Release Date: Aug 30, 2019
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Experimental Rock
The Los Angeles progressive group's first album in 13 years is, at times, a languid and blissful work - one that will richly reward future listens. They are the 'feeling person's' metal band There comes a point in a person's fandom where one just stops caring. You get older. You move on. You become ….
With almost 13 years and four months between releases -- an interminable wait for their devoted legion of fans -- enigmatic alt-metal band Tool finally returned at the end of summer 2019 with their long-awaited fifth album, Fear Inoculum. Clocking in at 80 minutes with just seven official tracks, this is less a straightforward rock record and more a mind-bending journey, borrowing a classical approach that trades traditional constructs heard on early radio staples like "Stinkfist" and "Sober" for something akin to movements within a symphony. Much like the directional shift that occurred around the time of 2001's Lateralus, Fear Inoculum expands on 10,000 Days' alternative, prog-metal jam band design while recapturing some of the excitement and freshness from their commercial peak during the Ænima/Lateralus years.
A new TOOL record cannot exist in a vacuum. The context surrounding it can't help but alter how it is received and perceived. Like it or not, they're a band that inspire fervent idolatry from their legion of die-hard fans, and abject, sneering ridicule from their detractors. Taken too seriously by the former, and not seriously at all by the latter, TOOL are the textbook definition of "divisive," hailed as mold-breaking geniuses by one camp, and tediously pretentious by the other.
The Lowdown: Thirteen years in the making, and Tool have finally returned with their long-awaited fifth album, Fear Inoculum. The wait tested the patience of the band's notoriously dedicated following, and every year the question was raised: "Is the Tool album coming out?" Any inkling of a new song or even a tidbit of information was dissected and glorified to the point where the band's privacy was compromised. Singer Maynard James Keenan even received death threats because of the album's delay.
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.
I t says something about the power of Tool that, even after 13 years, four blokes who like weird time signatures and lyrics about purging, fear and flesh can nearly knock a pop star off the global top spot. At the start of August, the enigmatic prog-metallers finally made their entire back catalogue available on streaming services for the first time: every one of their albums went Top 10 on iTunes, while Sober became the highest charting song after Ariana Grande's Boyfriend. The band realised that they had to "roll with the times", guitarist Adam Jones said recently - although pleasingly they are still flogging such ancient-sounding artefacts as "a tri-fold Soft Pack Video Brochure" with their new album (£79.99, in the deluxe version).