Thirteen years ago, the world was a much different place. Facebook was still just finding its footing as a platform, Twitter was in its very infancy, and Instagram was still years away. The way people communicated was very different, and smart phones were a luxury that very few had at their disposal. Thirteen years ago was also the last time that Tool released an album, 10,000 Days, which dropped in May of 2006. Now, finally, after one of the longest waits for new music from one band, Tool is back with Fear Inoculum, and on first listen, it’s like the band never forced fans through this extended and oft-times frustrating delay in new music.
Fear Inoculum has 10 tracks, and comes in at a whopping 85 minutes. If math is a challenge, that means these songs are long — longer than any radio friendly song in the band’s discography. With most tracks running over 10 minutes (there are three shorter “interlude” tracks that ring in at around three minutes or under, and one four minute track that sounds like a fun video game soundtrack until the drum beat completely takes over), these songs represent 13 years of pent up frustrations for the band as well.
The reins are off and guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor, and drummer Danny Carey have created a sonic soundtrack that is 100%, without-a-doubt Tool. Maynard James Keenan’s lyrics and iconic voice serves as one component to the aural cacophony at work here on Fear Inoculum. Carey’s back beat and Chancellor’s driving bass lines pulse — truly pulse — and Jones’ riffs drive the songs to levels that most rock bands can only dream of. This is art, pure and simple, and nobody does symphonic art better than Tool.
Each song is a journey, leading off with the title track. There are stories here, but Keenan’s narrative is often lost in everything else going on in each track. Tool albums are meant to be listened to multiple times, and careful listeners will find something new with each listen. It’s a band trademark, and Fear Inoculum, both the album and the song, are a representation of this.
Gone are the days of top 40 airplay. You’ll never hear Ryan Seacrest announce a Tool song, and while streaming numbers and digital track sales may put Tool at number one for the next few weeks, these songs are not meant for radio play — and that’s okay. Slap on some headphones and prepare for a ride unlike no other.
“Invincible,” the fourth track, is particularly exquisite with layers upon layers of sound ebbing and flowing through the speakers with crunching crescendos and thought-inducing lyrics. In “Descending,” a track that made its debut earlier this year live, Adam Jones, whose hair is now more salt than pepper, finds a new voice for his guitar, which transcends the usual and near-trademarked Tool sound to find yet another level of artistry. It’s also the second longest track on the album at 13:37, meaning the musical journey on this song is a long and welcome one.
“Culling Voices,” the seventh track starts and stops multiple times, each time presenting that classic Tool sound. Carey’s drum work is exceptional here, taking center stage by elevating the song and letting his bandmates play in the world he’s creating. This is also the track where Keenan’s iconic voice stands out the most on the album. This is a song that will be listened to over and over to dig into the strata of conceptions at play.
The closest song to what many would consider “classic” Tool comes in track nine, “7empest.” This song would fit right in on Ænima or Lateralus with its pulsing riffs and beat, and Maynard James Keenan’s rage ripping and fighting through those beats to induce emotions from the listener. This song made me want to find a pit somewhere and get violent — in a good way. It is also the longest track on Fear Inoculum, clocking in at nearly 16 minutes.
In many ways, “7empest” serves as the album’s closer, and what a way to go out. Who cares about the 13 year wait with a song like this wrapping up the musical experience that this album, as a whole, takes the listener on. The Tempest must be just that.
Tool – Fear Inoculum Track List
- Fear Inoculum
- Litanie contre la Peur
- Legion Inoculant
- Culling Voices
- Chocolate Chip Trip
Fear Inoculum, the sixth full length Tool album, is available now. We include Opiate on that list. A special Deluxe Edition CD is available that includes an HD video screen, preloaded videos, and more, if you can still find one.
Image courtesy of Tool band.