Album review: Tool’s comeback album finds the band returning to their roots
The Eiffel Tower. The Beatles’ entire career. The painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. These are just a few things that took less time than the wait for prog-metal legends Tool to release their newest album “Fear Inoculum.” The band left fans in 2006 thinking that they were retired, never to release another record. The members of the band have since gone on to release solo or side projects, but nothing under the Tool name. On Aug. 30, however, that all changed.
Tool is best known for being a staple in progressive metal. Ever since their debut in 1992, the band has trended away from traditional hardcore metal and more towards experimental metal, focusing on time signature changes and key changes as a trademark of their sound.
With “Fear Inoculum,” Tool has continued their reign of success and quality. The title track, which also serves as the introduction to the album, lasts just over 10 minutes— a telling sign of what is to come on this new album. The song has several movements and segues with smooth transitions between each of them.
It is also a telling sign of the length of the record. The deluxe version of “Fear Inoculum,” lasts one hour and 26 minutes, with each non-interlude lasting at least 10 minutes each. For the casual listener, this is far too long. It feels like Tool could have cut two to three minutes from each song and still ended up with the same great album. The album does not justify it’s length.
Drummer Danny Carrey said in an interview recently that he wanted the album to be one long song, and during listening, it makes sense why. The tracks flow between each other with such ease. The interlude tracks such as “Legion Inoculant” and “Chocolate Chip Trip” serve the purpose of metal palate cleansers of sorts. Each interlude finds Tool branching out into electronic sounds in their music, something seldom used by the band before.
The biggest issue with “Fear Inoculum” is the lyrical content delivered by singer Maynard James Keenan. Ever since the album “AEnema,” the quality of the lyrics on Tool albums has been getting more pretentious and pseudo-intellectual. For example, on “Pneuma,” he sings “We are spirit bound to this flesh / We go ’round, one foot nailed down / But bound to reach out and beyond this flesh / Become Pneuma,” referencing a Greek theme in the record which seems a bit tacky at times.
There are bright spots, however. On the track “Invincible,” Keenan sings “Cry aloud / Bold and proud / Of where I’ve been / But here I am / Where I end.” Also on the track, he references relevancy in the music industry, saying “Warrior struggling to remain relevant / Warrior struggling to remain consequential,” Keenan’s singing is as good as ever, though.
The lyrics do not get in the way of the amazing metal on this record, however. Danny Carrey, the drummer, sounds like he has three arms at some points, drumming with precision and intensity unmatched among any of his competitors right now. Guitarist Adam Jones also carries this standard, with heavy and catchy melodies and riffs throughout the album.
“Fear Inoculum” is, at its heart, a progressive metal album. The band intertwines their love for odd time signatures and head-banging metal perfectly on the track “Invincible,” which opens with a subtle guitar solo. By the end of the song, no metal fan will be able to resist the incredible riffs and vocals laid down by the band.
Among the chaos that Tool creates on “Fear Inoculum”, there is beauty, separating it from the rest of their albums. The metal side of Tool is more present here than in over 20 years. There are passages on the album which appear to be an evolution in sound completely, like on the back-end of “Pneuma” after Keenan sings of unity or the oddly serene “Descending.”
Tool came back with a vengeance, and they’re out for blood on “Fear Inoculum.”