Tool’s New Album Was Well Worth the Wait


For a long 13 years, fans of alternative metal band Tool have waited for new material.

As the band teased a fifth album not long after the release of “10,000 Days” in 2006, nobody expected it would take this long. Some fans even turned away from Tool’s music, not being able to stand the increasingly outrageous wait.

Those fans, and many more, were blessed in June with sweet elixir in the form of a cryptic release date, Aug. 30, which frontman Maynard James Keenan repeatedly reinforced and backed up when “Fear Inoculum” became available on streaming services.

In honor of a metal band surpassing Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey on the Billboard 200, here’s a take on the new album that features seven songs, all but one of which are at least 10 minutes long. There are also three obligatory Tool segways songs that are only available digitally.

The title track “Fear Inoculum” represents the only officially released single from Tool’s new album, and it’s a well-rounded summary of what came later in the month.

The song features bass riffs characteristic of Justin Chancellor’s previous work, but expanding upon it, weaving an even more beautiful tapestry with guitarist Adam Jones’ innovative technique and often wacky melodies.

Keenan sounds the same even 13 years later, a testament to his superb vocal skills. The song wasn’t as potent an introduction as the single “Vicarious” from previous “10,000 Days”. But at least he’s not singing through a megaphone in riot gear.

“Pneuma” is the best song on the album, but it could be easily called “Schism Pt. 2”. At its core, it’s a clone of the best song off of “Lateralus”. Both open with slow, spacey chord progressions, feature bass as the centerpiece of all main riffs and melodies, and sport Keenan’s rambling nonsense, something about uniting the spirit or something.

“Invincible” and “Descending” actually debuted live in a June concert and were spread on poor iPhone recordings.

The ambient water noises at the beginning of “Descending before the (surprise, surprise) arpeggiated riff are provided by Lustmord, who also created rain noises for “10,000 Days (Wings Pt. 2)”.

Although strikingly similar to “Invincible”, “Descending” is the better of the core tracks of the album, in no small part due to the killer guitar solo, which showcases some of Jones’s best work on the album. It also features an edgy Keenan complaining about how society sucks.

More ambient noises preceding the obligatory arpeggiated introduction and main riff in  “Culling Voices” serves to once more encapsulate the essence of the album. As with most of the other titles, there’s a full band playing in this one, including some fun and bouncy drumming by Danny Carey in some areas.

“Chocolate Chip Trip” has absolutely nothing and simultaneously everything to do with  what Tool fans have come to expect. The song is a fantastically performed masterpiece. This is the epitome of Carey, outpacing even his skillful drumming at the start of “Ticks & Leeches” off “Lateralus”.

The song “7empest” supposedly came to fruition after the band discovered they had written many riffs and melodies of various songs on this album in 7/8 time.

After the standard arpeggiated melody at the beginning, the anticipation was becoming unbearable. Then it hit. The main riff is way nastier than anything Tool has played, and that includes the early albums. It’s one of the best Tool riffs and the best album closer ever written.