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A CD With an HD Screen: Tool’s New Album

Blog > A CD With an HD Screen: Tool’s New Album

Written by Jeremy Hallock

Posted September 6, 2019

Last week, Tool finally returned with a new album and it is no Chinese Democracy. It has been about forty-eight hundred days since their last record, 10,000 Days, was released. But the hype was real enough to remind us of the ’90s, the decade Tool came from. All over the country, fans camped out in front of record stores hours before they opened to wait for compact discs that disappeared in minutes. The new album sold a couple hundred thousand physical copies in a week, which is an incredible accomplishment in 2019, but reminiscent of the number of units a popular rock band could typically move a quarter century ago. It should be enough to knock Taylor Swift off the top of the album charts.

Regardless of what you think of Tool’s music, you have to give them credit for getting so many people excited about a compact disc in 2019. A copy of Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP with the bonus 3-inch CD has nothing on Fear Inoculum. It comes in a tri-fold case that starts playing exclusive video footage on a 4-inch rechargeable screen when opened. It even has speakers that play the album’s shortest song, “Chocolate Chip Trip.” Meant as a limited edition release, people are now selling it for hundreds of dollars online and the band just announced plans to make more copies.

Fear Inoculum is comprised of seven tracks, six of which are over ten minutes long, and three ambient interludes. The centerpiece here is the most explosive track, “7empest,” which highlights the album’s focus on the luckiest number and pummels listeners with frenetic energy for fourteen minutes straight. If you have not listened to Tool much since the alternative metal days of Undertow or Ænima, this is the song that will likely draw you back in.

But the album’s title track is probably the best representation of the band’s current progressive metal sound. Kicking off the album with darkly hypnotic odd time signatures, it is slow burning, complex, and technically precise. Danny Carey’s percussion is breathtaking, Maynard James Keenan seems older and wiser and shows a great deal of restraint with compelling harmonies that occasionally weave in and out of the music, and Adam Jones’ guitar is heavy metal crescendos coated with feedback and funk.

But Tool seems to be operating with a little too much calculation and self-control throughout this album, perhaps feeling the weight of thirteen years worth of expectations. The production is also a little too clean. These songs focus on technical mastery, which is impressive. It is a shame, however, that they are separated from the experimentation we hear on the synth-based interludes, which are omitted entirely from the CD version of Fear Inoculum. The mix of these two sounds may have pushed the music in a new direction and helped the band loosen up.

This is, however, a solid album that easily fits into the Tool catalog and it did not disappoint fans. And in addition to somehow getting people interested in CD’s again, these new songs are far too long to be singles and demand to be heard together as a cohesive album. In an era where it is normal to not even listen to an entire song, this is an impressive feat, especially considering that Fear Inoculum is an hour and 27 minutes long.