As long as they've been around, Fear Inoculum is only the fifth full-length studio album from progressive metal act Tool, hardly a group that can be called prolific by any means. But, they've made a habit of making their albums count, fine tuning and meticulously working on each release for years and years, driving their fan base into a fever pitch in anticipation, almost ensuring that each new platter become an epic event. And epic is certainly what Fear Inoculum is, initially only being released digitally and via limited edition CD version, which features a 4" HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, charging cable, 2 watt speaker, a 36 page booklet and download card, with perhaps a vinyl and regular CD release to be announced. Leave it to Tool to not do things conventionally!
As for the music, the album was produced by the band, with engineering and mixing handled by Joe Barresi, who also worked with the group on their 10,000 Days album way back in 2006. That's right, 13 years since the last Tool release. Chock full of epic length songs, Fear Inoculum pulses, weaves, grooves, and bashes for close to 90-minutes, the bands intoxicating blend of complex, hypnotic heavy metal and avant-garde sounds ever present, starting off with the dreamy title cut, 10-minutes of tribal drums and percolating guitar& bass lines, Maynard Keenan's trance inducing vocals floating over the top. "Pneuma" is one of the most intriguing tracks here, another song that draws you in with its hypnotic nature, but with plenty of headbanging moments, Danny Carey's drumming mesmerizing and the riffs of Adam Jones sublime. The final moments launch into an almost proggy, Middle Eastern vibe that is quite enchanting. "Invincible" is another lengthy number at nearly 13-minutes long, a slow builder with lilting guitar patterns and tribal percussion before Justin Chancellor leathery bass lines join the party, signaling the arrival of heavier riffing as the song continues to build in intensity accompanied by Maynard's angry vocals, a guitar & synth solo. The groove laden "Descending" continues on with the dreamy, pulsating theme of this album, Carey's drumming again having that tribal feel that he's so known for, as the song fluctuates between gentle simmer and bombast, while the haunting melancholy of "Culling Voices" wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Katatonia album. The hilariously titled "Chocolate Chip Trip" is one of the few short, electronic filler pieces on the album, though a great vehicle for Carey's gymnastic drumming over bubbling synths, and "7empest' is the albums longest cut at just under 16-minutes, and also its heaviest, Keenan snarling over some tumultuous riffs and dynamic rhythms, Tool firing on all cylinders and showing they can still rock out with the best of them.
Though it's been 13 years, Tool obviously hasn't lost a step here on Fear Inoculum. Though some might quibble that the album is perhaps overly long and really only needed the six lengthy tracks, you can always count on this band doing exactly what they want to do, and nothing less. Job well done.
1) Fear Inoculum
3) Litanie Contre Le Peur
5) Legion Inoculant
7) Culling Voices
8) Chocolate Chip Trip