Total Time: 86:38
Label: Volcano / RCA
I think that this is not the optimal way to begin a review, however I will start by giving you my final verdict on TOOL’s latest work: personally, being a fan of the group, I like “Fear Inoculum” and, although it cannot even approach the splendour of “Aenima” and “Lateralus”, it is still a very good and solid album (it sounds like a single composition, divided into ten chapters), with a very trippy and “cinematic” feeling, while I find it clearly superior than “10,000 Days”. So, once we have settled were I stand on this from the start, let’s dig into some of the subjects regarding the band and this particular release, connected to the gossip on social media derived from it (a typical occurrence of our times, each time a well known band releases a new album).
Is “Fear Inoculum” one of the same for TOOL?
It is true, it feels that TOOL are treading on familiar musical fields, but still try to carve new expressive paths within those limits. However, we are talking about a 30 years old band, it is only natural to have their own, settled sound, and I am willing to bet that, if they had played something completely different, all those moaning that the band repeats itself would be the first to be disappointed. So, “Fear Inoculum” sounds very familiar to TOOL fans, but, despite the absence of an element of surprise, no other band can offer the experience one can have listening to “Pneuma”, “Invincible” or “7empest”. Of course the album is boosted by Joe Barresi’s exquisite production (the best we have heard so far on a heavy sound release), as well as from the over the top performance of the band members: Danny Carrey is easily confirmed as the best rock/metal drummer on earth, Justin Chancellor can give seminars of how the bass can steal the show and not just remain in a supportive role of the rhythmic section, but in many parts complement Adam Jones’ guitar (who, in a relevant comment, declared “it feels like I am the right hand and Justin the left on a piano”) who, by the way, has the privilege of playing technically without sounding “technical”, i.e. not being wearing, since he possesses an unmatched sense of measure (not musical but quantitative), playing what he needs to, when he needs to -let alone that we have not heard such accurate guitar effects in….uh….13 years maybe? As for Maynard James Keenan, even if he moves in “lower” ambient standards with less outbursts, the distinctive, unrivalled timbre and the way he builds his “chanting” are soothing to our ears and complete ideally the musical image of “Fear Inoculum”. For all of you that are always looking for a hidden concept behind every TOOL album (not me, to be honest), we should say that there is something going on with number 7, as many riffs are played in 7/4 or 7/8 rhythms, so enjoy burning your minds over this!
Are TOOL progressive metal heroes or just a musical flash in the pan?
To be exact, TOOL are not playing progressive metal, but alternative metal. They belong to the scene that first appeared at the end of the ‘80s and start of the ‘90s, mainly in the US, where bands like FAITH NO MORE, HELMET, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, MINISTRY, NIN, SOUNDGARDEN, ALICE IN CHAINS and others combined metal with various other influences, creating hybrids that widened the spectrum of the heavy sound and, even today, after all these years and despite that they have been established as “classic” in the rock ‘n’ roll world, they continue to choke all those metalheads that listen to music the same way they watch football or the way they used to play with toy soldiers when they were little. In conclusion, TOOL are not progressive metal, but they did IMPOSE themselves on progressive metal (and metal in general). While the genre in discussion regarded music as a running race, a skill show off, TOOL changed that, not just by bringing in new ideas and styles, but by submitting their performance capabilities so that it would serve the compositions and the total feeling an album should emit during a hearing. To make this easily digested and give some examples, TOOL have never played like DREAM THEATER, FATES WARNING, PORCUPINE TREE, OSI, KATATONIA, ISIS, PELICAN, AMENRA, GOJIRA and others, but all these at some point did play (or are still playing) like TOOL. Of course, the days that the four Californian lads would change music as we know it and they would develop new ways of expression for hard music, are long gone, but their influence remains strong. The bands of -so called- new/modern progressive metal sound are basically playing today what TOOL used to play in “Aenima” and “Lateralus” (with a bit of OPETH, maybe?)
Was it worth it, in the end, to wait 13 years for TOOL to release this album?
No matter what I, or you, say, the fact that “Fear Inoculum”, immediately after its release, went straight to the top of the American album chart Billboard, or the top of sales in Spotify (please keep in mind that we are referring to a group that does not play easily digested, mainstream music and the CD cost 85-100 € due to the special box set), it is undoubtedly understood that there are a lot of people out there that believe that, indeed, all this waiting was worth it.
Web Page: TOOL – Official Site