CD - Tool
Fear Inoculum | 2019
text: Robin Boer
CD - Tool
Fear Inoculum | 2019
text: Robin Boer
The time has come. The big wait lasted 13 years. In 2006, the American rock band Tool released it's fourth full-length studio album '10.000 Days'. Years of mysterious lawsuits and shady rumours about a follow-up frustrated friend and foe. Then, in July of this year, the band announced 'Fear Inoculum', a new Magnum Opus to be added to the already legendary canon.
Full studio master glory
During an absence so long, expectations may increase or decrease. In this case, we can be sure the expectations are high. During the pre-release tour, in which the band visited the Amsterdam Ziggo Dome among a few other big European venues, they played three tracks from the new album, namely 'Descending', 'Invincible' and 'Chocolate Chip Trip'. Some bootlegged live material already floated on the internet, too. However, now that we have the album, finally we can take a closer listen to the tracks. In full studio master glory.
The only song released a few weeks before the actual album is opener title track 'Fear Inoculum'. The song builds up with a very simple, addictive, exciting guitar melody by Adam Jones, accompanied by some groovy, Eastern percussion by Danny Carey. We won't dive too much within the lyrics, since it's almost impossible to guess what they are about anyway. That said, it doesn't mean the words are not interesting at all. Maynard James Keenan always chose his words carefully and this album is no exception. Soon, the time signature is shifting to a powerful 11/8. The song features some very recognisable riffs and both guitars, bass and drums are sounding very explosive.
Dark guitar work
A more typical Tool-flavoured track, reminding of the third album 'Lateralus' from 2001, is 'Pneuma'. Starting off with dark guitar work and percussion we are soon treated by shifting time signatures and monotonic vocals. The vocals are wonderfully layered and the song is constantly trying to build up to something big. Although the big 'climax' stays absent, we are very pleased by the percussive elements and Carey's powerful drumfills during the recurring passage where Jones is bringing another one of his heavy themed riffs. The second part is more of the same, though heavier and another powerful showcase of the killer rhythm section.
On the digital version of the album, the band added three more tracks in a more 'ambient' kind of style, of which 'Litanie contre la Peur' is the first one. We appear to hear a kind of synthesized voice and after two minutes the 7/8 guitar theme of 'Invincible' starts off. This appears one of the more interesting tracks on the album. Polyrithmic percussion kicks in, and all instruments are incredibly on point during the sections where the song progresses to (again) a more heavy output. Tool isn't a band that chooses for a wide range of melodies specifically. They seem to be very critical and specific when picking the notes and chord progressions. The dynamics in the band are to be found within the guitar layers and the very detailed drumming.
After the second ambient section 'Legion Inoculant' where we hear some inarticulare whispering and choral voices, layered with guitars and soundcapes, we remain at a place where we hear something of an erupting volcano far away, while we are standing near the edge of the sea, enjoying some relaxing water sounds, to be washed away by another 7/8 guitar intro and Keenan's voice in a relaxed, yet alarming setting. A note for Carey's toms-work here, which sounds sharp and powerful. Dark synths are giving the track some more depth and character. Durnig the finale, Jones presents us a powerful guitar solo which feels like a warm homecoming after 13 years.
For those who think that the role of Maynard James Keenan is secondary is proven wrong, because his voice really shines in one of the more emotional tracks on the record: 'Culling Voices'. It's the 'mellow' point of the album and during the first six minutes there is a great mysterious atmosphere with haunting guitar picking, lurking bass and steady singing in the style we also like so much in rock bands like Riverside and Lunatic Soul. This song isn't shifting in time signatures like in most TOOL-pieces, but keeps rolling in a steady six. During the heavy parts, Justin Chancellor makes his bass guitar growl which is matching fantastically with the full guitar and drum sound. One of the more atmospheric pieces on the album, but in more ways also one of the most pleasing ones.
'Chocolate Chip Trip' is the 'weird' one here. Starting off with percussion that reminds us from the 'Power To Believe / Nuovo Metal' days of King Crimson (2002/2003) we hear a recurring synth loop in seven, with a monstrous drum- and percussion solo on top of it. Some may consider it filler, but at least it's a killer filler!
We arrived at the final big piece, called '7empest' in which, looking at it's 15 minute length, one may expect a grand finale. The band starts off energetic and loud (even Keenan is close to his former screaming self here). Although this is a fine track, reminding us to the material of 'Undertow', it makes us aware of the fact that Tool isn't trying to break new musical ground here, but just do what they do best. For some this will be a dissapointment, for some it will be a bless. There is some absolute bloodcurdling guitar picking involved in the second half of the track though. 'A 7empest must be just that!' It's a long trip and we love it.
The 'epilogue' 'Mockingbeat' consists of distorted bird whistling and electronic percussion, leaving us overthinking what we have been listening to for the last 87 minutes.
For us, the conclusion is simple: Tool did again what they do best: writing and recording songs in their own unique, heavy, atmospheric style, without forcing themselves to do any different. But this time, we think they purified and empowered their musical output and performance even more. Will they ever surpass a work like this? We highly doubt it.
Note for record collectors:
The first batch of physical cd's is a very limited run and has a very unique packaging. It's a fat digipak, and when opening the two flipsides, an impressive animation film on a small HD-screen starts to run, accompanied by soundscapes. The package comes with a very deluxe booklet with album art, symbols, lyrics, all on high quality paper. Of course there is the download code, which gives you the opportunity to download the album with the three extra ambient tracks that didn't fit on the cd. Due to overwhelming demand, a second batch is being manufactured and sold out already. A few unboxing videos are available on the web, for a closer look.