I'd like to first preface that I don't generally review bands of this nature, as I generally write about more underground Punk, Alternative, and Hardcore artists, but felt inclined as a huge Tool fan to share my thoughts about their new album, Fear Inoculum, directed specifically at Tool fans, not at casuals who made up their mind before even listening to the album.
I am on what is most likely my eighth time through this album- I stopped counting as it has been coming through every combination of speakers that I own for the last few days. The first time I listened to the album, like most Tool fans, I was just so distracted by the fact that I was sitting down and listening to new Tool. Tool fans will tell you the constant teases of "new Tool this week" we have gotten for almost a decade. This lead to a lot of feelings of " you know what, we're just never going to get a new album and that's okay". But it finally came.
The second time listening through, I actually listened to the music instead of just smiling like an idiot. What stayed the same between both initial listens, was the fact that the dynamics of this album really stood out to me. Tool is big on listeners experiencing their music to the fullest extent (ie. listening to the album as a whole instead of skipping around songs, and seeing them play live), hence why their music was never on streaming platforms and why Tool fans have never gotten a live DVD- at least professionally done. I won't say this is Tool's best album, but it definitely sticks out as it's own entity, and might be their best album to listen to straight through, really solidifying the importance of listening to a whole Tool album. The progression of the tracks is not only a giant build-up instrumentally, but the emotion of the album can be felt immensely by the time "7empest" kicks in as what seems to be the albums climax. I believe it's around the 11:30 mark where it really gets me.
I called this album it's own entity, because it lacks certain qualities of past Tool albums (heavier breakdowns, angrier MJK, etc), but I don't find that to be a bad thing whatsoever- and to be honest, each Tool album has their signature sound, but there are major differences in the feel of each of their releases. This album feels like they incorporated 3 albums together: Puscifer's Money Shot, A Perfect Circle's Thirteenth Step, and Tool's 10,000 Days. I'm a huge fan of MJK's other projects, so this is probably why I enjoyed this album so much. It's softer, calmer, but it makes the heavier instrumental parts way more significant, emulating whatever feeling or mood they're trying to convey- I'm not even going to pretend to understand the lyrical depth of their music or overanalyze it because to each person, it's going to be significantly different.
A few years ago I went out to see Tool in Arizona at the Monster Mash Festival- it was Tool's only tour date for that year. I had the pleasure of seeing them outside surrounded by desert and tall mountains. It was AWESOME. The next day, I saw MJK's other band, Puscifer, on the day they released Money Shot. Hearing Puscifer in Arizona was a significant experience to witness, especially when followed up by visiting Maynard's winery, and exploring the area of Sedona. Not to hippie out or anything, but sitting on the top of a mountain, looking out into a canyon during sunset in Sedona, was a pretty powerful thing. Whenever I listened to Money Shot after that, I could feel this sense of mysticism that you see and witness while in Arizona. This was the immediate feeling I felt when I listened to Fear Inoculum. The album isn't about the individual songs themselves, but the journey along the way while listening to the entire album. Fear Inoculum, while maybe not the album everyone was fantasizing in their minds, is an incredible album for Tool fans to experience. It feels as if you just finished watching a blockbuster epic movie by the end of the album.
I hope this isn't Tool's final album, but I will keep listening and enjoying their "swan song and epilogue."