What’s the best way to objectively review Tool’s new album Fear Inoculum?  By now you’ve heard that it’s Tool’s first album in 13 years and it’s an 86-minute + monolithic monster.  Some have attempted to review Fear Inoculum by comparing it to Tool’s formidable back catalog.  While that approach has merit, I believe that it takes away from enjoying this new artistic statement.  It seems that most of those reviews tend to focus on what the band should have done and while hindsight is a great thing, it’s completely unnecessary and allows too much bias when it focuses on past glories.   

Fear Inoculum is a dense and nuanced experience and one that rewards dedicated multiple listens in its entirety.  Themes run rampant as they do on any Tool album but the most prominent seems to be forgoing criticisms, aging and relevance. Fear Inoculum is Tool’s midlife crisis album; it’s a harrowing experience for most who would rather ignore it but Tool have a few things to say about the issue. The title track on Fear Inoculum kicks things off with dramatic aplomb by featuring a Middle Eastern melody and tablas aplenty all the while encouraging listeners to hear the tale of expelling all contagions. The primary conceit of the track is that one is cleansed of naysayers, one can truly be pure.   

Continuing the Tool dispense with critics on the psychedelic “Pneuma” which may be one of the best tracks on Fear Inoculum.  “Pneuma” is pensive, meditative tangle of polyrhythmic goodness and punctuated by staccato blasts of fuzz guitar resolve. “Pneuma” might also be drummer Danny Carey’s best moment on the album although the atmospheric “Chocolate Chip Trip” is definitely a highlight.    

Relevancy is exemplified by the mid album track “Invincible” with the lyrics focusing on the warrior who’s refusing to give in: 

“Long in tooth and soul. Longing for another win. 

Lurch into the fray. Weapon out and belly in. 
Warrior struggling to remain consequential.” 

“Descending” carries a wide berth, it’s at times cinematic and ruminating on the possibility of an inevitable end.  Heady stuff for a rock band and although this concept is not new for Tool, “Descending” could be considered a fatalistic parallel to “Invincible.” Dispensing critics receives a refrain in the form of “Culling Voices” as Tool prepares for the attack in the venomous and metallic closer “7empest.” The instrumental “Mockingbeat” closes out the proceedings with the sounds of birds chirping and it appears the weight has been lifted…for now.   

Tool Tour Dates:

October 13 Sacramento, CA Aftershock Festival

October 15 Denver, CO Pepsi Center

October 18 Salt Lake City, UT Vivint Smart Home Arena

October 20 Los Angeles, CA Staples Center

October 21 Los Angeles, CA Staples Center

October 23 Glendale, AZ Gila River Arena

October 25 San Antonio, TX AT&T Center

October 27 Houston, TX Toyota Center

October 29 Tulsa, OK BOK Center

October 31 Milwaukee, WI Fiserv Forum

November 2 Indianapolis, IN Banker’s Life Fieldhouse

November 3 Chicago, IL United Center

November 5 Cincinnati, OH US Bank Arena

November 6 Cleveland, OH Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse

November 8 Pittsburgh, PA PPG Paints Arena

November 9 Detroit, MI Little Caesars Arena

November 11 Toronto, ON Scotiabank Arena

November 12 Toronto, ON Scotiabank Arena

November 14 Boston, MA TD Garden

November 16 Newark, NJ Prudential Center

November 18 Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center

November 19 Brooklyn, NY Barclay’s Center

November 21 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Casino Arena

November 22 Atlantic City, NJ Boardwalk Hall

November 24 Raleigh, NC PNC Arena

November 25 Washington, DC Capitol One Arena