It’s arrived, the album so many people have been waiting so long for has finally dropped on our figurative doorsteps. TOOL, the progressive, thinking man’s metal, have toiled away and Fear Inoculum has emerged after a 13-year wait to rapturous applause. The album, it seems, was worth the wait.
At a massive 90-minute run time, the album can feel a rather large mountain to begin traversing, added to that the avalanching expectations that a 13-year winter of waiting can load on to such a summit and there’s a somewhat daunting prospect ahead. But, take a deep breath, and let this album envelop your listening.
This is our most stringent advice: if you’ve been waiting 13 years for an album, then give it it’s dues. Take time out of your day to let the album swell and recede, let your mind wander and return, actually listen. We feel barely able to offer any other routes to the top than this, but trust us, when you get there you’ll enjoy the view.
Beginning with the previously shared title track is to be expected. This is a band that have enjoyed the shrowd of mystery that they so effortlessly wear. So, naturally, they were going to give you the only notion of the album you have right off the bat. ‘Fear Inoculum’ builds over a somewhat shamanic backbeat only to cut through the forestry with an industrial buzzsaw set to stun. It’s an indication that this album will not be your usual metal fodder. This is TOOL after all.
Maynard James Keenan’s vocals are still as engaging and challenging as ever, providing, in small doses it must be said, a notion of familiarity and some added lyrics to this swirling sonic poetry. It allows the band to express themselves more fully and with greater intent and even allows Keenan to become a more poignant figure. Arriving and vanishing like so many mystics, his vocals feel as sharp and intense as ever shining brightest on ‘Invincible’.
While Maynard James Keenan’s vocals become a supporting character in this story, Danny Carey’s percussion picks up the mantel and delivers a stunning performance. In providing a spine to the pages of the title track and ‘Descending’, Carey provides a set of ideas and ruminations which ring out to some of his best work. The band, seemingly knowing Carey to be in his best moments, even allow him to flex his muscles on the solo effort ‘Chocolate Chip Trip’, which is the embodiment of a percussive wet dream.
In many ways, while this is TOOL’s most highly-anticipated album, it will also go down as the LP that the band let loose on. They sound freer than ever to not only express themselves but to explore those expressions and find the time to manipulate, scrutinise, and develop them not just into a mesh of meddling musical layers but into enjoyable songs.
That isn’t to say that the band don’t find the time to spin the audience around in their chair contemplating what they were actually on about. To do so on an album of such weighted importance is likely a point of pride for most TOOL fans. But the real mastery in Fear Inoculum is that the band manage to make this culmination of songs, expressions, musings and musical masturbation feel whole, complete, and more so than anything else, worth the wait.