“Fear Inoculum”: Tool makes a triumphant return

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Courtesy of @toolmusic via Instagram.

After 13-long years, Tool release their newest album early Sept. "Fear Inoculum."

Séamus Reed, Arts & Entertainment Editor

“Fear Inoculum” is proof that good things are worth waiting for; the album is an experimental masterpiece, with guitar, bass, drums and synthesizer weaving in and out and crashing together for tremendous breakdowns. 

Tool broke a 13-year-long silence to release “Fear Inoculum”, a 10-song voyage into themes of despair, dystopia and apathy. Since 1990, the L.A. outfit has pushed musical boundaries by drawing in fans from heavy and doom metal, rock and alt-rock alike. Rumors of a new album, often corroborated by the band members themselves, have swirled since 2008, sending their fanbase into a frenzy.   

Talented frontman Maynard James Keenan rounds out the band with a clear, strong voice and extremely impressive vocal range. Keenan’s lyrics are often dark and brooding, building to sharp climax, and slipping down to a whisper on tracks like “7empest” and “Invincible.”

Bassist Justin Chancellor leads songs like title track “Fear Inoculum” and “Descending” with drummer Danny Carey, building a foundation with simple-yet-infectious bass lines, a staple throughout Tool’s discography.

Guitarist Adam Jones comes out on top of each bass line with dark and distorted guitar work, heavy enough to catch any metalhead’s attention. His guitar work throughout the album is momentous, and while the distorted riffs are not always overtly technical, well-placed chaotic breakdowns excuse any simplistic approach. 

Jones’s acoustic intros to “Pneuma” and “7empest” ring out clean and clear, often overlaid with synthesizer; creating a circular, trance-like rhythm.

Notable tracks include the titular “Fear Inoculum,” which begins with spacey, Middle Eastern-reminiscent drums and synth. The song builds quickly into a bass line and Keenan’s haunting vocals, whispering “Bless this immunity.” James’s guitar cuts deep into the bass, ringing clearly throughout the song. The song weaves back on itself with more ambient synthesizers, then quickly back to heavy guitar.

“Invincible” is a profound contemplation of a soldier who has passed their prime. Keenan sings of a “warrior struggling to remain consequential” while Jones plays an eerie guitar hook. Shredding starts around the three-minute mark.

Interspersed throughout the album are short, transitional tracks like “Chocolate Chip Trip,” a goofy synthesizer track near the record’s end.

“Fear Inoculum” is an exotic and thought-provoking piece of art. The album’s release, coinciding with Tool’s long-awaited arrival to streaming platforms, is a shiver-inducing reminder of the band’s relevancy. “Fear Inoculum” brought Tool fans out of hiding and is sure to recruit many soon-to-be diehards. We can only hope that more new music is on the way.