also happens to be the longest song on the entire album. “7empest” features immediate intensity as Jones’s loud and distorted guitar riff carries the song into a continual display of guitar genius. But what makes the song that much better are the unbelievable backing drums and bass along with perfectly placed bookend vocals. It’s like the song was made for the band to show off, and man did it succeed.
Tool "7empest"
Finally, used as a quick addition to the digital download is the tenth and final track “Mockingbeat” which uses —yes you guessed it— bird-like chirping as the foundation of the entire song. It’s a unique mix that is somewhat disturbing at the same time. But what else would you expect from Tool?
In the end, despite a bit of fear regarding the band's extra long hiatus, Tool did not disappoint. As a whole, Fear Inoculum serves as one of Tool’s best albums yet. It perfectly blends their classic heavy rock and metal sound with a more modern era of digital enhancement. But most importantly, the album is undeniably Tool to its core, delivering a body of work that's been absolutely worth the wait.
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Last updated: 21 Sep 2019, 03:26 Etc/UTC