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Tool: Fear Inoculum

PTSDog      Wednesday, September 4, 2019

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     Admittedly, until I decided to listen to Tool’s fifth studio release, “Fear Inoculum”, I was a casual Tool fan. I could tell you about the singles that received radio play. “Sober”, of course, “H.”, “Forty Six & 2”. I’ve always enjoyed Tool’s radio-friendly songs, and was expecting similar tracks when I first pressed play on “Fear Inoculum”.
     Well, this is not early Tool, and, unfortunately, even the title track, which was also released as the first single from the album 13 years in the making, isn’t a heavy-rotation kind of piece.
     Many Tool fans will not recognize the bands I’m about to throw out there, but many may - because the first thing I thought of as I began “Fear Inoculum” is the same thing I am thinking of as I write this review: it's like we're back in 1975-1986; Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Pallas, Rush, Fripp & Eno, King Crimson all rolled up into the introspective musings of a late middle-aged man realizing he's not going to live forever.
     Although there is nothing really new or innovative on this album, musically, it is stunning. Prog rock era synths and modern recording techniques blend together to create a soundscape punctuated by the grinding metal guitar sound of Adam Jones and the solid, no-nonsense bass of Justin Chancellor. Drummer and synth player Danny Carey stands out particularly on this album - especially in the polyrhythmic sections of the album’s 4th track, "Invincible". "Invincible", by the way, is probably the most relatable track on the album in the mind of this Veteran:
Photo from in tooth and soul
Longing for another win
Lurch into the fray

Warrior struggling
To remain consequesntial …
     Lyrically, what I hear is a middle-aged man coming to the realization that he’s mortal. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, Maynard James Keenan’s voice is capable of carrying much meatier conceptual material. Although nothing is necessarily wasted musically, there’s nothing ground-breaking in Keenen’s vocals or lyrics either. Although I found the track "Invincible" relatable, it was only relatable on a superficial level. An anthem for those who don’t understand that they never lost consequentiality, just perspective. And that’s what I don’t like about Keenan’s lyrics - they’re superficial. The lyrics of 1993’s tracks “Sober” or “Intolerance” had far deeper intellectual repercussions than any track on "Fear Inoculum".
     I have to say, if you’re a casual Tool fan, you’ll probably hate "Fear Inoculum". If you remember the deep tracks and wild musical musings of the prog rock era, "Fear Inoculum" will take you back to that time - and that’s the issue I have with Fear Inoculum: although it is far from a bad album it does not stretch your imagination any further than anything that has been done before - it’s nothing new, just things we’re extremely familiar with put together in mildly interesting new ways.
Article written by: PTSDog - DV & DV Radio's Expert Service Animal

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