» Blog Archive Review: Fear Inoculum is Definitely a Tool Album -
Evan Conway Hard Music, News, Reviews

In the time Tool’s taken to sort out all their issues and put Fear Inoculum out, I’ve basically grown up. I was 11 when 10,000 Days came out, and now I’m 24. I think the hype for the album died a few years ago for me when I came to the realization that the band were just going to do what they do best and any unrealistic expectations would only lead to an inevitable disappointment. Let’s be honest: it was never going to live up to the standard the meme set. Fear Inoculum is, in all of its monolithic run-time, a tried and true Tool album. You shouldn’t be surprised.

I made this conscious effort to avoid the promotional track when it was dropped some weeks ago since it just made sense to me to experience this album in full. Much like the now previous three albums (It’s weird to say that) Fear Inoculum is cinematic in scope and reaches the artistic Kubrickian heights that only Tool can reach. It’s meticulously crafted, rhythmically sound, and a unique experience that you won’t be hearing from any bands in the next few years. You’ll hear diet-Tool bands that wear their influence, but you’re sure to bet that this is a one-of-a-kind experience.

On average, Fear Inoculum is good. At best, it’s very good. Self-indulgent? At times. Overlong? Possibly. Was the hype worth it? Kinda. Tool is an important band in the lands of heavy music and the four guys make some cool stuff happen when they record together. Even then, it’s more of a rock album than metal, and though softer than previous works, it is more meticulously, like a finely crafted marble statue.

The album peaks and plateau’s in its later half. At a varying 79/86 minutes depending on your version (physical vs. digital) there’s a lot to get through and it’s a lot to digest. Really, I had to sit with this album for days before I knew how I felt about it, and even then I’m hesitant. The title track is the weakest of the six new tracks, and I wouldn’t argue saying Tool have made an album where it gets better the longer it runs. “Invincible” is a cool track and I was really fascinated by “Descending,” but it’s “7empest” you’ve probably heard a lot about because it’s cool as hell. Earlier tracks really have Danny Carey and Justin Chancellor standing out and doing their usual thing, but it’s on this big 15 minute closer where Adam Jones reminds the listener that he’s the guitar hero you wish you could be.

I can’t stress how enjoyable segments of this album are as a musician, either. The previously mentioned “Invincible” has some tasty moments and “Culling Voices” is a very nicely woven song that really lets the band as a unit soar to their desired heights. The songwriting is consistent, I’ll give it that much, but that brings it into an aged Tool’s flaw.

This album can blend in the early listenings. The first half, while good, meshes together at times and it wasn’t until repeats that I differentiated parts from other songs. It’s also a lot to take in. I applaud the band for earning the long run time and not wanting to give a half-assed product, but with most of the songs in the same range of length it does get a bit convoluted. Even still, some ideas are not so distinct from one another. “Fear Inoculum” is about vanilla of a song Tool could write. At least on previous albums there were simpler ideas to go with the complex collections that made up other songs.

Yet here’s the bottom line: we got another Tool album. Fear Inoculum has come to pass and it’s a thing you can hear and listen to at your leisure. Dial the expectations down and escape any hype you might have. If you like Tool, this is what you’ve been wanting. It definitely won’t sway you if you haven’t been a fan in the past, but it doesn’t hurt to try. After all, this is the end of a 13 year journey. It probably deserves the listen on that merit alone.

Fear Inoculum is available everywhere now. (Yes, even Spotify) You can stream “Descending” below.

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