Album review: Tool – Fear Inoculum

Photo: Travis Shinn

It’s been 13 years since Tool released a studio album so switch off your devices, turn the lights off, lock the door, turn your sound system up and prepare to journey to the edge of your perceptions while you’re in the temple of Tool…

Fear Inoculum is an incredibly focused piece of work, considering the time frame it’s taken to come to fruition. You’ll hear a lot more dynamics and space when compared with the only thing you can compare Tool to, their previous albums. These spaces allow more air and headroom into the recording; it breathes. This is the mark of musicians who have matured at their craft, and they’re gelling together better than ever.

Straight away, you’re plunged into an internal chasm. It’s evocative of riding the tempestuous river of your consciousness that flows through the depths of the canyon that is your mind.

The first thing that will hit you is the perfectly atmospheric guitar tones, which you’ll hear throughout. Adam Jones is a lot more innovative with his guitar work on “Fear Inoculum”, beginning with the emulated strings on the first track. At times you’re not sure if you’re hearing a synthesizer or a guitar. This is contrasted with the chugging riffs and sustained drones Jones is known for. Maynard James Keenan takes a less aggressive approach with his vocals, for which he has the same if not more power, and definitely more authority. The dynamics build over several minutes. The vocals are slightly reminiscent of his recent work with A Perfect Circle, and he’s got some strong melodies to work with.

It is of course filled with a range of complex time signatures and arrangements that, as always, feel as natural as a 4/4 beat. The tribalism and shamanistic themes that feature in their previous work are more prominent here. Danny Carey’s signature sublime polyrhythms and thundering double kick beats are all present and ready to hit you right in the chest. Justin Chancellor’s bass lines glue the rhythm, melody and arrangements together solidly. They often take a back seat on the soundstage, but they’re always driving the riffs home.

The album also features Tool’s wonderfully creative sound design in their interludes.

The band aren’t keen on the current way music is distributed and they have cited two main reasons they’ve held off releasing their music for digital download or streaming; one is that track by track listening obstructs the flow of the album intended to be heard as a whole, the second is the low quality of digital music distribution. Luckily the days of the latter are coming to and end and it is now possible to download the album in Studio Master Quality resolution of 24 bit 96kHz from various outlets meaning you’re limited only by the quality of your playback equipment. The former means that this is a musical movement designed to be listened to from start to finish. And what a sublime, moving experience that is. The type of material you build your system to hear. It’s another outstanding album from one of the most important rock band of the last 20 years, and it’s business as usual for Tool.





Author: Daniel, Kingston store