Tool – Fear Inoculum (2019)

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So, thirteen years has passed since Tool released 10,000 Days (an album that I adore).  In that time, the world has changed a great deal, as has the music industry in general.  And the question is, do Tool still incite the excitement that they once did?

My first impressions of Fear Inoculum were that of indifference.  I wanted more from an album that took so long to surface – I wasn’t disappointed, just a little let down by it.  The songs were too long, and all seemed so similar that they just sort of ran together.

After a week of living with the album, I have a different perspective, as I knew I would (hence why I didn’t review it straight away).  Fear Inoculum is an immersive listening experience, full of nuance and stellar musicianship.  No, it’s not a legitimate masterpiece like Lateralus or Aenima, but it is a statement.  An epic statement at that.

The album doesn’t feel like a recording that took thirteen years to write and record, nor does it feel like an album that was rushed in to existence.  It is the logical follow up to 10,000 Days though, and it does fit snuggly within Tools catalogue.

I’m not going to dig deep into a track by track breakdown here, because if you can spare the time, Fear Inoculum should be listened to as one cohesive one and a half hour piece of music – that’s where it really comes to life.  It’s a progressive rock record, thought provoking and downright interesting, once you let it worm it’s way in.

Musically, the band is as good as ever.  I’ve always been a massive fan of Justin Chancellors bass sound and Danny Carey’s superhuman ability as a drummer.  Couple that with understated, yet complex guitar playing from Adam Jones, and the velvety smooth vocals of enigmatic frontman, Maynard James Keenan, and Tool really are the total package.

Nearly every track on this collection is over ten minutes in length, and the songs command your concentration, so I can see this being a difficult listen in the age of shuffle.  There’s also the fact that the band seem a little complacent here, not really reaching for anything new, rather resting on their laurels.  But that’s just on the surface.  Dig deeper, and you won’t be disappointed.

Invincible provides the biggest highlight of the album.  On this track, Kennan seemingly sings of the difficulties to remain relevant.  It’s potent, and fitting for a band that hadn’t released music in so long.

In the weeks leading up to the albums release, particularly after the title track and first single, Fear Inoculum was released, there was quite an influx of “its cool to hate Tool” posts on social media.  Regardless of all that nonsense, the band managed to sell out the album WORLD WIDE, on the day of release, so they’re clearly doing something right.

Please, just don’t make us wait 13 years for the follow up!

9/10

Review by Shayne McGowan.

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