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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 'Fear Incolum' is the fifth Tool album, it comes 13 years after the previous one. The least we can say is that expectations were high regarding this long-awaited album. Despite all the excitement surrounding its issue, the only thing I hear is that Tool prove us that they are still Tool. This album can indeed be considered as "just another Tool album" in a career spanning already one generation, yet only a poor harvest (a mean of 1 album every 4 years). There is nothing, really nothing new under the sun. When you see that the majority of songs is 10 mn+ long, you expect great developments. Instead, you hear over and over Bozzio-esque drumming (circa The Lonely Bears sessions), at least during the first four songs, the overall impression being that the same song is repeated over and over (the "Holy Quaternity of Repetition"). The exceptions to this "Holy Quaternity of Repetition" are the 3 songs that follow them, namely the half-reflective "Culling Voices" (which nonetheless segues in the second half into that repeated drum-driven pattern of the first four songs), the annoying instrumental jam "Chocolate Chip trip" (that sounds really out of place on this album), and the angry closer, a sort of melting pot mixing the rage of their earlier alternative metal debuts, and the psychedelic/math developments of their later career. This album is good overall, but this is absolutely not essential in their discography. There is very little to be surprised with when you've already heard their other records.
Report this review (#2246271)
Posted Sunday, August 25, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars After waiting a decade+ and being a tool fan since 92/93 i can honestly say i am overly satisfied with this album. I personally don't think there is a bad track on the album. Tool did a fantastic job with this and I think they should be proud. It's the Tool we've all grown to love, but matured more and evolving in to something more.

Pneuma is a slower, mostly instrumental song that reminds me of Schism. The last 3 minutes of the song get pretty heavy and very beautiful. It's an amazing build up and release.

Invincible is another relatively slow song for the first half that gets a bit heavier after the halfway point. This song is like an anthem for a field trip to space. Maynard and Adam sound phenomenal on this song, holy [&*!#]; goosebumps. The end of this song kicks so much ass.

Descending sets the mood with a minute long intro of ambiance, making you feel like you're on a stormy beach before Adam comes in with his beautiful guitar, followed by Maynard who makes you feel like his voice is carrying you to peace. His voice throughout this song sounds different and new. There are parts of this song that remind me of the Undertow album. Adam's solo halfway through the song was very sweet and setup a terrific, atmospheric, heavier second half. It ends with the same ambiance from the beginning, making the song feel as if were you in the eye of the storm for 13 minutes. Unfortunately, this is a song I didn't really like and won't be adding to my mega playlist. If the whole song was more like the second half, I'd love it.

Culling Voices starts with a building synth that leads in to a simple guitar intro, reminiscent of Hypnotize (song) by System of a Down. The first half of the song is slower and beautiful, with no sign of Danny. When Danny finally enters the fray, the song begins to build to an all inclusive finale, with Maynard repeating "Don't you dare point that at me", becoming more aggressive with each repeat. It's a great song, but one of the more simple, possibly weaker songs of the album.

Chocolate Chip Trip has a creepy vibe to it as the sound slowly pans around your head. It kind of reminds me of the intro to Tattered & Torn by Slipknot. It leads in to an electric drone ambiance sounding section, that syncs with panning congo sounding drums that lead in to a Danny Carey drum solo. A strange song with an average sounding drum solo. I won't be adding this to the mega playlist.

7empest has a soft intro that leads in to a very metal opening riff and then exploding in to the song itself; the intro is the only respite this nearly 16 minute song provides you. This is easily the heaviest song on the album, sounding like a mix of the Undertow and Aenima albums. Around 10 minutes on, starting with the breakdown, this song rips so much [%*!#]ing ass and is so heavy and incredible. The last 5 minutes are and emotional. I wish it didn't end.

Report this review (#2246274)
Posted Sunday, August 25, 2019 | Review Permalink
1 stars This gets a giant "Meh" from me. I've listened to it several times through thinking it would grow on me. Nope. By my count there is exactly one good song on this record. If you pre-ordered this, prepare for disappointment. When I saw that there were six songs over 10 minutes long, I anticipated skillful song development, extended solo passages, cools bass licks, and jaw dropping drumming fills. Instead, we get pointless meandering and lifeless repeated passages. Maybe the creative spark has abandoned them and that's what took over a decade to bring this thing to market. In any event, this is the weakest Tool album in their catalog, and it's not even close.
Report this review (#2246437)
Posted Monday, August 26, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars Tool has been a band I've criminally ignored for lots of years. Knowing that they would launch a new album, in the last weeks I've decided to checkout their catalogue, starting with Undertow and then going upwards. I've also followed some debates about what people were thinking of the new release, and it was common people say that this was just "another" Tool album with rehashed elements from their previous works.

As for myself, where I had little time to digest their discography, I've got that feeling only a few moments, such as the low-key synth in Descending, which is reminiscent of Reflection, but as the whole I believe that Fear Inoculum was a more progressive take to Tool overall sounding. All the tracks are long and have more extended instrumental passages, where Maynard keeps a more low-key approach for melodies, although the chorus in the title track is really remarkable. It's also less heavy than their previous efforts, except 7empest, which is the only rocking number. The others songs follows a similar structure, starting quite quietly and getting heaver latter, but it's still far from some of their heaviest songs from Undertow or Ćnima, for example.

I've also enjoyed a lot some of the synth solos, present on Pneuma, Litanie contre la peur and Invincle, which isn't something common from them, adding some textures and a sort of a floydish flavour to the songs. Also, this reminds me structurally of Pink Floyd's Animals, where the songs are larger and more elaborated and then you have some interludes which are also fun to listen and a nice breather between the longer tracks.

8.5/10 - 7empest, Pneuma and Invincible are my favorite tracks.

Report this review (#2247144)
Posted Friday, August 30, 2019 | Review Permalink
1 stars The wait and expectation around this album was the subject of many a meme across the years. Many were skeptical it would happen at all. Others, like me, were eager for the first few years, then essentially forgot and prepared for the worse as live snippets came out from here and there and promised a rehash of everything they did before.

When the single came out I knew, and listening to the rest just confirmed my suspicion. Tool were either unable or unwilling to thread new territory, it's the same old riffs, the same old modes, the same old rhythms, the same old effects. Just mind blowingly boring and uninspired.

Each song sounds like the last and it's difficult to tell them apart. The only reason I know I'm not listening to Lateralus or 10 000 Days is because, despite the strikingly similar tropes, these versions of them are so incredibly cookie cutter and uninspired, that I might as well be listening to a crappy tribute band or copycat.

This album is staler than a 1 year old piece of bread. If there's an argument to be settled about come backs and bands outlasting their artistry, this is it.

I've listened to it twice, and man it's long (due to needless repetition), and I wish I could get that time of my life back. I haven't really disliked an album so much in a long time. Just because it sounds familiar does not make it good. And this, while familiar, it's for the wrong reasons. And it isn't good. In fact it's so bad it hurts. For a musical snob, this was the epitome of cringe.

Maybe this album is like a wine that needs to get old before being properly appreciated - so I won't promise to change my opinion eventually. My cynical impression for now is that instead it will go straight to vinegar.

Report this review (#2247156)
Posted Friday, August 30, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well all, these days I come around here about as often as a new Tool album.

And we do have a new Tool album, Fear Incoculum. And upon listening you will immediately recognize it as such, which is to say this is a very good Tool album, as they all, to varying degrees, are. Perhaps it doesn't hit with same same punch as the first time I heard Aenima in the mid-90s, but I'm a bit older now, as is the band.

In some ways, it's a remarkable album, a sort of compendium of what a Tool album is. Don't expect any of the gut punches that were Prison Sex or Stinkfist, but you'll get the same riffage and atmospheric guitars (occasionally at the same time), the solid, probing bass, the drumming that is just this side of second to none. Maynard seems a bit more restrained, but he's been slowly headed that way since '96. These are all long songs, running into double digits, minute-wise, almost meditative, slowly unfolding and then wrapping around themselves and back again, like some new age yogic ouroboros shedding its skin, with mostly satisfying results. It seems I fall into the tracks, and the cracks within them, get lost a bit, and then come back home. That seems a reasonable thing to expect from good music.

I'm not going to touch upon each of the tracks, because these songs seem specifically designed to take each person on his or her own journey to the self.

So who's it for? Anyone who enjoys Tool's music will enjoy this one. It might make a good introduction to the band for the uninitiated since it covers most bases. For everyone else, I'd hope it's a excellent listen. You'll be disappointed if, when it was announced that Tool had come to see you after thirteen years and you'd answered the door, you had for some unknown reason expected someone different to arrive.

Report this review (#2247285)
Posted Friday, August 30, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars The first thing i tried to do is to put aside the tremendous amount of hype that had around my head over this new Tool album to get a more objective listening. It was really difficult though, because 13 years have passed and we diehard fans were really excruciated by this wait.

On my first listening i only liked "Culling Voices" as i thought that it was the only song that didn't really reminded me of any previous material from the band. And then on my second listening, a couple more songs were appealing like for example 7empest but nonetheless the feeling that predominates over and over again in this record is pretty much the same: I've already heard this.

The opening track is the homonymous one, and for me is a really bad start to the atmosphere because it never resolve the progressiveness although it is 10 minutes long. The riffs and melody changes as also the addition-substraction of instruments in the melody is confusing and doesn't really act cohesively. It sounds as if Tool is trying to make one song out of Parabola, Rosseta Stoned and Right in Two altogether.

The second track, Pneuma is an overall Jambi and Lateralus wannabe. The band reproduces perfectly the dense and time complex atmosphere of these anthems but as hard as they try, it doesn't add any new flavours to the recipe. Also, in the case of Lateralus, there is a tone preparation with the previous tracks that added to the mysticism around the sound, that doesn't seem to happen in this case. Every song in this album seems to exist by itself, as if no album concept existed.

Then we have Litanie Contre le Peur that acts as an Interlude. It is a 2 minutes track in which Adam Jones emulates a continous synth tone with tremolo using his guitar. The atmosphere that he creates is very immersive but i think it is something that every guitarist can do when playing with the effect pad possibilities. When comparing it to other tool famous interludes like Message to Harry Manback or Lipan Conjuring it really stays out of reach. In this aspect, the second interlude of this album Legion Inoculant is much more serious and convincing in creating auditive context and subjective rest for the remaining part of the record.

Invincible and Descending are very similar tracks and thats why I put them together. The first one is a perfect copycat of Right in Tow's tone, instrumentation, song scheme, and overall vibe but with a Lateralus-esque sustained solo almost at the end of it. Descending is a little bit longer and one of the things that I liked about it is that it starts and ends with wave sounds, an intro a little bit different from the hindi arpeggiated ones that Tool uses as a common resource. Then it becomes a Schism-like bass line but with a Vicarious flavour that contains really juicy guitar lines but in spite of this, the songs are really another Tool songs.

Culling Voices and 7empest are my favourite tracks of the record, because they try effects and melodies unused before by the band and in the case of Culling Voices it is clear that the punkish riffs and clean distortion is a shot-out to Tool's first EP Opiate (Hear the song Hush for example). As far as it goes for 7empest, i think is the most organized and better orchestrated piece on this project. It reminded me to APC's "The package" specially in the sudden contrasts and agry moods. It also has specks of The Grudge and Forty Six & 2.

Chocolate Chip Trip is the worst track of the album in which we can hear that in spite of the always excellent performance of Danny Carey and electronic experimentation the band fails to create this chaotic instrumental tune that, in the end, seems more like a bad Zappa tribute than an experimental odissey.

The ending of the record is carried out by Mockingbird, a mediocre outro if compared with Viginti Tres or Faap the Oiad but that nevertheless gives a nice vibe with the bird samples and stuff.

To finish with this long and dense gibberish, and more in terms of the album as a whole i really think it's good, but non-essential. It is It is not a record that i will come back later very often, as Tool has another projects that are highlighted with excellency that i'd rather revisit .It definitely didn't worth the 13 year wait, as it never reaches the mystic and mathy lyrics and harmonization of Lateralus and AEnima for example (that were made 5 years apart). In spite of this, it is not a bad record, and has every piece of the Tool's essence that fans love.

Report this review (#2247286)
Posted Friday, August 30, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Fear Inoculum's seven songs - which in digital format come with three more songs: "Litanie contre le peur", "Legion Inoculant" and "Mockingbeat", in practice three climatic and instrumental interludes - feature pretentious, original and hypnotic work . Six of the seven tracks exceed ten minutes (with the exception of "Chocolate Chip Trip", another instrumental interlude) and feature chords, harmonic progressions, rhythmic scales and predominantly ascending melodies, which makes the album have a very strong sound magnetism. In practice, this translates into a hearing that causes a kind of hypnosis as the songs unfold. The choice to construct the songs using sister chords and notes, coupled with Keenan's mostly ethereal vocal melodies, intensifies this mind-numbing sensation while opening new untapped songs in the listener's brain.

The rhythmic part remains one of the highlights, with unconventional movements and an approach that talks with fusion, always supported by the univiteline union between bass and guitar. Chancellor's instrument, always a highlight, continues to play an almost percussive role and fills the spaces omnipresently. Drummers will still love Carey's work, while Jones maintains a guitar playing that, especially in Fear Inoculum, is much more interested in creating sound atmospheres than riffs.

However, the weight comes. And when it comes, it arrives beautiful. The apexes of the songs, with instrumental explosions full of rhythmic turns, are chilling to even the most bald of fans. It's an original, unique and beautiful song that could either be defined as a hypnotic prog metal or a meditative fusion.

The fact is that in Fear Inoculum the Tool requires a listener partnership so that what the band is proposing is effectively assimilated. This means that in a world where urgency predominates and anxiety is no longer an exception and has become the company of most individuals, a disc that is over 70 minutes long and tracks that are over ten minutes need some effort. from most listeners. Fear Inoculum is not one of those albums made for occasional and occasional listening. It demands an immersion, it takes time from those on the other side of the headset. But in doing so, it rewards you with creative delivery, a song that is totally out of the box and delivers incredible sensations.

Among the tracks, highlight the sensational song that beats the album, "Invincible", "Descending" and the incredible "7empest", the longest and heaviest of the album and where the full protagonism goes to the guitar of Adam Jones.

Fear Inoculum makes up for the thirteen year long wait for a new Tool album with a complex, extremely immersive, musically rich work that carries both the seal of quality and the original aura the band has always possessed. One of the biggest albums of 2019 and one of the best albums of the quartet's career.

Report this review (#2247394)
Posted Saturday, August 31, 2019 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Tool's fifth studio album is one of those projects that I don't think most people had much faith in. Over a decade was spent waiting for it, getting to the point where several memes online mocked the band for their inability to stay on the same page and get the record done. I get the feeling many of us thought it would go the way of Half-Life 3 and become the musical version of vaporware, and the constant rumor mill from the band and media wasn't convincing people otherwise. And yet? somehow, we actually made it. Fear Inoculum is out, and critics are already stumbling over each other giving the album (mostly) rapturous praise. Most of the public seems onboard for it too, giving kudos to the band for not missing a beat and swinging back stronger than ever. For the most part, I can agree with this.

Fear Inoculum is not the easiest experience to dive into; it runs at 80 minutes (86 if you're talking about the digital version) across only 7 tracks, which means almost every song is over 10 minutes. That's a lot to digest, and many of these songs run at very slow, almost doomlike paces. But, as usual for a latter-day Tool album, there's plenty of dense progressive metal to sink your teeth into. You'll find all the typical Lateralus-era stuff here; tribal rhythms, post-metal buildups and payoffs, subtle polyrhythms, and frequent dynamic ebbs and flows all make their way on this record. However, it's important to note that the buildups are much more lengthy and detailed this time around. In fact, I'm a little shocked that the title track was able to become a charting single, given the fact that the song doesn't really get off the ground until about halfway into its 10-minute runtime. I suppose that's the power of hype and expectations after such a long wait from the band's devoted fanbase! Anyway, these long runtimes work better for some songs than others; "Pneuma" and "Invincible" are fantastic examples of balancing their buildups and payoffs perfectly for emotional effect, especially in the way the latter combines triumph and resignation to flesh out the story of an "aging warrior" (see also: Maynard Keenan himself). The former presents itself in a darker and almost ritualistic manner, with Maynard repeating several lines over and over while the stuttering rhythms are constantly throwing you off in the process. Every time the heavy Drop-D riff comes in, it's a welcome release from the tension.

The band members themselves have clearly grown over the years, and they sound even more comfortable than ever when flexing their virtuoso muscles. However, one thing that I've always loved about Tool over the years is that they never really beat you over the head with their instrumental prowess, instead preferring to showcase their skills in more subtle ways; Fear Inoculum definitely sticks to this. Instead of doing a giant shred solo, Adam Jones might lay down some simple guitar chords that are played in a slightly off-kilter or wonky manner, such as he often does in album highlight "7empest." The entire song is like a giant experiment where the band members all try and see how many cool things they can do the metallic framework they're given, and the outcome is just phenomenal. As far as vocals go, Maynard is more reserved and introspective this time around; but given the structures and dynamics of the songs here, that's the perfect route to go. Plus, given his age, he still sounds excellent. Still, I don't think many people are going to doubt that this is absolutely a rhythm section-centric record. Justin Chancellor and Danny Carey absolutely tear up this album, providing both an incredible backbone and an infinite stream of ways that Adam Jones could work his guitar magic over them. "Chocolate Chip Trip" might be the most inconsequential and skippable song on the album in the grand scheme of things, but I still don't advise missing out on that sweet drum solo that Carey lays down on it. It's one of the great highlights of his recorded output.

So what's wrong exactly? Well, just one thing? and it's a pretty important thing. Let me start this off with a movie analogy: have you watched an actor that you can only see as that actor and not a character they're playing? A big example in my case is Tom Cruise. Every time I see him in a role, I just see Tom Cruise; I don't see a character, because Cruise just kinda overtakes the role itself. It's a really frustrating situation, because it constantly sucks me out of the immersion of a film when I can constantly see the "man behind the curtain." And unfortunately, Tool fall right into this trap. One of the things that made Lateralus and even 10,000 Days so great is that there was always that additional instrumentation that fleshed out the atmosphere of those records. There were always Jones' guitar pedals and a bunch of warbling industrial effects lending to the dark, eerie vibe Tool succeeded so well at crafting. Sadly, on Fear Inoculum I just hear 4 guys jamming out in the studio. The atmosphere is so empty and sparse on this album, and it doesn't help that there usually aren't many extra synthesizers or pedals to spice things up. That's not to say the entire record is like this; "Pneuma" has an excellent middle section with a buzzing electronic effect alongside some beautiful clean guitar melodies from Jones, and of course the tribal drumming in the majority of the title track is always welcome. But considering this is Tool's longest and most dense album, it would have been nicer to hear some more little touches to provide extra detail and texture to the experience.

Still, I'm really glad Fear Inoculum is finally here. I'm glad that we're finally able to let all the old memes and jokes about Tool's constant delays finally die. And unlike Duke Nukem Forever, we have a delayed product that's actually incredibly solid and worth the time it took to make it. If you enjoyed Tool's prog era, you'll most likely love what they did here. Fear Inoculum is the logical outcome of the band's constant flirtation with complexities and intricacies over the years, as well as how much they'd grown personally and creatively to get to this point in their lives. I can't say that this is a better album than Lateralus - which I still consider to be the band's gold standard - but it's definitely my second favorite of theirs so far. There's just too much ambition and quality songcraft here to pass up or ignore. So was Fear Inoculum worth the wait? I wholeheartedly say: yes.

Report this review (#2248409)
Posted Tuesday, September 3, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars Asking whether it was worth waiting 13 years for a new Tool record is somewhat asinine. Afterall, almost nothing in life is worth 13 full years of your time. And no Tool record, no matter how simultaneously nostalgic and progressive it may be, would be worth that wait. But assuming you've spent the last 13 years leading a normal productive and meaningful life, managing to find time to discover some great music along the way, then we could perhaps begin to make the claim that Fear Inoculum was "worth" the wait.

Musically, this album is an antidote to some of the worst trends plaguing modern popular music. In a world where short and punchy singles compete for your precious and fickle streaming time, Fear Inoculum demands that a listener make a conscious investment into what he or she is listening to at any moment. This album is nearly devoid of any 'hooks.' Instead, songs take their time (between 7 and a half and 15 minutes) to develop a theme that rarely ever leaps out and grabs you. It is for this reason that the album can so effectively reward repeat listens, perhaps more so than any other album on this list.

This is not Tool's best record. But it also didn't need to be. Being one of the best progressive metal albums of the 2010's is good enough.

Report this review (#2248652)
Posted Thursday, September 5, 2019 | Review Permalink
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 meditational, 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, and 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.

Report this review (#2262042)
Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars The fifth album came after a long wait, exasperating for many of whom are fans of this extraordinary group. I cannot deny that I had my doubts if a new album would finally be released. And of course, after so much waiting, and knowing that finally the album was released, the expectations were very high, since the time they had taken, between the compositions and partly for legal issues that it seems they had many in these times , the music would come with different surprises and nuances, as they have accustomed us.

After listening to the album a few times, I find it as a continuation of 10,000 days, with airs in Right in Two, Wings for Mary and Rosetta Stone everywhere. As someone said, nothing new under the sun in the Tool world. That does not mean that it is not an excellent album, whose 6 songs of more than 10 minutes live up to their best compositions.

Fear Inoculum, Pneuma, Invicible, Descending, Culling Voices and 7empest generate feelings of being in front of the best Tools, and we are talking about practically the whole album. I understand that they are probably all within the same cut and that can generate the feeling of repeating the same formula of the success of the previous album without taking too many risks, which we could take as the most debatable point, but in my opinion Jones's guitar remains as scratchy and dramatically dirty and powerful, Carey's battery as always lives up to the demand and Keanan and Chancellor in their best condition.

I particularly enjoy Pneuma, the last section of the song delivered to a Jones riff is the best, and both Descending and Invicible also make us realize that we are facing authentic Tool, and the more than 15 minutes of 7empest with his constant changes of rhythm remind us of the best progressive side of the band, a must. The songs of shorter duration don´t add much value of the disc and I consider them expendable.

In short, some authentic Tool, which have maintained their successful formula and achieved an excellent record. We hope that another 13 years do not pass to meet again and enjoy their music.

Report this review (#2265023)
Posted Sunday, September 29, 2019 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars New Tool. Enough said. Of course every proghead worth their salt should find themselves gravitating to this. 13 years later Tool return to the sound that have made them one of the most accomplished bands in recent years and Fear Inoculum does not disappoint as its Tool through and through. Some may argue its too much like old Tool but would you have it any other way. Too many bands try to reinvent their sound and end up destroying what they have. Tool sticks to their trademark sound and then takes us into another realm by the end of this 80 minute opus. The traditional sound is virtuoso musicianship by the drumming powerhouse playing of Danny Carey, the bass masterclass of Justin Chancellor, the guitar technical supremus of Adam Jones, and the clean reflective vocals of Maynard James Keenan.

It opens with Fear Inoculum and a droning buzz guitar heralds proceedings, slow and menacing like The Patient, and as brooding as anything from Lateralus so no complaints from me as i still regard that to be their quintessential masterpiece along with Aenima. The tribal rhythms and nasty bass sound permeate the album and are as good as it gets.

Pneuma follows with a showcase of musical excellence including a melting pot of acoustics, heavy bass, off kilter drum patterns careening into time sigs off the metronome from 5/8 to 7/4 and back to 4/4. The grunge guitar and clean vocals are a chemical balance that resonates perfectly. It ignites into a paroxysm of lightning guitar strikes with 3 chord structure and cymbal splashes. Chancellors bass is incredible 7 mins in and its so refreshing to hear a band experimenting with music the way Tool does. A masterpiece of the album for my ears.

Invincible is even longer at almost 13 minutes, opening with a finger picking solo that i would like to hear someone attempt in a guitar store. It builds gradually with some compelling lyrics about a warrior struggling to remain consequential. A reverb bass takes us deeper into the Tooliverse til it breaks into metal axe chops that slice up the atmosphere, joined by kalimba, didgeridoo and gamelan bells. The odd meter at 6 mins is complimented by a dirty guitar sound and the drums get frenetic with double kicks at the 8 minute mark. Spacey psychedelic vocals augment the trippy music and it gets heavier to its conclusion.

Descending has crashing waves intro generating an atmosphere of blissful isolation.The song begins gently with Keenan in a contemplative mood. The guitar polyrhythms are present and then it gets aggressive at 6 mins in, vocally and with amped up guitars, the type of sound on Parabola. This is dramatic, powerful, exceptional Tool.

Culling Voices starts quietly with angelic guitar picking and gentle vocals, singing Psychopathy misleading me over and over again, judge, condemn and banish any and everyone without evidence, only the whispers from within. Bass adds to the haunting ethereal atmosphere, and a guitar riff sounding similar to intro of Sabbaths Paranoid. The guitars are sharpened with a distorted edge and then it breaks down into reflective nuances with Keenan whispering Don't you dare point that at me. I wouldn't dream of it.

Chocolate Chip Trip is a low point of the album that fills like filler. King Crimson have done similar kanoodling with synths and gamelan bells or chimes, and i was not that impressed with that either. However the track is saved by Careys precise percussion which is killer and as a drummer i cannot help but to simply be in awe of his virtuosity.

Ok 7empest. This is the way to close an album with your best work. It is a 15 minute triumph of progalicious tempo switches, extended soloing, and virtuoso musicianship. It takes the album to another level. Its the go to track for anyone who wants to hear the new Tool. There are blazing guitar solos, tribal drum beats, impressive vocals, and dynamic bass lines. It took me back to the experimental brilliance of Lateralus. Jones is in full flight here as he unleashes fury on his guitar with incredible lead breaks and screaming wails that sound like a banshee. The bass pulsates like a rippling wind as the stormy guitars howl and strike into the heart of the beating drums. I am running out of superlatives. The lead guitar on this is phenomenal. The way Jones punishes his guitar at 7 minutes in is mind blowing. This must be rated as one of the greatest Tool tracks, showing that they still can produce masterful performances.

Of the other instrumental bonus tracks they are atmospheric and a bit weird, especially Mockingbeat not bird that is basically bird noises synthesized. They add nothing to the album which is already a decent enough length.

Overall Fear Inoculum is a great return for Tool, an immersive experience designed for headphones, ticking all the Tool boxes so should not disapoint, unless you are after another Lateralus which is possibly not going to happen. In any case the album delivers and is one of the stand out releases for 2019.

Report this review (#2282415)
Posted Monday, November 18, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars There are three great pieces hidden in this over-long project: "Pneuma", "Invincible" and their masterpiece - "Descending". All the rest is not good enough. "Pneuma" is far from perfect but has that old Tool magic; it gives you the feeling of birth, that first breath of life, and it's even optimistic. "Invincible" is the ultimate old-warrior epic. Tool recount their tales of glory, admit they're getting old, and still trying to win some battles here and there. Feelings of nostalgia mixed with the same old rage and change-the-world spirit - a very mature track which doesn't sound too long, although it could have been produced with a richer wall of sound. "Invincible" is the album highlight. Much more than just an anti-Trump piece, it's almost a religious call-to- arms epic. The amazing lyrics by Maynard James Keenan get uplifted with Danny Carey's unbelievable drumming abilities. Not only is this a musical speech to be remembered, it's almost an artistic last will and testament. Only a huge band like Tool can deliver such a triumph to its humble fans. All the rest of the material is almost negligible, or at least way too long, plodding, smeared and sometimes even "filler" to my ears. Was it worth the wait between albums? probably no album in history is worth such an arduous wait. I take these three mini-epics to my heart and carry on. If this is their last album, so be it. I highly recommend "Descending" to any young man in America today. Now we must carry on this heavy burden forward, keep on the fight, because the three Tool guys seem a bit wasted.
Report this review (#2302605)
Posted Monday, December 30, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars When this album came out I watched a vocal group of Tool fans tear it to shreds and endlessly crap on it. Was it really a big disappointment? A stinker perhaps? Or was it just that it could never live up to the hype and expectations in the heads of Tool fans after over a decade wait? All of that is irrelevant to me, general consensus is determined by the first people to put their opinions out there. That or reviewers on the internet with influence (Anthony Fantano gave this album a 4/10). When this album came out nothing by this band ever did anything for me, and I really tried. However, this album swept me off my feet and continues to do so today easily cementing itself as my favorite Tool record. I've come around a bit to Aenima and Lateralus, but I don't often sit through those albums front to back. If I want to hear Tool, this is what i'm reaching for an overwhelming majority of the time. This is a cohesive and dense album with nearly every track stretching over 10 minutes taking you through these polyrhythmic mazes of unconventional riffage and incredibly developed drumming. On this album Tool has mastered the art of subtly sleekly building up each song taking you on a journey into the depths of a very dark place. The production is ear candy with these crisp and layered electronics, clear and punchy bass, incredible drum sound and a simply nasty guitar tone. The title track kicks things off with this brooding and menacing introduction that just gets me fired up with these kinda tribal-esque drums and reverberating bass all around you. The vocals hit you in flowing waves while the guitar teases you in the background. The song reaches a satisfying and powerful payoff eventually transitioning into twisting and more striding passage in the second half. For the final minute and a half they start firing on all cylinders with great aggression and intensity ushered in by filthy guitar tones. The second track Pneuma is my favorite on the album, it melts my brain every single time. It opens with this earthy and more free flowing introduction kicking into amazing and complex bass and guitar riffage enhanced by the drum parts accompanying and playing around it. The chorus is just head-bobbing ecstasy. At around the 6:08 mark it kicks into this indescribable passage with steady electronic drumming and penetrating face-melting synths/electronics. Every time I hear those drums fade in I can't help but smile, there's something so psychedelic about this passage as layers upon layers stack and soar around you. This leads back into the main riff, now heavier, faster, and slightly altered concluding on an explosive note. Invincible opens with windy riffage while the other instruments set the stage and play around this lead guitar line. For several minutes this song quietly grows until the band is coming in full power underneath a memorable hook. They break into a thundering instrumental break briefly before kicking back into that chorus which leads right back into another incredible instrumental playout where the drumming is just baffling. Those tasty electronics join back in with these hypnotic vocals mid way through this jam. The song reaches an intense crescendo reprising the intro guitar riff at full force. I found this song to be more of a slowburn and one that really grabbed me after a few listens. Descending is possibly the least conventional song here opening up with a few minutes of these ineffable and subtle instrumentals melting, or properly descending around you. I just don't understand how people can reach this level of musical creativity. It's the point where I struggle to even write about this track because there is just so much going on at all times, the meter is completely off the charts while never sounding forced or out of place. Culling Voices has these more melancholy guitars starting the song off. The vocals join in creating one of the more minimal and intimate feeling moments on the album. While to vocals are delivered with great emotion, the guitar contrasts it with a more off kilter and slightly uncomfortable choice of notes and chords playing beneath it. This meditative section goes on for quite a while actually really taking its time and when the rest of the band comes in, it doesn't immediately explode into a fiery jam like you would expect. Rather they kinda contribute to the already existing somewhat droning feel of the track. At 6:33 things noticeably pick up before reaching that big heavy pay-off you could feel coming. Chocolate Chip Trip is a bizarre somewhat avant garde electronic backed drum solo like nothing else I've ever heard. This unorthodox atonal electronic melody pierces in and remains a constant as Danny Carey goes absolutely ham alongside it. The track eventually sorta fizzles out. 7empest is the closing track and it's really just exciting start to finish. Out of all the songs this one is the most immediately heavy and "straight out the gate swinging." It opens with a short little picked guitar riff with what sounds like an electric harpsichord (my best guess) accompanying it. Soon after it drops into an awesome looming riff with the vocals following thereafter. Of all the songs on the album this one to me sounds the most like some of the material off whats generally considered the classic tool albums with its alternative metal tinge in the vocals. I love the kind of alarming guitar section that starts at 5:38 playing on top of a headbanging rhythm section. This extended solo really develops seamlessly leading into the next section of the song with some harder hitting slightly harsher vocals. The passage straight out of this is glorious with its trash-crash symbol and groovy guitar/bass riff. The finish to this song is great as it eases and settles out of the heaviness combining both a reprise of the opening section with the rhythm section playing another riff from the song on top of it. It took me a bit to pick up on this but it's very creatively done. It's a really fantastic conclusion to this staggering album.

I bow to no one, I love this album. I rarely sit down and listen to albums start to finish that stretch over an hour, but at about 80 minutes, this proves to be an exception to that. I don't know what else to add, it's just creative, massive, rewarding and flat out awesome music. I was not a Tool fan until I heard this album but even with that it proved to be a very challenging undertaking that I still am continuing to wrap my head around with each successive listen. Do not enter this album with any preconceived notions based on some of the stuff you can hear on Rateyourmusic or Tool forums. Give this album time and it will reveal itself.

Report this review (#2444381)
Posted Thursday, September 3, 2020 | Review Permalink
3 stars Fear Inoculum is Tool's fifth album, it sounds like a simple statement but considering it came out 13-Years after 10.000 Days... It's a pretty important statement. After 13 years, you would expect a fresh Tool with new ideas and ways to impress people right? After all it's been thirteen damn years.

What Fear Inoculum presents us is eighty minutes of the same ideas over and over again. That doesn't necessarily mean it's bad, Danny Carey is still a beast, Justin made some awesome bass work, Maynard impregnated his trademark Tool voice and Adam Jones was an incredibly boring guitarist as usual, so nothing really changed that much. To be honest this album is pretty good for any die- hard Tool fan that enjoys any of their songs, I am one of those fans. The problem comes in how dull the music itself is.

Take as an example the title track. Odd time signatures, Danny Carey using percussion instruments (Like in reflection), Justin Chancellor providing something nice bass, some atmospheric segments around the middle of the song... this is all great, but the thing is that these characteristics can be applied to every single other song in the album. Aenima, for example, had songs like Stink Fist that were serious head banging material, Eulogy which felt like four songs in one, Third Eye which would send you to another world with its Trance-ish vibe.... all those songs have unique characteristics that the rest of the album didn't have. In Fear Inoculum, all songs feel like one. You could've merged all those six songs into one and it would literally feel like one. Not to forget how even the points that are meant to be a climax aren't that impactful. Pneuma's climax which is at the end, is the same verse that you had been hearing throughout the rest of the song, same with 7empest and Descending. Invincible is the only one with a climax unique compared with the rest of the song, but then it just gets ruined by the album's mixing, which is the next point.

Nothing sounds too heavy. One of the things Tool is pretty known for is their capability of banging your head with an incredibly heavy odd-time-signature riff, take as an example Forty Six & Two, Vicarious, The Grudge or Ticks & Leeches. When Fear Inoculum throws you a climax that's meant to punch you towards the sky, it gets softened by the albums mixing: It's way too polished and it removes the raw emotion of the track and album itself. Finally, the four interludes of the album are a colossal waste of time. Boring, uninteresting, un memorable, and annoying like Chocolate Chip Trip. Doing a full listen of this album is almost impossible because of these tracks.

Overall: It's good, but more of the same, and overly dull. I still find enjoyment in it but honestly? It's Tool's worst album.

Report this review (#2486423)
Posted Sunday, December 20, 2020 | Review Permalink
The Crow
3 stars We had to wait thirteen years for Tool to offer us the follow-up to the successful "10,000 Days" with this dense, simmering "Fear Inoculum".

Unfortunately, much of the grit of the past was lost on this record. It may be because of the lack of punch in Keenan's voices, or because sometimes it seems that we are listening to a rehash of previous albums.

The fact is that despite the undoubted quality of all the musicians, "Fear Inoculum" is the first Tool album that has hardly surprised me at all.

In any case, the return of this band is always cause for celebration. Let's hope it doesn't take so long for the next one!

Best Tracks: Pneuma (perhaps the best song, compositionally speaking), Invincible (my personal favorite) and 7empest (absolutely impressive guitars)

My Rating: ***

Report this review (#2712311)
Posted Tuesday, March 22, 2022 | Review Permalink

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