By James West,
Enter if you dare into my review of Tool’s latest masterpiece, “Fear Inoculum”! It seems the only way I could review this release was by way of YouTube, as it was released there for free by the band on Aug 31st. Sure, there were “Limited Edition” box sets that came out, but I couldn’t get my hands on one at any music store or even online.
When it comes to bands like Tool, the experience is all-encompassing. The look of the CD or album cover in your hands, the feel of the textured artistry on the cover and jacket, even the sight of having the CD or Album in your fingertips all comes together in the experience of a new Tool album, especially after having to wait 13 years for it to finally come to fruition.
It’s going on five days now since it was released, and I still can’t find a hard copy of this thing without paying double or triple the price by resellers online. So, it’s a good thing I did the review now, as it may very well be 13 years before I actually can get my hands on the damn CD!
Anyway, I’m not trying to be a Tool here; just trying to review one… The good part about having to go to YouTube for this was seeing other people’s reactions and feelings for the new music. I was amazed at how similar the reactions were to the songs as to how I reacted, and how many who listened were transported to their own dreamscapes that reflected how the songs took them for a journey.
That’s the best way to describe what you are about to read- My Trip with Tool. Every song on “Fear Inoculum” is over 10 minutes long, with shorter “extra’s” thrown in every now and then to help cleanse your palette for what is coming next. So, every song takes you on a journey, and this makes for great music, and the unbelievable talent in Tool create it effortlessly.
Is this masterpiece this generation’s “Dark Side Of The Moon”? No, there will be only one of those. But remember, Dark Side took a while to reach its legendary status, and so will Fear Inoculum. My prediction is that people won’t truly realize this great work of music art for quite a while also, maybe even in 13 years…
Track by Track...
The album starts off with a ringing sound that’s part chime and part energy pulse, like that of a celestial being booting up for a mission. Awareness comes, and the entity starts its journey with
the start of cool tribal drums by Danny and phasing distortion by Adam guiding its way. It seems to be searching and gaining speed. “Immunity, long overdue; Contagion, I exhale you…”
This being is finally free from the mental bonds that have kept it prisoner. “Exhale – Expel” Maynard chants along to Adam’s cool guitar bends and a nice plodding bass by Justin. The tribal beats also include sounds of water droplets dancing along to the rhythm. This entity is free, but now vengeful, and soon chases away it’s Deceiver.
This opening track really sets the mood of the entire album in my opinion. It’s like the last 13 years have not happened, and Tool is still progressing as a creative unit. I want to emphasis the term “creative unit” here. This band is not your typical Rock/Alternative band with typical roles of front man/singer, guitar, bass, drum… Every member in this band is as one and each contribute equally to its sound and creation. Maynard is not really a front man, but more of a narrator using unique vocal delivery and lyrics to flesh out other interpretations of the music.
Adam starts this track off with a nice droning riff, followed by cool steel drumming by Danny. Justin then takes over with a playful bass groove like playing hopscotch in a minefield. Adam follows suit
along with Danny and the three dance to the jam while waiting on Maynard to join in on the fun.
“We are spirit bound to this flesh; We go ‘round one foot nailed down. But bound to reach out and beyond this flesh- Become Pneuma.”
These lyrics hit hard for me, as I have always felt my spirit is more than what’s in this human form. Is it trapped? Or is it just using this body to communicate and project outward the best way it can under this containment?
“We are born of one breath, one word; we are all one spark, sun becoming.” Then, a nasty riff crashes in from Adam, just to be joined in the hopscotch Justin-dance with Adam and Danny. It feels as if the heavy distortion symbolizes our energy escaping the constraints of our entity. Once we are let loose our “light” goes on a little journey here, traveling along to the cool time passage drumming from Danny. Now it’s Justin’s bass coming along for the ride, and soon the three soar to new heights; culminating in a euphoric heavy climatic bliss. “Child, wake up! Child, release the light!”
Don’t laugh, but at first listen to this I imagine I’m Peter Frampton; not actually Peter the person but INSIDE the person. Yes, I know I’m
strange… Most of you know the “Do You Feel Like We Do” Talk Box sound he makes to great effect on “Frampton Comes Alive”, right? Well, I feel like I’m that voice in Peter’s throat but it’s trapped and trying to escape. I’m projecting out from the inside, out of his throat, out of his mouth and into the sound of echoes of the crowd, but after all that struggle to be free there is no crowd after-all, but just empty space. My voice will never be heard…
There’s a song by Depeche Mode called “Dream On” and the beginning to “Invincible” has a similar vibe. I feel like I’m searching, on the hunt, prepared and ready for battle…
“Warrior struggling- to remain consequential; Bellow aloud- bold and proud; Of where I’ve been- But here I am”. An echoing bass riff from Justin sets the tone of this battle cry to days’ past. “Weapon out and Belly in” is how I felt in my teens and tweens. My body was a machine; a weapon, and I was ready to conquer the world and had the attitude, motivation and energy to make it happen. But here I am now…
“Warrior struggling- to remain relevant; Warrior struggling- to remain consequential. Cry aloud - Bold and proud; Of where I've been- But here I am- Where I end…”
The chugging bass is met with atmospheric guitar by Adam with hints of aggression that still lingers on in this soldier’s spirit as he searches for his next battle. The “Depeche” riff makes its presence again as his search continues… until he’s finally there...
An awesome riff kicks in as to mimic the soldier’s heartbeat and anticipation. “Cry aloud- Bold and proud!” sings Maynard as the battle ensues. Danny delivers incredible drum fills in the vein of Neil Peart as the time signatures change tempo for the fight. The triumphant sound of a phased-out solo by Adam declares the victory dance groove that follows. Then one more surge…
Danny and Justin then put a halt to the celebration with sounds of a heart slowing to a restful state. Maynard’s voice phases in reminiscent of the voice on Pink Floyd’s “Sheep”: “Tears in my eyes- Chasing Ponce De Leon’s phantom; Soul filled with hope I can taste mythical fountains; False hope, perhaps, but the truth never got in my way; Before now, feel the sting, feeling time bearing down.”
What follows next is the best riff progression on the album from Adam, Danny, and Justin. The droning bass and plodding beat are in perfect sync with the heavy guitar. It is the sound of spirit in its purest form being set free. This warrior is free from the confines of age and pain; he has transcended.
A spaceship from time descends to offer its message of droning memories and echoing insights. It is a warning not to place yourself among large crowds as their beliefs, habits, and persuasion will affect you.
You will soon be “more greedy, more ambitious, more voluptuous, and even more cruel and inhuman, because you have been among human beings.”
Waves of emotion and transference are communicated like waves over your soul in this song’s delivery; however, I disagree with these thoughts that Seneca wrote in his moral letters to Lucilius. To me the more people who infiltrate your life the more you learn about yourself and who you want yourself to be. Knowledge is power! It is up to you to decide how to use it.
Another fantastic bass rhythm comes from Justin to start this message of preparation to save ourselves: “Free fall through our midnight- This epilogue of our own fable; Heedless in our slumber- Floating nescient we
free fall through this boundlessness; This madness of our own making.”
Heavy lyrics from Maynard’s heavy vision of humanity. A similar type vibe as “Invincible” starts this polyrhythmic experience: “Drifting through this boundlessness- This madness of our own making”.
Adam spices things up with a nice heavy riff to set off the “to be or not to be” message of “Descending”. Then he rips into an angry growl riff that morphs into awesome slide work that takes this song to whole other level. “Stir us from our wanton slumber; Mitigate our ruin; Call us all to arms and order” demands Maynard as the song reaches new heights as they prepare for the grand finale.
The song builds to a frenetic pace of energy waves and tribal bass riffs and drum beats, then soars with more solos from Adam, including a nod to Tony Iommi’s riff on “Paranoid”. He then kicks in a wicked wah sound that feeds the hungry song until it “Descends” into climatic bliss of obscure waves that wash upon us until a floating stop.
Atmospheric keyboard sounds bring this tune into your view as it segues into a guitar part that reminds me of an altered take on The Exorcist theme “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield.
“Disembodied voices deepen my suspicious tendencies; Conversations we've never had imagined interplay; Psychopathy- Don't you dare point that at me” urges Maynard as the song morphs into another great rhythm strum of bass, guitar, and faintly- tapped drums by Danny. The strumming stops suddenly leaving only the tapping drum sounds just to be joined up again by Exorcist guitar work and bass. The song then morphs into a rhumba vibe: “Psychopathy- Misleading me over and over and over…”
The song picks up steam with this rhumba rhythm then Adam transforms the party into a heavy rock riff. “Don’t you dare point that thing at me!” Maynard exclaims as the song turns into another great jam, just to be halted suddenly by the atmospheric keyboards. C’mon guys, let us Rock Out a little here! LOL
Speaking of tubular bells, here they are getting welded onto one another, creating a nasty but beautiful sound set to a computer rhythm.
Some really cool drum fills are played by Danny to enhance this crazy mess of goodness. This is a sugar rush gone psycho. The drums are simply spectacular here and showcase why Danny Carey is the best drummer currently active on the music scene today.
The longest song on the album and also the best song on the album. At over 15 minutes long, Tool takes it to another level with 7Empest, and so does guitarist Adam Jones.
Another beautiful intro comes in along with awesome cymbal work by Danny. But suddenly you are stunned by this monster of a guitar riff from Adam that grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let go. Maynard, who has been somewhat quiet and reflective in his delivery this whole album, starts bellowing a primal chant to raise your blood level to handle this monster, “Here we go again…” He belts as the song comes into focus:
“Calm as cookies and cream, so it seems; We're not buying your dubious state of serenity; Acting all surprised when you're caught in the lie; We know better; It’s not unlike you; We know your nature.”
Aenima and 10,000 Days’-type riffs collide into an onslaught of wah-infected effects and drum patterns. The bass hits as heavy as the riffs and beats as this song is beaten relentlessly into your senses. Maynard’s delivery of the lyrics is just as imposing onto your brain: “Calm before the tempest comes to reign all over. Disputing intentions invites devastation. A tempest must be true to its nature!”
I cannot say enough about how great Adam’s solos and playing are on this song. If I could only have one song that encompasses everything I had to offer as a guitarist it would sound like this. Unfortunately, I will never be able to express myself in this manner. Guitarists play, guitarists who can’t play write about guitarist who can play! Adam is given all the breathing room he needs in this song by his teammates to bare his soul and energy to the world.
This isn’t soloing just to solo, as Adams contributions fit this song perfectly and send your mind and senses swirling along with those polyrhythmic drum patterns by Danny and pulsing bass notes by Justin. But another key to this song’s strength is Maynard’s voice as it adds another sonic dimension to the elements: “The Tempest Must Be Just That!” he hammers out in perfect synchronicity to the vibe being communicated.
At one point, Adam hits a descending note sequence that is truly out of this world as the song finally calms to a cymbal-ridden tempo.
But you’re not off the hook yet, the grinding raw riff gets even darker just to hammer the message home: “A Tempest Must Be Just That!”
The sounds of birds chirping along with guitar pick scratches and tribal toms are all roasted on a fire pit with this soundscape, or should I say “soundscrape” to bring the album to a conclusion.
Maybe the birds are trying to revive our senses after they were just beaten into oblivion by this masterpiece of sound that is FEAR INOCULUM.