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Tool - Fear Inoculum CD (album) cover

FEAR INOCULUM

Tool

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.77 | 157 ratings

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steamhammeralltheway
4 stars Tool heads have waited 13 years for Fear Inoculum. The largest burning question was whether it was worth it. No, it is not a perfect album, but yes, I would say that it demonstrates very clearly that Tool's genius never left them and that they are solidly among the brightest, most innovative spots on the music scene. I will caution that Fear Inoculum is Tool's proggiest album to date, and they're damn proggy already. Thus, Tool's work as their career progressed could not always be fathomed in a couple listens. Luckily we got a little time, as the title track release preceded the rest of the album by weeks. I struggled to internalize the new song. I think this experience is not a detractor at all. Easy come easy go. Think of those catchy little pop ditties that zoom up the charts, only to be quickly forgotten. I remember how In a Glass House, one of Gentle Giant's most exquisite albums, took me four listens to appreciate.

Fear Inoculum succeeds because the band takes some brilliant steps forward and because it soothes the soul. Alternately cathartic and mediational, Tool is closer to a religious experience than an ordinary band. Cosmic highlights of Fear Inoculum are the tranciness and intricacy on "7empest", the title track and elsewhere, the almost synesthetic moments of "Culling Voices." No, I wasn't high or impaired but perhaps exhausted or exasperated. I sure need Tool's healing properties!

Fear Inoculum highly benefits from stellar musicianship. As usual, it's Danny's party. The others tag along to add some more tonality to Danny's trademark polyrhythms and toms. Fear Inoculum presents more consistent conga and tribal beats than any other Tool album. Yet fans of Danny's hard-hitting moments and Tool's abrasion won't be disappointed. Meter is plenty complex. For example, "Pneuma" shifts from 5/8 to 7/4 and beyond, all with incredible fluidity. Drummers have reported throwing their sticks against the wall trying to learn that one without a score.

Maynard's voice, one of my fave, is incredibly beautiful on Fear Inoculum. Gone entirely is the grungy/ alt. rock warble of older albums, enabling his natural voice to be heard more. It's very moving on "Descending," particularly lovely at the 13th minute mark. The vocal nuance Maynard displays on "7empest" may not be equaled by prior Tool work. He gets fierce there too. The vocals on the title track and "Culling Voices" interweave with the guitar and instrumental work, an impressive technique I don't recall much on prior Tool or anywhere really.

The guitar solos on Fear Inoculum really shine. A lot of energy was taken to write memorable solos. The guitar work on "Pneuma" in particular is novel and varied. "Invincible" has a synth solo at the seven-minute mark and pacing changes that keep one on the edge of one's seat. Each Tool album has particular far-out sounds associated with it, synthesized and not. Here gamelan bells, kalimba/ thumb piano and something on the didgeridoo spectrum give the album an exotic, ancient mood, perfect for its greater spirituality over prior Tool work.

I felt that certain Fear Inoculum songs are better than others. I'm sure you'll have your rankings too. I feel that the title track was made the single because it's both the most delectable and most original song. "7empest" tags close behind in my book. Tool songs usually build to a crescendo. "7empest" has an incredible peak 11:30-12:10. Another point of note is the unusual scales and chords in spots. "Invincible," another great track, evinces considerable experimentation, as well, and rarely has a dull moment. Of the six long tracks. "Culling Voices" is also strong. I was less roused by the other two long tracks, "Descending" and "Pneuma." They show some recycling from prior Tool efforts. "Pneuma" 's extended instrumental passages break new ground, though. The four short instrumental tracks, three only present on the digital download, not the CD, are pretty pointless. "Chocolate Chip Trip," the one short instrumental present in all formats of Fear Inoculum is a drum solo extraordinaire from Danny, but it's almost derailed by a slightly irritating and incredibly repetitive custom synth riff. The key is listening through headphones and when relaxed. I understand it's better in the live show, where it was unveiled a while back. The other three short instrumentals, all download only, are mainly ambient sound effects. To me this is not a big contribution to the Tool experience. Prior Tool albums had some short bizarre tracks of a more structured nature such as spoken word or old-timey mood music.

I guess because the protracted wait for the new album became a standing joke, fans don't have any reservation about loudly proclaiming that Fear Inoculum is no Lateralus. I won't deny that 2001 offering was probably the band's peak. There commenced the band's divorce from '90s alternative and expansion of their post-rock, experimental, meditative and progressive elements that set them apart from the get-go. Not only was Lateralus more complex and mature, almost every song was a gem; filler was minimal. 10,000 Days in 2006 continued the new Tool. Dead by this time was the Tool of the '90s, masters of angst-filled if eerie melodies. The new Tool seared to the core of your being and fanned every fiber of your existence. The awe continues with Fear Inoculum. Savor it.

steamhammeralltheway | 4/5 |

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