Music Review: Tool's 'Fear Inoculum' Album

Aug 30, 2019
Originally published on August 31, 2019 1:56 am
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right, it's Tool time. Today, progressive metal band Tool releases its first album in 13 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FEAR INOCULUM")

TOOL: (Singing) Immunity long overdue. Contagion, I exhale you.

CHANG: It's called "Fear Inoculum," and it is already in the record books for this title track. Billboard Magazine reported recently that this single is the longest song to ever appear on the magazine's Hot 100 singles chart. It's just over 10 minutes long.

Reviewer Tom Moon has been listening to the album and says it may be the sharpest Tool release yet.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PNEUMA")

TOOL: (Singing) We are the spirit abound to this flesh.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: These days, 13 years between records may as well be 13 eons. In that time, Tool has been through the music business gauntlet of personal differences, creative differences and of course, legal issues. But the band hasn't been idle. The purveyors of what's sometimes been called thinking person's heavy metal have toward pretty much every year between 2006 and 2016. Tool has also played bunches of festivals, and that roadwork is the secret ingredient of the tight and tightly scripted "Fear Inoculum."

(SOUNDBITE OF TOOL SONG, "PNEUMA")

MOON: That song's called "Pneuma," after the Greek term for spirit or soul. Like each of the seven main tracks on this album, it's an extended suite tricked out with twists and turns known to crush and galvanize packed arenas. It's got those shadowy, suspenseful ramp-ups that lead eventually to furious eruptions...

(SOUNDBITE OF TOOL SONG, "PNEUMA")

MOON: ...Followed by intricate and arty instrumental passages that are thrilling in an entirely different way.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOOL'S "CHOCOLATE CHIP TRIP")

MOON: The new music has a strong prog rock undercurrent. Happily, Tool did not make a super-technical, look-how-many-notes-we-can-fit-on-the-head-of-a-pin record. Even when there's chop-shop higher math going on - and many of the rhythms are organized in fitful seven-beat groups - the emphasis is on the dramatic arc, the way things unfold in performance. This record gets the whiplash intensity that the band brings live.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "7EMPEST")

TOOL: (Singing) Here we go again.

MOON: Across its 29-year run, Tool has released just five studio albums. We've had angry Tool, dark, sociopathic Tool, majestic Tool, abrasively loud Tool. Now comes reflective, wiser Tool. It's not a total reinvention, but Tool fans who have waited so long for this day probably won't care.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOOL SONG, "INVINCIBLE")

CHANG: The latest from Tool is called "Fear Inoculum." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INVINCIBLE")

TOOL: (Singing) Warrior struggling to remain relevant. Warrior struggling to remain... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.