It’s been 13 years since alternative metal giants Tool released their last album 10,000 Days. It really did seem like it could be 10,000 days until the next album, but it’s here, and we only had to wait 4864 days. Fear Inoculum is arguably the most highly anticipated album of the past decade and the question on everyone’s mind is, was it worth the wait?
Beginning with the title track, it is immediately apparent that this is the same group who brought us such masterpieces as Aenima and Lateralus, starting with an unsettling three note pattern, slowly unravelling into a cinematic, visceral work of grandeur. Every song is immaculately crafted, without a single dud. Pneuma, both contemplative and tense, meanders with disarming guitar lines and keeps the listener on edge, while the album closer and highlight, 7empest, is a heavy metal assault on the senses full of explosive dynamics.
Lyrically, the album is highly spiritual and cryptic; all trademark qualities of the band that fans will love and provides for lots of analysis and debate. But what’s more in contrast to the angst-ridden, testosterone fuelled days of Aenima, is a unifying focus toward growth, experience and change, which lends the album a sense of maturity.
If I were to nit-pick, the songs Invincible and Descending, while excellent, tend to overstay their welcome. In fact, most tracks are over 10-minutes long.
The band does a superb job of creating unsettling atmospheres through its use of soundscapes, especially in Descending. Weaving together elements of psychedelia and even electronic textures, Tool enhance their sonic diversity in a way unprecedented in the band’s discography. Instrumental and technical talents are on full display. Adam Jones performs more guitar solos than he ever has, and his riffs are still some of the most cutting edge in alternative metal.
Ultimately, Fear Inoculum had near impossible expectations to live up to, but Tool have managed to rise to the occasion, matching the hype with a release that is chaotic, cathartic and downright numbing, amounting to a magnificently crafted emotional experience.
Listen to album highlight 7empest below: