Fear Inoculum starts where 10,000 Days left off. Whether you like it or not, it seems as though nothing has changed within the last thirteen years. However, the music industry has since evolved, which could make one wonder if Fear Inoculum could maintain Tool’s legacy. Some people could feel bored with the lengthy and hypnotic tracks. However, those who have followed Tool or recently picked up on their entire catalog earlier this month will understand their immediate excellence. It could be argued that Tool could be categorized as a stand-alone genre as there hasn’t been anything like them and that still stands with album number five.
I dreaded the day Fear Inoculum or “the new Tool album” would arrive. I expected to feel disappointed assuming it would be a forced reunion-Esque record due to the overwhelming demand, and threats on pleading for new Tool music. Tool surprised me in more ways than one with Fear Inoculum as it sparked a wave of different emotions. Anger on taking so long wondering what would happen if it arrived a decade ago. Surprised on how magnificent it turned out to be. Nostalgia on the days of blasting Tool’s CDs in the car. With that being said, buckle up. Fear Inoculum will take you on a musical joyride. Here’s my track by track review based on the ten-track digital copy.
The record has begun, and you think, “holy shit. Is this really happening?” Once the moment of disbelief passes, you discover “Fear Inoculum” sounds like a b-side to Lateralus. Ironically, there are parts in this song that holds an essence of the title track to the 2001 album. However, as the song progresses, it has a life of its own. Exploration and continuation is a recurring theme to this album as “Fear Inoculum” excels the craft of the one-of-a-kind Tool genre.
“Pneuma” slowly crawls in with a compelling and eclectic build. As the song continues to unfold, it takes the listener to a softer side of 2001’s “The Grudge.” This moment doesn’t last long as it escalates towards a brilliant and hypnotic flow to the point that you are left with goosebumps. This song gets heavy in ways that will sneak up on you, similar to watching a classic horror film for the first time.
“Litanie contre la Peur”
“Litanie contre la Peur” marks as interlude number one. It’s a funky and yet experimental jam that doesn’t last long.
We’ve heard “Invincible” live not too long ago. However, most of us listened to it via fan-filmed footage on YouTube. Regardless, this is perhaps one of the best tracks from the album and highlights bassist Justin Chancellor with the soothing and slow build-up to perfection. “Invincible” is emotive and provocative. Strong and powerful. It keeps going and gets better after each minute. By 7:25 in, you’ve fallen in love with the song after the FIRST listen. Daney Carey’s drums and Adam Jones’ riffs 9:50 in will suck you in even more. At around 10:50, there’s a slight pause, making you think it’s a different song, but no the track continues to move in all the right places.
There’s another interlude or intermission with “Legion Inoculant” as it has more of a haunting and enigmatic execution.
“Descending,” another song we’ve heard before live as well as roughly four years ago. It sweeps you in with its eerie progression. The oceanic soundscapes could feel like a foreshadow on the wave of emotions this track holds. It dramatically moves in silence and mystery as though it’s a musical example of defining anxiety. As the song continues to explode, it will eventually take you back to 1996’s Ænima. The drums kick in as though your heart is palpitating and sucking in all of the musical glory Tool has to offer as the guitar solo comes in and kills your soul even more. At this point, you will take a moment to say, “I could have waited 15 more years for this masterpiece!”
At first glance, you wonder if “Culling Voices” is another interlude; instead, it’s another ten-minute track. For those Nine Inch Nails fans, you could possibly pick up on a similar riff as it starts off sounding like a “Something I Can Never Have” remix. While the similarity is there, it is indeed a new Tool song, and you pick up on that once Maynard James Keenan’s vocals appear. While this song is slow and repetitive, things do pick up around eight minutes in making you wonder if the band needs a lengthy jam before revealing their mastery. Or perhaps, that slow build is their mastery.
“Chocolate Chip Trip”
“Chocolate Chip Trip” takes me back to “Die Eier von Satan” or “The Eggs of Satan” as it feels more like a random playful track in a way that the band is trolling their fans after waiting so long to hear new Tool music. It’s trippy, fun, explorative, and you think, “what the hell are they doing here?” As the experiment continues, you hear electronic 80s-like synths as though you are walking through an off-beat horror flick.
Finally, the near-twenty-minute song “7empest.” This track piqued my interest when the band revealed the tracklist. This song is well worth the wait and length as it’s filled with the heavy side of Tool that we’ve loved since 1993’s Undertow. However, musically, it’s a combination of all albums in one. It’s filled with hooks, captivating melodies and towards the eleven-minute mark, it gets even crazier. In short: “7empest” is a flawless and magnificent tune.
“Mockingbeat” concludes the digital version of Fear Inoculum. It’s another interlude, which makes you feel a bit greedy wishing for another Tool song instead of these mini breaks. Overall, Tool gave their fans what they’ve been begging for, if not more.
Light incense, burn candles, turn on the holiday lights, do whatever it is that you do to sit in a room and listen to Tool’s album from beginning to end with no distractions. And make Maynard happy by turning off your phone while listening to it.
Overall, depending on which Tool spectrum you stand on, you will either be immensely bored or incredibly amazed towards the near 90-minute exploration of creative excellence. I’m going to drink the Kool-Aid and admit, Fear Inoculum is a flawless untouchable masterpiece. So when’s the next Tool album?
Tool’s overall fifth full-length effort, Fear Inoculum is available now.