TOOL – Fear Inoculum

TOOL - Fear Inoculum album cover
  • 9.5/10
    TOOL - Fear Inoculum - 9.5/10


Label: RCA Records
Release date: August 30, 2019


User Review
9/10 (1 vote)

Tool has finally released their fifth full-length studio album, Fear Inoculum. It comes 13 years (!) after their previous release, which the band has attributed to lawsuits, lack of creativity and various other reasons. These 13 years have made Tool fans very hungry and the anticipations have arguably grown out of proportions. Will this album ever live up to the expectations?

Not only are we getting a new Tool album but prior to the release, as part of building the hype around Fear Inoculum, the band has finally released their back catalog on all streaming services. Every single album entered the iTunes Top 10 chart in the first day, and the Billboard 200 Chart in the first week. Even though Tool has toured from time to time during these thirteen years, it still feels like they’re doing a comeback. The world is ready but is Fear Inoculum as good as everyone hoped?

The album comes with one extremely impressive packaging if you buy the CD, albeit with fewer of the typical Tool interludes. This review is based on the digital promo. Before you start listening, forget all about quasi hits and memorable choruses like “The Pot” (off 2006’s 10000 days) or “Sober” (off 1993’s Undertow). This album is all about lengthy songs, interesting rhythms and chuggy riffs. While 10000 days arguably felt like a continuation of Lateralus (2001), Fear Inoculum is a huge step in a new direction while the band manages to keep their signature sound. It’s very obvious that they took a risk with this album. That risk definitely paid off.

Adam Jones is taking his guitar playing to new levels, pushing the boundaries of what he’s done before (even though it’s really hard to beat his guitar work on “Parabola” from Lateralus). A great example are the lengthy solos (yes, plural) on “7empest”, a song which clocks in at 15:43 and is arguable the albums greatest highlight.

This album is one of singer Maynard James Keenan’s strongest efforts as well. Since the previous Tool album he has recorded one album with A Perfect Circle and 4 albums with his solo project Puscifer. Not that he was a novice 13 years ago, but he has clearly grown as a singer. This album doesn’t necessarily showcase his range as much as earlier Tool albums but more his ability to make the odd-time signatures sound like normal time signatures and the way he interacts with the other instruments, especially the drums. Listen for instance to the verses on “Pneuma” where he follows the accents of the drums.

Speaking of the drums, this is truly drummer Danny Carey’s turn to shine, which is underlined by the weird drum track “Chocolate Chip Trip”, showcasing Carey’s love for strange electronic sounds combined with incredible drum work. On the title track, which is the album opener, he experiments with tabla as well, which adds some percussive melody to the rhythm section. No drummers do what Carey does and this is definitely the album to prove it.

Justin Chancellor keep giving us those melodic bass lines that we have become accustomed to after he joined the band in 1995, replacing Paul D’Amour. The interaction between Chancellor and Jones is unique and they compliment each others playing without getting in each other’s way. Chancellor is just as likely to drive a song with his melodic playing as Jones is, like on the aforementioned “Pneuma” or the intro of “Descending”.

There are so many layers in these songs that you need to give the album at least a couple of spins before you can get a full understanding of everything that’s going on. The first time around you might think that this part and that part has been done by the band before, but when you go deeper into the matter you realize that this is untouched ground. With all the songs, minus 4 typical Tool interludes, clocking in at over 10 minutes each, it’s obvious that this album is not for everybody. With that being said, Tool has really pushed the boundaries of their music while still sounding like Tool. Fear Inoculum marks a triumphant return for Tool, let’s hope it doesn’t take them 13 years to make the next one.


  • Kristian Singh-Nergård

    Kristian is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He is Metal Express Radio's Marketing and Communications Manager, and on occasions also reviewer and photographer. Based out of Oslo, Norway, Kristian is a bass player and owner of the independent record label Pug-Nose Records. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2006.

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