13 years. 13 damn years we’ve been waiting through bullshit legal problems, auto-tune, packaging/presentation (which has also stung Tool), the rise of bands like Imagine Dragons and expert forgeries like Greta Van Fleet. It’s been too damn long since rock has needed a revival. Think of it this way, in 2018 the Big Rock Behemoth’s –Foo Fighters, Metallica, Radiohead- didn’t drop anything new and decided to hit the road. So what new face came around? The lack of bite Imagine Dragons with their song Thunder, which is finger snapping and chest-thumping, and songs from 2017! Rock needs more than a revival, it needs a renaissance with the need for attitude to come back. Even Nu-metal stalwarts like Godsmack are just pissed off just to be pissed off or would you prefer the “bro-band” Five Finger Death Punch who can’t take when people shit-talked about them? That’s why rock music now belongs on the road and not the radio, just see how Guns N’ Roses continues to draw in waves of crowds from the past. Thankfully, this record, this genius record Fear Inoculum is a call back to what felt like rock maybe that spark that inspires the Snail Mail’s and Goat Girl of the new generation.
13 years ago, I was a completely different person. Ready to take on the world, ready to fight for every cause, just ready for the world to end no matter how vastly unprepared I was. Tool was my way to ascend myself to feeling those causes and 13 years later, their message is still on point. I’ve always considered Tool as a sort of “feelings” band, which means that their music just took who I was and pushed me to who I wanted to be. It’s why fans like myself have longed for their return because in short, they mattered. Don’t forget, their debut music video strapped Parental Advisory stickers over their nuts and duct tape across their mouths to protest against censorship of music. Or how about in ’93, when learning a venue they were due to play was owned by the Church of Scientology spent the entire show with Maynard James Keenan just walking around saying “baaa”. My personal favorite of the song “Lateralus” is written to the Fibonacci Sequence. Tool mattered because they crafted their work to represent ideals that they love. The same fans of say Rick and Morty who point out how deep they go, that was Tool from their debut.
So 13 years later, how does the latest work feel? Well, let’s start with the song ‘Invincible’, all stuttering, muted bass with Maynard roar coming through. “Bellow aloud, bold and proud, of where I’ve been. But here I am. Beating chest and drums. Beating tired bones again!” A song that speaks so much to aging and feeling forgotten, yet still churning through life proud of who you are. Maynard and drummer Danny Carey takes the centerpiece in the ensemble but, both Adam Jones and Justin Chancellor get plenty of opportunity to share their creative freedom. Fear Inoculum definitely is time-consuming at 86 minutes. It has it’s similarities to both Lateralus and 10,000 Days and the songs are as discernible in the traditional sense. Instead it’s more of an impressionist sonic experience that requires more than one listen to receive that musical enlightenment. Because of that, it’s unlikely to convert anyone who isn’t a Tool fan. But that’s always been Tool’s modus operandi, it requires someone to actually listen to their work to appreciate.
This is about as deep as prog-rock can go and only Tool could’ve been the only ones to create it. It’s more than just their latest CD; It’s a listening experience that rewards those who dive into it. However in this age of instant gratification, where people would rather receive the latest movie trailer news to decipher an upcoming movie… it won’t please those people. Personally, that’s fine. Tool was never made to convert those who don’t have the patience or willpower. Those who are fans won’t be disappointed and will find that music still can mean something for those who need that feeling again.
Reviewed by David Neff