That’s how long it’s been since Tool has given us a new album. So when word was released that the band fronted by Maynard James Keenan (who also fronts Puscifer and A Perfect Circle) were back in the studio putting together their fifth studio album, Tool fans everywhere rejoiced – it was finally happening.
Anticipation for the new album is an understatement. Social media profiles were flooded with questions about the album:
“Is this thing really happening?”
“Any word on a release date yet?”
“Does anyone know if this is happening this year?”
Once that release date announcement finally came, it’s like the floodgates burst open and Tool fans everywhere rejoiced. Yes, an album really was happening; yes, it really was happening this year; and people could finally start counting down to August 30th. But not without a tease, of course…
Airplay of the title track “Fear Inoculum” began playing, and as a Tool fan, it was an exhilarating experience. Call it built-up anticipation, call it knowing that anything Maynard was behind would be close to perfection, but it surpassed my expectations for a single. The intro is very Tool – and once those drums pick up at 1:37, you’re already lost in the track. Everything, from Adam Jones’ insane guitar shreds to Danny Carey’s unique acoustic drums, makes “Fear Inoculum” what it is – a sound to behold.
That single, in combination with other great Tool albums such as Lateralus and Ænima, set the bar for Fear Inoculum high. Fans expected it to be mind-blowing from the start , a sucker-punch to the mind from the first listen. The reviews were mixed. To some, it wasn’t a favorite. To others, they appreciated it for what it was – a release after 13 years. To others, myself included, they were unsure of what they thought because of the precedent they set for the album after having heard “Fear Inoculum.” Did I love it or did I hate it? Did it fall short or was I just not really hearing it? So, I listened to it again. And again. And the more I listened to it, the more other tracks stood out to me that didn’t stand out to me before.
Take “Pneuma,” for instance. I don’t know if I’m just a sucker for a good guitar or what, but I was led in with that at the beginning of the song. That’s what hooked me. And somehow, I missed that during my first listen. Now, “Pneuma” is actually one of my favorite tracks from the album.
Another favorite of mine is “Invincible” – a track that I didn’t pay any attention to until my 4th listen. It’s funny how that happens, but this is why I refuse to do an album review until I’ve listened to it multiple times. I was doing something menial, like laundry, and then Maynard’s voice just caught me at 1:52. The way that he’s singing in that very moment just had me like, “WHOA – that’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Speaking of sick riffs, I couldn’t possibly write this review without mentioning quite possibly the most badass song on the album – “7empest”. Adam Jones shines and Danny Carey is a fucking boss on drums. This track takes the entire album and wraps it up in one nice, neat, big-ass red bow. How appropriate that Fear Inoculum both begins and ends massively strong.
My take on the album? As always, Maynard is a genius, Tool is legendary, and it just might take you more than one listen to appreciate Fear Inoculum for what it really is: