Fear Inoculum: Year One

Fear Inoculum: Year One

It’s almost hard to believe it’s been a year since the formal release of Tool’s latest – Fear Inoculum. And not just any year either – 2020 has been an extraordinary year in many ways, with worldwide changes that have had an impact on us all.

While I’m not of the belief that the lyrics of the title track are prophetic, there certainly is an uncanny, if somewhat informal reference to the world as it’s unfolded, which resonates among many Tool fans.

It’s a shame Tool haven’t been able to realise their tour plans for this album yet. Having been one of the lucky ones to witness the full rig in February, I look forward to them being able to reignite the tour at the right time, and the rest of you to enjoy the visual and aural feast it delivers. Who knows when this will happen? Some say 2021 – personally I’m not so sure.

Below I present a list of thoughts on the tracks of the album, as I see them a year down the track.

Fear Inoculum

The opening track on the album, the first track released by the band, and a powerful statement as to the direction of the album. Starting with Justin and Adam weaving sonically between each other, it’s clear to me why this was chosen as the lead track for the album. It has the strongest chorus on the album, and at least for the first half resembles a more traditional song style.

My favorite part of the track is the second half – Danny’s blistering drum fills, as well as Maynard’s final stanza. While initially I thought this was one of the weaker tracks on the album, I’ve really grown to love it, for the most part anyway. As a set opener it’s fantastic as well – the 3D like lightscapes combined with the high pitch synth sounds build an eerie atmosphere as the gig starts to unwind.

Pnuema

Pnuema is a real highlight for me, and it’s sometimes hard to put a finger on because it’s really the most “Tool-like” song on the album. In many ways the riffs and lyrics feel kinda recycled, yet the sum of their parts to my ears is also something relatively unique. The song lurches along at a relatively sedate pace, building to a rising and inspiring crescendo towards the end of the track.

So much is subtle about this track – Justin’s bass work subversively intertwines with the rest of the music. Adam’s riffing sounds like a bunch of things you’ve heard from Tool before, but when you start to think about how it’s played, you come to appreciate how different it actually is. Danny’s fills during the post-chorus sections are almost easily ignored, but are in fact some of the best of the album – almost overwhelmed by the huge riff Adam’s plays. Then Adam caps it all off with a wonderful solo just when you think the track is about to end. I love it – it feels like such an uplifting track, and I always seem to have a smile on my face by the end.

Litanie Contre la Peur

Segues are pretty challenging tracks to write about! I believe this one is Adam’s contribution to the album, and it’s a purely synth piece that evokes and air of mystery and spaciousness.

Invincible

We’re all getting old. Tool are, fans are, the world is. I doubt I’m the only one that resonates pretty strongly with the lyrics of this song. Call it a mid-life crisis or whatever, I find the theme of this song to be one the easier ones to relate with, and a great demonstration of Maynard’s lyrical prowess.

Musically, the track is propelled by some wonderful work with Justin on bass. The song twists somewhat halfway through, signaled by an interesting bass solo, and moves into a more upbeat climax, with a few interesting synth parts.

Legion Inoculant

Maynard’s turn to provide some hot segue action, and this one sounds like a sonic soundscape from the not distant future, consisting mostly of heavily processed vocal grabs from the album. Interesting enough listen, but I don’t really think it adds enough to the album for my ears, and I tend to skip it when listening. One of my few complaints is not that this segue exists (all Tool albums have some I skip over) but that it seems oddly placed – Descending already has a lengthy intro to it, so putting Legion Inoculant before it on the track list seems like an odd choice.

Descending

It’s a pretty common thought among Tool fans that Fear Inoculum contains some of Adam’s finest work, and is very much driven by his guitar playing. The second half of Descending is a prime example of this – seven minutes worth of some of his finest work is the highlight of this track for me. The guys put a great deal of work into making sure this track, which is a relatively slow builder, peak at the right time and place to make the most of some compelling licks. That Maynard couldn’t weave his way into the last half of the track is a very slight disappointment, but very understandable given the context of the track.

Culling Voices

It can be hard to admit certain feelings and emotions at time. We all carry baggage around that sometimes feel insurmountable. The sad news here is that I need to break up with this track. I find it one of the duller Tool moments since Undertow was released. While I liked the moody intro, and the way Maynard, Adam and eventually Justin all interweave and mingle, I find the second half to be one of the blander moments of recent Tool note. Breaking into the loud crescendo does little for me, as the riff just sounds to simplistic and basic to my ears. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled all this time. Still, if this is the worst they can do….

Chocolate Chip Trip

Live we get spoiled by a decent Danny Carey solo every night, but on albums we tend to just get some tasty fills. It’s a pleasant surprise to have a drum solo in an album though, and Danny does his usual job of showing off his stellar drumming chops. It’s hard to say if this is a track I’ll listen again and again and again, but for now I seem to skip over it very frequently.

7empest

I remember in one of the first reviews I read of Fear Inoculum prior to it’s release I read “No other band could do this. Not a chance.” For me, it sums up 7empest perfectly. It’s Fear Inoculum’s answer to Rosetta Stoned, in that it’s a truly unique style of song I only ever really hear Tool do. IT rambles, it meanders, it lurches from verse to verse. It’s as heavy as anything they’ve done in the past, yet oddly melodic in others.

I really love the long stretched out solos in the middle, that rollicking drumbeat, and the punchy bass work from Justin reigning Adam in when it feels he’s about to leave the stratosphere.

Maynard does his bit as well, managing to somehow work his way into this complex beats, and the final multilayered “Control, your delusion” verse is a highlight of the album for me.

Mockingbeat

Mockingbeat feels like a joke. On paper it is. Demented bird sounds, jungle drums. It doesn’t make sense. However it is an oddly compelling segue, in fact my favorite after Chocolate Chip Trip.

Final thoughts

This album has really grown on me over the last 6 months. It really is a brilliant album. To me it has a different vibe to their earlier work. It sounds so much like a Tool album, yet peel back some layers and there’s so much to bite your teeth into. There are those that complain about Maynard’s contribution, or lack there of. I’m not one of them – I think his vocal work suits the album perfectly. It’s not without flaw though, I think there’s a few lazy moments, but overall I find his work as compelling as much of Tool’s work.

Where do I think Fear Inoculum lies within the Tool world? It’s tough to outrank Lateralus and Aenima, however I think Tool’s latest is not far behind – for me it certainly eclipses 10,000 Days and their earlier work. This album has been a constant companion of mine in the last 12 months, and in fact still feels so fresh to me – I rarely reach for their other work. I am one of “those” sad Tool fans.

I’m hoping that this won’t be Tool’s last album, and actually I’m assuming it’s not. Tool have earned the right to take as long as they please in my opinion, but time gets away from all of us. Tool 13 years from now will struggle to write another Fear Inoculum. I think if we do see further releases from Tool, it will appear sooner rather than later.

So was 13 years worth the wait? No doubt in my mind. What does the Fourtheye community think?

4.5 15 votes
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Jethro Tool
Jethro Tool
1 month ago

Even tho I love the album it ranks below Lateralus, Aenima and 10000 days for me. Title song is great especially the brutal ending which shows they have no interest in selling out. Pnuema is good but still reminds of The Patient which is stronger. Invincible is the best track I think and the lyrics are superb. Descending – really good solid track. Culling Voices I always skip – really weak. And 7empest seems like a nod to Undertow both in sound and lyrics. Its still the best ‘Comeback’ album I can remember.

squint
squint
1 month ago

Your opinions here very much mirror my own experience. On first release I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed, but it’s been such a grower of an album. So much subtle complexity and hypnotic depth. My ranking as of right now is probably: Lateralus > Fear Inoculum > Aenima/10k days > Undertow > Opiate.

nxrm
nxrm
1 month ago

Very thoughtful write-up of the album Hellboy. Thanks for that.

Freakasaurus
Freakasaurus
1 month ago

Well put Hellboy. I don’t have much to add. I’ve grown to love all of the “real songs” on the album (I’ve rarely been into their filler/noise stuff). “Invincible” definitely resonates with the “aging warrior” in me and is possibly my favorite. It’s an album that gets better as time goes on. I had truly great experiences seeing them twice on this tour. While I was bummed that the Nassau Coliseum show was cancelled (STILL awaiting my TM refund), I appreciate that I did get to see them 2x. The songs from this album will always be strongly connected to… Read more »

sularetal
sularetal
1 month ago

Fear Inoculum is a masterpiece. I wish they’d throw their fans a bone during these hard times. We know they’ve teased video content for years … now’s the time, boys!!

fraz
fraz
1 month ago

good review. Since the album packaging is quite important to Tool. I would love to hear reviews of the physical packaging and artwork. I was fortunate to get a copy with the screen installed. But I’ve watched it once and probably won’t watch it again. It’s a completely over-the-top art-piece albeit not unexpected.

the artwork is interesting and pretty typical of tool. I think I still love the aenima and lateralus art-work the most out of all the albums.

I’m interested to hear from those who got the book version if they are fans of the album packaging.

bloo-mune
bloo-mune
Reply to  hellboy1975
1 month ago

Where is anything/everything? Where’s updated merchandise? Tool isn’t touring but you’d think they’d still put a few newer items up for sale. I enjoy the non-tour posters. The current website still feels half-baked and fragmented with separate Tool Army and general website log in. Vinyl would be amazing but we still don’t have TTDays Vinyl so I’ve lost all hope there. Does the special effects from the Fear Inoculum cover count as a music video? Or, is it just the cover of the album? It’s sweet. But, it doesn’t feel like a true video. I enjoy Fear Inoculum more than… Read more »

bent eye
bent eye
1 month ago

It’s a fantastic album and I’m still playing it daily one year later. Pneuma is the standout track for me, and it’s an absolute face melter in concert. I have a newfound appreciation for the title track after hearing it live, and all of the other songs are just tremendous pieces of work. I skip over CCTrip and Culling Voices is definitely underrated. After the sumptuous feast before it its a nice palette cleanser before 7empest hits. It’s certainly worth the 13 year wait, that’s for sure. I’d like to see the boys release an EP seeing as they have… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by bent eye
adoxnz
adoxnz
1 month ago

on point Hellboy, your take is very similar to mine. I don’t think it outranks Aenima or Lat, but in it’s highest moments, it’s on par. It’s definitely better than 10KD overall, for me. As always with Tool, it’s still giving, still revealing itself. I do think the segues let it down a bit, Legion Inoculant is actually my fav (the bass swells are epic and it segues into Descending like it’s an intro). Obviously not something I’d expect soon, but I wonder if they will do an EP (as DC has opined) just to keep some momentum. Surely there’s… Read more »

adoxnz
adoxnz
Reply to  hellboy1975
1 month ago

Yeah legit. You reported on it once. Nothing else to report anyway except him mentioning it in another interview or two (from memory) I’m gonna allow myself the sliver of optimism to say that, if they were in any preliminary stage of writing again, we probably wouldn’t know about it anyway. But the idea of some new tunes coming out Salival style, layered with a few videos, live material, b sides / covers / reinterpretations… is entirely possible. In the not too distant future would be a good time for it with all the renewed attention they’ve had. I know,… Read more »

ahlaphus
ahlaphus
1 month ago

Nice write-up, Hellboy, have been waiting for a community review of sorts and here we are. Personally, I’ve taken a different approach to the album. Blair mentioned a few times something to the tune of… Why not listen to three or four songs for a while (few years in Tool time) and after the time has passed, you’ll have some other songs to delve into… Well, when it first came out, I listened to the whole thing front to back probably ten times or so… Then I started to ponder ‘The Great Turn’ artwork and the back-and-forth present, spent the… Read more »

bloo-mune
bloo-mune
1 month ago

Fear Inoculum is the greatest album ever created by any artist excluding the segues. I know -T-o-o-l- didn’t work on Fear Inoculum for 13 years straight. But, the amazing complexity of what I hear in the percussion, bass timing, riffs and vocals is just truly astounding and makes it sound like they did spend a decade refining, playing, creating this masterpiece. I enjoy individual tracks off of Undertow and Ænima more than any of the songs from Fear Inoculum. But, overall I think Fear Inoculum is a more cohesive, exploratory, dynamic, progressive and holistic creation than even Lateralus. What my… Read more »

bloo-mune
bloo-mune
Reply to  hellboy1975
1 month ago

-T-O-O-L- is only summoned when Jerry Cantrell and King Buzzo join the jam sessions.

SylvesterCologne
SylvesterCologne
Reply to  bloo-mune
1 month ago

I honestly don’t understand and cannot relate to the “Sober is their best song” mentality. I mean, it’s a good song for a generic rock band, but for Tool it’s very plain and weak in comparison to almost everything else they’ve done, and certainly not nearly as good as anything after Undertow. I’m still blown away when I leave a Tool concert and hear people saying “I can’t believe they didn’t even play Sober,” as though it’s unfathomable. Danny’s opening fill is good, and Adam’s guitar during the verses are cool, but that’s the extent of it in my opinion.… Read more »

bloo-mune
bloo-mune
Reply to  hellboy1975
1 month ago

The first 3 songs on Undertow to me are about Intensity. Raw, vicious, wickedness. Tool has become an artistic, progressive endeavor. But, my appreciation started with MTV in the 90’s with angst and rebellion in our veins. I am Tool Army member # 713 joined day 1 and frequented the chats long before TA. I wish I understood every Tool song to the point I could recite every lyric and play every instrument. Every Tool album has become more beautiful, imaginative and dynamic than it’s predecessors. I appreciate that. However, there’s a screaming demon from the 4th level of hell… Read more »

incendies
incendies
1 month ago

so many fans not love this album too much but I think ‘Fear Inoculum’ is amazing. Maynard James Keenan also talks about this album and band success for their music history.

Last edited 1 month ago by hellboy1975
SylvesterCologne
SylvesterCologne
1 month ago

I’m late to the discussion, but I’m hoping to get a response or two from this, so hear is my opinion of Fear Inoculum: Totally let down at first, but I’ve been a “fan” since I heard Aenema on the radio and a real fan since Lateralus was released, so I know enough to let it process. Some days I think it’s their best album, and some days I think it’s tied with 10,000 Days as their second best album (which is tied with Aenima for me). FI is one of my favorite songs even though I felt nothing the… Read more »

limeygringo
limeygringo
13 days ago

The only reason Mockingbeat fits perfectly with the album is because the album fits perfectly with The Dark Crystal. Not even Steve Crowder’s mind can be changed on that opinfact, but of course Steve Crowder was never capable of having his mind changed.