New Music 8/30/19: Tool

Hot off the presses: new music!  Better said, new music that is worth your time.


Tool – Fear Inoculum – 10 tracks / 86 minutes

After a hiatus of more than a decade, one of America’s greatest rock bands embraces sprawling soundscapes and goes full prog on their return LP.


What a long and strange trip it’s been for Tool.  In the 13 years since their last release (10,000 Days, which provided a hint of what was to come all these years later) the band has fought legal battles with their record label and kept rumors of an impending LP alive for so long it was starting to enter into Guns & Roses territory.  Since 2006 singer/songwriter Maynard James Keenan has recorded new music with side projects A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, but all the while Tool’s massive legion of fans has been impatiently waiting for their fifth studio album.

At long last, here it is, and make no mistake – on Fear Inoculum the gang from Los Angeles has abandoned any semblance of the radio-friendly song structure that some of their early work held to.  Casual fans of the band who enjoy “Sober” and “Schism” but not their longer, brooding tracks are not likely to find much here.  Each of the six proper songs on this record span longer than ten minutes, and the longest (“7empest”) runs just under sixteen.  Of the four interlude tracks, “Chocolate Chip Trip” is the most interesting but still doesn’t quite feel like a full-fledged song despite Carey’s absolute percussive clinic.

The leadoff title track starts with morose strings and tribal percussion before morphing into something heavier over its ten minutes, and harkens back to the atmospheric palette of their finest work, Lateralus (specifically “Parabol” and “Parabola”).  “Pneuma” rocks the hardest both musically and lyrically and would stand up next to anything in their incredible catalogue, while “Culling Voices” is the ultimate slow build but provides excellence in its latter half.  “Invincible” is a beautiful song that deserves multiple close listens and provides yet more of that classic Tool sound, particularly in the last four minutes.

As usual, the rhythm section of Justin Chancellor on bass and (quite probably) Earth’s greatest drummer Danny Carey are magnificent and carry the weight of the music with their surgical precision.  Adam Jones’ guitar playing is on point but doesn’t veer far from familiar territory covered on earlier albums, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – Tool’s  sound is uniquely their own and they are free to mine it as relentlessly as they wish.

Hardcore fans of the band will find plenty to love here, as I did – but I’m not convinced that this is as good as they can get.  Consider me already holding out for their next album, hoping it isn’t being released in 2032.

Key Tracks: “Fear Inoculum”, “Invincible”, “Pneuma”

Spotify album link:


Also heard:

Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Mrs. Summertime Sadness is back with a sprawling set of diverse tunes, including a cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” that didn’t do it for me.  However, the title track is haunting in its beauty and should be considered required listening.