Album Review: Tool – Fear Inoculum 8.5 (Prog)

Written by Carcassbomb

  • Tool
  • Fear Inoculum
  • Progressive Rock
  • USA
  • August 30, 2019
  • 8.5/10

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This is no doubt a divisive release and there’s a lot of context to consider such as a subversive band history. I’ve always considered Tool to be reliable, I don’t think they’ve ever released a bad album but I can definitely see how their fanbase tainted their image in the social media age. Like many frontmen in the history of music, Maynard has had plenty of cringey moments that get stuck in the spotlight. On a purely musical level, the decades of experience and their connection to the music is still apparent and at the bare minimum is a stellar performance. The question is, whether or not you will care about it I guess.

The opening tracks sounds more like an attempt to cast a spell on the world than a song. It’s very ethereal, a word more often used to describe feminine vocals in rock and metal. Instrumentally it doesn’t feel new but more like an assurance that they are still the same Tool at their core. My first impression is some weird hybrid between Aenima and 10 000 Days. Very similar to tracks like “Jambi”, “H”, “Right In Two” and “Pushit”. The first two tracks alone are 20 minutes of straight up music that sounds very consistent. Not surprising in any way but comfortable enough that I’m happy to have more Tool after well over a decade of listening to their earlier works.

On average Fear Inoculum has a lot less heaviness than I’m used to with a lot of the tracks only ramping up for the last few minutes of a 10-minute track. The third track is a short one and I was expecting an inevitable experimental filler track but unlike the crying babies and crackling electricity of Aenima or the carrot uprising at the end of Opiate, these fillers are more musical and fit in. There’s a very emotional through line to this release that I find impactful, but I know a portion of the fans do not care about that aspect of the band, much like Opeth’s fanbase.

7empest is my favourite track and I love the lyric “A tempest must be just that”, here’s the video:

There’s layers to this album and some of those layers often sounds like Tool featuring Cynic. There’s a lot of those synthesque sensibilities but with the attention span of Tool rather than the spasm of Cynic. I enjoy it and the atmosphere it lends, it stops the album from being too familiar. The only downside of this long form spacey approach is that none of the songs feel particularly iconic or memorable which has typically been a strong suite for the band with multiple iconic tracks per record. I can see some of the fan base not fully understanding the changes and I can also see many of the fan base understanding it and not liking it. Personally, I enjoy it a lot and similarly long form bands like Cult Of Luna or Isis strive more for memorable albums as a whole. Again, it keeps coming down to everyone’s individual preferences – long-form alternative music isn’t for everyone.

You can’t have expectations of Tool, it’s just dumb. They’ve never been a voiceless machine and half of their music is about how full of shit their listeners are. They’ve had antics like releasing overpriced physical media with barely any content on it as a lesson in a capitalist music industry and people bought it. This isn’t a scenario where the customer is right – this is alternative music, it’s supposed to be wild and indifferent to demands. The tone here gives me strong A Perfect Circle vibes and that is pleasing considering I couldn’t get into the latest album from APC. Whatever these musicians choose to play will define the band, it makes no sense for me to reject that.

It’s hard to have a single highlight here because these guys have so much synergy and there’s a lot of intelligent decisions made in the music structure. The vocals and drums are my favourite performances but there weren’t any points where an instrument felt irrelevant. It’ll be interesting to have a proper gander at the lyrics because the ones I did hear clearly sounded great and like I said, resembling old APC. The drum hits are dank af, so much tone to it that single hits bring a lot to the soundscapes, probably the highest production I’ve noticed on drums to date. This is high tier content from a historically solid band, it at least delivers that much which makes it a worthwhile experience either way.


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