TOOL – Fear Inoculum (Album Review)


To say TOOL fans have been waiting for their next record is a massive understatement. I would say fending, craving, longing for better describes the panic every time Maynard or TOOL is even remotely mentioned or spoken about. Thirteen years and the band has finally unleashed “Fear Inoculum” upon the masses. The band announced a new record and having pushed back the date to August 30th only built more anticipation for the album, and with this anticipation there is a fine line to walk with TOOL. The expectations and reality of this record are something listeners are going to weigh heavily with not knowing exactly what is going to be the outcome. With over a decade in waiting and thinking “what can TOOL do to be something new” there is a tough balance the record has to make. Without reinventing the wheel, the band holds true to what they know and throw dashes of new life into their sound.

The build ups in each track are massive payoffs, with each track that isn’t an interlude stretching out over ten or more minutes, it’s hard to think we wouldn’t feel a roller coaster ride with each track. Something expected but done in different ways with the tracks on “Fear Inoculum”.

“Culling Voices” (one of the stand out tracks for me personally) feels like a stripped down version of TOOL for most of the song. With just guitar and vocals, and while haunting and systemically warping your brain, alludes to these new aspects that the band has introduced. With the many side projects of the band members, they have done a great job at making that band at the time sound like that band. No one else reproduces the music TOOL does, sound like maybe, but to the extent the band goes no way.

“7empest” is the longest track on the new record, clocking in over 15 minutes. Now that’s a large amount of time to fill with lyrics and sound, and yet TOOL completes this with what feels like minimal effort. Delicate guitar picking, heavy drums and funky bass riffs the track grooves along with beauty. Maynard’s vocals are aggressive and what you remember of listening to the band years ago.

The band ends the record with a two minute track, “Mockingbeat”. With what sounds like monkeys howling through a distorted microphone ends with birds chirping. Now you can see this as a metaphor for the band’s journey to make this album, rough at the start and fleshed out to make something beautiful, or you can see this as the band wanting to interject something more organic sounding into the album as most of the hour long record is distortion and pounding electrical instruments. However you want to see it, it only seems fitting.

Ten tracks including some interludes, thirteen years in the making and we are. Satisfied yes. Will listen to over and over again (most likely changing my mind about what I think of the record each listen) yes. Revolutionary and reinventing the wheel no. TOOL has built a cult following, not just because of the wait, but because of what they are as a band. When they unleashed their sound twenty eight, yes you read that right TWENTY EIGHT years ago there was three songs lasting a typical song length. When they released “undertow” is when the sizable ripple effect among the music community. Longer tracks, unique vocals and as many time signatures as you can cohesively have in a song are all staples. Throughout the years the band has PERFECTED this. You know instantly what is playing and know what you’re getting into. TOOL doesn’t have to change what or who they are, we have to change on how we see the band’s growth from album to album, and even track to track. The band is working on a level that can not even be remotely touched, and they prove it, waiting the anxiety ridden thirteen years to prove it once again.