Tool’s new album has underwhelming moments

Photo courtesy of Deep Schismic, Flickr

After 13 years of no new releases, the waiting has finally come to an end, as Los Angeles-based alternative/progressive metal band Tool released their latest album "Fear Inoculum" on Aug. 30th.

Unfortunately, with this album, Tool has put out their weakest effort to date, with a whopping 89 minutes of underwhelming and by-the-book songwriting, consisting of only six massive songs with four musical interludes.

The album starts off with the title track, “Fear Inoculum,” which is probably the weakest song on the album, with the first half being marked by a very uninspired swelling guitar riff and two choruses which fail to provide any climax to the song. The latter half of the song then goes into an odd time groove, with the song eventually dissipating in pummeling riffs that again fail to make the song shine.

“Pneuma”, the second track, shows a much more solid foundation songwriting-wise, but just fails to show originality and in parts very heavily resembles tracks such as “Schism and “The Patient” from their 2001 album “Lateralus”. Sadly, aside from the nice buildup during the bridge, fails to achieve the heights of the aforementioned tracks.

“Invincible”, the third song, follows the formulas of the previous one. Albeit a bit predictable, it has some good riffs, breakdowns and motifs but it suffers from being too long. 

The following song, “Descending” is a weaker effort than “Invincible”, but still could be a pretty solid song if it were five minutes shorter. It features some very passionate vocals from Maynard, and instead of them being the highlight of the song, they are last heard at around the five-minute mark, and from then on it becomes almost a chore to bear through the repetitive grooves, riffs and solos. 

The fifth track, “Culling Voices”, is the first to show something interesting (for “Tool” at least), with the first five minutes being marked by slowly building, layered clean guitar lines and Maynard's voice, and then going into typical “Tool” territory with the whole band kicking in. Even though the second half isn't powerful enough to round off the song very well, the first half doesn't sound like anything you can hear on previous “Tool efforts”, which is after almost an hour of predictable riffs and songwriting, refreshing. 

“Tool” saved the best for last on this one with “7empest”, which provides 15 minutes of “Tool” doing what made them so powerful and good when they first started in 1993 – blasting their way through with great riffs and hooks, powerful drumming and passionately delivered vocals. It is the only song which justifies its length – throughout the whole 15 minutes, Tool plays around all corners of their soundscape and never lose their energy. It has the highest tempo and the highest temper of all the songs, contrasting to the slow meditative vibes that the previous songs try to play around.

Overall, the album lacks originality and creative development. “Tool” is a band with a practically impeccable discography and every one of their previous four studio albums was a stylistic, thematic and sonic development from the previous one, which didn't make it an easy task to write a follow-up album after 13 years. It is a safe-bet musical effort, sounding almost like a conglomerate between “Lateralus” and “10,000 Days”. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, on the contrary, it's a winning formula that is sure to thrive commercially as well as please old fans desperate for new material, but it's sad to know that “Tool” doesn't want to push their own creative boundaries anymore.