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Tool - Fear Inoculum (Album Review)

Friday, 06 September 2019 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Travis Shinn

If you’ve waited a long time for something, you might as well spend a long time with it once it finally arrives, right? Tool’s return, after a 13 year absence that amounted to torture for their committed following, is a slow moving, dense work defined by its patient approach. Its steadfast insistence on hitting its marks in its own time, and skipping zero pages in the band’s playbook, will delight diehards.

‘Fear Inoculum’ follows the band’s recent uploading of their earlier records to streaming services, ending one of the longer, more high profile holdouts. Like its predecessors, though, it is resolutely anti-streaming in its presentation. Rather than rewarding short, sharp thrills it prefers to luxuriate in the quartet’s talents—giving over minutes at a time to the creative wiles of drummer Danny Carey and guitarist Adam Jones as Maynard James Keenan’s metaphysical lyrics stalk in the shadows.

Given the second-guessing and creative anxiety that dogged the writing and recording process, it is a remarkably together piece of work.

It doesn’t sound like it took 13 years to make—in reality it could have come out shortly after ‘10,000 Days’ without raising too many eyebrows. But it does thrive on Tool’s forensic understanding of their sound and what buttons to push to bring out each element in turn.

As Invincible crunches towards the 10 minute mark (only one song on the physical version of the LP falls short, so bring snacks) Carey’s drums are thrillingly overtaken by a surge of riffage from Jones. This gear change lands like a hammer blow, only for Maynard to swoop in a lift things up another notch. It’s seamless, and remarkably feels spontaneous rather than workshopped. 

Similarly, the title track’s barely-contained melodic smarts are allowed just the right amount of space among Carey’s polyrhythmic sprawl. In moments like this it’s as though everyone has finally settled in and admitted that perhaps they should all have a say: apparently Tool is a committee that made an actual horse, not a camel. 

Still, there is plenty here to test the patience of interlopers. There’s the huge running time, the empty promises of digital-only tracks like Legion Inoculant, and the bargain basement prog artwork. Tool, though, are simply going about their business: you don’t make a record like this over the course of a teenage life and then apologise for how it turned out. 

Tool Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue October 15 2019 - DENVER Colorado - Pepsi Center - Denver (USA)
Fri October 18 2019 - SALT LAKE CITY Utah - Vivint Smart Home Arena (USA)
Sun October 20 2019 - LOS ANGELES California - Staples Center (USA)
Mon October 21 2019 - LOS ANGELES California - Staples Center (USA)
Wed October 23 2019 - GLENDALE Arizona - Gila River Arena (USA)
Fri October 25 2019 - SAN ANTONIO Texas - AT&T Center (USA)
Sun October 27 2019 - HOUSTON Texas - Toyota Center - TX (USA)
Tue October 29 2019 - TULSA Oklahoma - BOK Center (USA)
Thu October 31 2019 - MILWAUKEE Wisconsin - Fiserv Forum (USA)
Sat November 02 2019 - INDIANAPOLIS Indiana - Bankers Life Fieldhouse (USA)
Sun November 03 2019 - CHICAGO Illinois - United Center (USA)
Tue November 05 2019 - CINCINNATI Ohio - US Bank Arena (USA)
Wed November 06 2019 - CLEVELAND Ohio - Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse (USA)
Fri November 08 2019 - PITTSBURGH Pennsylvania - PPG Paints Arena (USA)
Sat November 09 2019 - DETROIT Michigan - Little Caesars Arena (USA)
Mon November 11 2019 - TORONTO Ontario - Scotiabank Arena (Canada)
Tue November 12 2019 - TORONTO Ontario - Scotiabank Arena (Canada)
Thu November 14 2019 - BOSTON Massachusetts - TD Garden (USA)
Sat November 16 2019 - NEWARK New Jersey - Prudential Center (USA)
Mon November 18 2019 - PHILADELPHIA Pennsylvania - Wells Fargo Center (USA)
Tue November 19 2019 - BROOKLYN New York - Barclays Center (USA)
Thu November 21 2019 - UNCASVILLE Connecticut - Mohegan Sun Arena (USA)
Fri November 22 2019 - ATLANTIC CITY New Jersey - Boardwalk Hall Arena (USA)
Sun November 24 2019 - RALEIGH North Carolina - PNC Arena (USA)
Mon November 25 2019 - WASHINGTON DC - Capital One Arena (USA)

Click here to compare & buy Tool Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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