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Artist IconTool
Artist Icon Fear Inoculum
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First Released

Calendar Icon 2019


Genre Icon Progressive Metal


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Album Description
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Fear Inoculum is the fifth studio album by American rock band Tool. It is the band's first album in thirteen years, due to creative, personal, and legal issues band members encountered since 2006's 10,000 Days. The album was released on August 30, 2019, to critical acclaim, with reviewers agreeing that the band had successfully refined their established sound.

In 2006, Tool released their fourth studio album, 10,000 Days. It topped the US Billboard 200 album chart and was certified platinum by the RIAA, indicating more than one million units sold, a month later. The band toured heavily in support of the album, playing more than 200 shows through 2007. After this, frontman Maynard James Keenan mentioned that he saw Tool breaking up in the near future, and focused on his side-project, Puscifer. However, by early 2008, at the 50th Grammy Awards, Keenan announced to MTV that the band would begin writing new material for their fifth studio album "right away".

The band was quiet over the next few years, only with Tool's website announcing that guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor, and drummer Danny Carey were working on instrumental material while Keenan focused his efforts on Puscifer. The approach was consistent with what the band had done in the past, with Keenan waiting to write vocals and lyrics until instrumentals were completed. In 2012, the band's website was updated again, with the webmaster writing that they had heard instrumental material that had "sounded like Tool…some of it reminiscent to earlier Tool stuff, with other parts pushing the envelope" and that they estimated that the album was around half done.

Outside problems slowed progress on the album over the following years. In 2013, it was reported that two separate scooter accidents injured two undisclosed members of the band, eliminating nine days of planned “jamming” time. Carey later revealed himself as one of the involved members, noting that he had been involved in a motorcycle accident that resulted in multiple cracked ribs, which caused him pain that further slowed recording. Keenan summed up the album's progress at the time in a cooking analogy, explaining that "Basically right now it's a lot of ideas. There's no actual songs…It's still kind of noodles in a big basket. Lots of noodles, just no dishes." In 2014, Jones and Carey revealed that complicated legal issues and court battles stemming from a 2007 lawsuit had been slowing down the process as well. The issues stemmed from a lawsuit from a friend who claimed credit for artwork the band had used, but escalated after an insurance company involved sued the band over technicalities, leading to the band then counter-suing the insurance company. The constant court battles and delays, coupled with other life obligations, limited the band's time for working on music, and drained members of their motivation to be creative and write music. At the time, Carey stated that only one song was “pretty much done”, an untitled ten-minute track. In 2015, Jones announced that the legal issues were completely over.

The four of us are a lot of fucking work, just to get anywhere, oh my god. Everything’s a fucking committee meeting and it always gets shut down. success. When you get successful, you think you’re right about everything and you’re pretty sure as that individual — ‘I am right and you are wrong, because I’m successful and we’re successful because of me, not because of you.’ It’s not that bad with us, but there’s a dynamic of like, ‘I want this and I’ve always gotten my way and that’s why we’re successful, because I don’t compromise on this or that.’ I’m the same way. I’m totally the same way.
Maynard James Keenan, on the creative struggles on writing Fear Inoculum.
Work on the album continued to progress through 2015, albeit "slowly", according to Keenan. Jones reported that the band had 20 different song ideas being developed. The band toured some, and debuted a new track, "Descending", albeit in a shortened, incomplete form, according to Jones. Jones also reported that instrumentals had been completed and passed on to Keenan to work on, though he hesitated to call any of the work "done". While it was reported in early 2016 by the band's webmaster that it was largely just a few shorter songs and interludes that needed finishing, by the end of the year, Chancellor described the band's status as still "deep into the writing process”. He explained that while main themes and a loose "skeleton" had been established, Jones, Carey, and himself were continually creating and reworking new instrumental content. This work on the album continued throughout 2017. At the time, Carey predicted finishing and releasing in mid-2018, while Keenan countered these claims, stating it would likely take longer than that to finish. Jones, Chancellor, and Carey continued to work on the album while Keenan returned to A Perfect Circle in late 2017 to work with Billy Howerdel to record and release their fourth studio album Eat the Elephant in early 2018. By February 2018, Keenan announced that he had received rough music files from the rest of the band members containing instrumentals labeled "FINAL" for all but one track on the album in the prior few months, and had since started writing lyrics and vocal melodies.

On March 10, 2018, Tool entered a major recording studio to start recording sessions with producer Joe Barresi, whom they had worked with on 10,000 Days. On May 11, it was reported that all drum parts had been tracked. In September, Keenan announced he had finished recording scratch vocals, but had not started final vocal takes. In January 2019, Keenan announced that he had finished his final vocal recording sessions "months ago", but that the album would still likely require lengthy mixing sessions. In the same month, Carey stated that they aimed to release the album in April 2019, though Keenan countered that this was unrealistic, instead pointing to a release between May and July. The band was in the studio with Bob Ludwig in March 2019; Ludwig had also mastered 10,000 Days.

Composition and themes
The album consists of seven main tracks of music, and a run time just short of 80 minutes, the maximum runtime of CDs. The digital version of the album contains three short interlude tracks, stemming from Carey’s scrapped plan to have the album be entirely one long song. Jones and Carey described the songs as lengthy, but containing multiple movements within each track. The concept of seven is a recurring theme of the album both musically and conceptually; Chancellor and Jones wrote guitar riffs in unusual time signatures related to the number seven, while Keenan introduced ideas related to seven as well. Future music videos will also cover the theme. The album also explores the concept of growing "older and wiser". Keenan explained that the album covers the idea of "embracing where we are right now, acknowledging where we've come from and some of the things we've gone through." Keenan also advised that patience and multiple listens were required in understanding the album, comparing it to a slowly developing movie. Jones described it as very different from their prior album (10,000 Days). Music critics and journalists have described the album as progressive rock, progressive metal, and alternative metal.
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Album Review
About a month ago Tool uploaded their music onto streaming services for the first time – simultaneously creating an Instagram account and actually giving us a new single too ('Fear Inoculum'), while basically signalling to everyone in the world that the 13 year wait for a new Tool album is finally over.

For a band like Tool releasing an album is an event with each move documented and commented on in internet forums the world over. Their fans are unlike any other fanbase – except for that of maybe Rick & Morty (where I’m sure there is an overlap) and each critic who comment on the album WILL be called an idiot by a fan at some point or other if they choose to make a statement on the album. Because, “what the **** do critics know anyway?” so, here goes:

It’s a magnificent experience. Three songs in I needed popcorn and I’d already written down that my writing wasn’t good enough to describe the album. The version this writer was invited to listen too was an edited 75-minute version without the various two-three minute segues that act as interludes between the tracks which appears in the full 90-minute version.

With the release this Friday imminent it led to a clearing of the diary for the night – ordering some damn fine speakers, a vinyl player and a large wingback chair, frantically searching online for a place with the most dramatic fireplace just so one can truly enjoy the full 'Fear Inoculum' experience.

Somehow this doesn’t feel like this it’s overkill - a requirement rather than a recommendation to respect the musicality and gravitas of the release.

Each of the seven movements (for that is what they deserve to be called) comes in around nine to 15 minutes long, save for 'Chocolate Chip Trip' with its highly distorted, almost Infected Mushroom-esque sound could almost be accused of being an interlude at a mere four minutes.

The songwriting is thick with imagery, long solos, sounds created by instruments that no one else really uses, ambiguous lyrics and constantly changing time signatures that will catch you tapping along out of time, even if you have perfect rhythm. The first truly old school “Tool” song (after the title track 'Fear Inoculum') is 'Culling Voices' a neurotic dialogue between the character Maynard embodies and his own psychopathy.

The whole album can be split in two between those that sound like old school Tool ('Fear Inoculum', 'Culling Voices' and '7empest') and those that don’t. The rest of the tracks, are undoubtedly still them, but has a softer touch, much less distortion in the voice, less of the heavy bass and almost subtle drumming, sans the onslaught of drums that has come to be their trademark. Descending is one of these pieces and my favourite track on the album [probably off any of the albums based on one listen] simply because of the guitar that could almost be another vocalist.

Opening with the title track 'Fear Inoculum' we hear the distinctive Tool experimentation – playing with [maybe?!] a tuning fork put through a synthesiser, some bongo drums and then the distinctive bass, and the 9 minute build up that suddenly ends leaving you wanting more.

'Pneuma' is more uplifting – almost a call to arms by the band to remind people to stand as one:

We are will and wonder, bound to recall – remember
We are Born of One Breath, One Word.
We are all One Spark,
Sun becoming

'Invincible' is where Maynard really let’s his guard down. The use of an aging warrior motif displaying an insight into his own fears of getting old?

'7empest' the final track in the edited version of the album can best be described as a thick bucket of paint. It just has layers and layers of production – the drums, guitar, bass and voice all independently magnificent and one could happily sit and listen to this single song again and again just to take in the nuances of the musicality in it. By far the most 90s metal of the album, it has a timeless quality to it that could sit in any of Tool’s previous albums quite happily. One could go on. But already I’m past the word limit, so instead I leave you with this thought:

How Tool transposes into the more modern audiences of today will be fascinating. Typically people have short attention spans with shorter introductions than ever before – often introducing musical phrases from the hook immediately to grab the casual listener and prevent them immediately pressing “skip”. One hopes that people will give this album the time of day it deserves and understand that whilst writing this album Tool have thrown away and dumped entire albums worth of material, constantly going back over the last 5-year writing period and tinkering, rewriting, rerecording in an effort to get it exactly right.

This methodology alone means that even if you have a penchant for rock or metal you should try it.

If you’re not a fan, or never heard of them before this is the perfect album to start introduce yourself to them.

So, warm up your sofas and settle in to enjoy your first listen of the latest album from one of the world’s most legendary bands - ideally uncluttered by other distractions.

Because: trust me on this, it will hold your attention.


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