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Tool’s ‘Fear Inoculum’ highlights corruption of ego, mankind’s hand in current world crisis

It’s been a week since Tool’s new album “Fear Inoculum” was released in full, and in that time there was a lot to unpack. From familiar sounds to new melodies, it is safe to say Maynard and Co. have released their magnum opus.

After dropping the title track roughly a month ago, coupled with an interview Maynard James Keenan had with Revolver Magazine, fans finally had something to chew on after the band’s 13-year hiatus. 

Another article by Revovler, aptly titled “Tool’s ‘Fear Inoculum’ is a Masterpiece to be Dissected for Years to Come,” dives straight into what the album is about — a callback to the group’s most popular songs intertwined with new sounds that have been tweaked and perfected since 2005.

“ ‘Here we go again!’ Maynard James Keenan waited a long time to sing those weary, sneering words on ‘7empest,’ a fiery, noisy tune on Tool’s first new album in 13 years,” the article reads.

“The glacier pace between Tool recordings apparently can’t be helped. Writing, experimenting, tearing things apart: Time is an uncertain concept in this quartet, but the meticulous, muscular result speaks for itself. ‘Fear Inoculum’ is an epic novel of an album, a winding path through sounds mysterious and confrontational, uplifting and filled with darkness. Its 85 minutes unfurl like a brutal symphony in 7/4 time, mastering both the organic and the industrial, completely controlled but still capable of chaos. The words sung by Keenan confront the passage of time and life lessons learned, expressed with genuine warmth at times, or by simply going nuclear.”

That controlled chaos Tool is known for, and that the article’s writer Steve Appleford mentions, is highlighted in every song throughout the album to some degree.

‘Here we go again’

The title track, “Fear Inoculum,” kicks off the record with a combination of air-splitting bells manipulated into a mesmerizing chord progression of strings. After nearly losing oneself in the waves of the strings, hand percussion is added to awaken the listener before a familiar distorted guitar fades in.

The next eight minutes is a euphony of sounds ripped from “Vicarious,” “The Grudge,” “Schism” and so much more that even a month hasn’t been enough time to fully dissect the short song. It sets up the remaining 75 minutes for what Keenan said, “is a broad stroke of the album, it would be embracing where we are right now, acknowledging where we’ve come from and some of the things we’ve gone through.”

The second track, “Pneuma,” takes the listener on a journey back to that familiar guitar intro that resembles something straight out of “Lateralus.”

“We are spirit bound to this flesh/We go round one foot nailed down/But bound to reach out and beyond this flesh/Become Pneuma,” opens Keenan in a soft, delicate tone that breaks into a call to the greater, binding spirit of mankind and highlights the troubles the human race has gotten itself into — a mirror of “Right in Two.” 

“We are will and wonder/Bound to recall, remember, we are born of one breath, one word … child, wake up/Child, release the light … we are all one spark, eyes full of wonder,” seems to be a call to the greater image of a child’s innocence we see in religious texts. Keenan may be referring to the loss of innocence past a certain age as our sights are marred by the brutality of the world around us.

Track 3, “Invincible,” is a light, airy rock song that gives the listener a break before heading into “Descending,” a slow breakdown of where “Pneuma” left off.

“Come, our end, suddenly/All hail our lethargy/Concede suddenly. To the quickened dissolution/Pray we mitigate the ruin/Calling all to arms and order. Directing through this boundlessness/This madness of our own making.”

Kennan’s lyrical lines suggest the innocence is dead, and now it’s time to gear up for the inevitable battle — whether spiritual or an allusion to the wars mankind is infinitely embroiled in, but Keenan’s line, “stay the grand finale/Stay the reading of our swan song and epilogue … mobilize/Stay alive,” has a heavy inference that we are destroying ourselves just to live.

That battle is put on stage with Daniel Carey’s drum lines going against Adam Jones’ intermittent, distortion laced solos.

After “Descending” is track seven, “Culling Voices.” The slower, laid-back melody-driven track hits on the ego of oneself and labels it “psychopathy” or mental illness. It’s a message to not let ego and anxiety drive one’s life, highlighted in, “Heated altercations we’ve never had/So I’m told, yet guided by them all/Every single one,” and “Psychopathy, misleading me over and over.”

Before the final full song, “7empest,” is a trippy percussion interlude “Chocolate Chip Trip” born in the dark recesses Carey’s mind. Highlighting a repeating, grinding, electronic beat that overtakes the right speaker battling with a drum set solo in the left speaker, the interlude pulls the listener into an ether of pure, controlled chaos.

After being tossed around by Carey’s solo, “7empest” comes in hot in what is Tool’s best song to date. Starting with a guitar and bell combo that calls back to the ethereal vibe of “10,000 Days”, it quickly descends into 15 minutes of rage and pure alternative-metal.

A tempest is defined as “a violent windy storm” and the allusion of a growing storm is kept throughout the song. If it continues to the tone of the entire album, there’s an “unseen villain,” as Appleford writes, behind the coming destruction.

The famous play of betrayal, written by Shakespeare, takes place on a deserted island after the spirit Ariel uses its magic to create a devastating storm and strand a family.

The message of the song comes toward the end with, “Control your delusion, insane and striking at random/Victim of your certainty and therefore, your doubt’s not an option/ Blameless, the tempest will be just that/So try as you may, feeble, your attempt to atone your words to erase all the damage cannot.”

Once again touching on the overall spirit of man, senseless violence and blinding egos, it’s a call to change our ways before it’s too late and it’s impossible to stop what’s inevitable.

If you’ve put off listening to “Fear Inoculum,” it’s better late than never. Get ready for a deep dive though.

“There’s gonna be a lot of people who might not get this album because it does take engagement … It’s just what we do,” Keenan said to end the Revolver interview.

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