Tool’s ‘Fear Inoculum’ Album — What to Expect During Your First Listen
If you’re still a new Tool album skeptic… stop it. Fear Inoculum exists and we’ve heard the entire 85-minute opus. Not to get all “Bigfoot” on you, but here’s our experience of hearing the long-awaited new album, one solitary time.
At a secret location in New York City, we were huddled into a tiny recording studio to hear Fear Inoculum from front to back. No phones were allowed and no promotional copies were sent — we were allowed to listen once and take written notes while indulging in various adult beverages and smokables. With that in mind, here’s what you may experience while getting your new Tool album cherry busted.
Track 1: “Fear Inoculum”
Right before pressing play, the sound engineer turned to us and said, “It’s a long one. It’s been a long time.”
These opening swells sound great, as do the strings and thunderous drums. Danny Carey’s middle-eastern drumming comes in not long after, followed by Adam Jones fading in and out with a heavily distorted guitar.
Maynard Keenan’s voice reminds me of “Feathers” from A Perfect Circle’s last album. It’s very soft and cathartic, almost like 10,000 Days. The words “contagion,” “exhale” and “expel” really stand out — “exercise the spectacle.” Loving the “thud” of Danny Carey’s drums. Excellent opening track that’s about 10 minutes long.
Track 2: “Pneuma”
Finally hearing this album feels like dropping acid for the first time after hearing stories about it for 13 straight years. This song has a very mellow beginning, even more so than Track 1. It reminds me of the final few tracks on Lateralus — heavily instrumental, long and trippy.
There’s a ton of middle-eastern drumming in this song. An entire section of the track is dedicated to Danny Carey’s work. This cut doesn’t feel as impactful as the opening song, but the ending is extremely cool. So far, Fear Inoculum focuses more heavily on atmosphere and drums than riffs.
Track 3: “Litanie contre la Peur”
This track was not played.
Track 4: “Invincible”
Immediately recognize this as “Invincible” from listening to the live version. “Warrior, struggling” confirms it.
“Invincible” differs from the first two songs in that it starts immediately, instead of working toward instrumentation with atmospheric soundscapes. Adam Jones is a rhythm machine on the studio version, building so much character with experimental strumming patterns while using only a single chord. Maynard is much more present in this song. So far, the album feels very cohesive.
Track 5: “Legion Inoculant”
This is weird as f—k, like walking into a UFO. Is Maynard saying, “Listen to me"?
We've been told we’re now halfway through the album. Apparently Danny deleted his drum pad sounds after recording was finished so they could never be replicated, instead existing as a moment in time.
So far, this record sounds like Danny spent the last 13 years learning weird and wonderful new drum patterns. I definitely have no idea what this album is “supposed to be.” There aren’t many hooks I can mentally replay at this point. This is a Tool album, after all. I’m sure I’ll discover more and more with each listen.
Track 6: “Descending”
Sounds like Tool recorded some beach noises to start this song. Oh, this is “Descending.” I never imagined it would begin with the sound of waves crashing.
The studio version of “Descending” is incredible, and in my opinion, it's the best song on the album so far. Maynard really shows off his vocal range, hitting beautiful high notes just like “The Pot.” Jones’ use of slide guitar is captivating, too. Danny has dominated my attention so far, but Adam Jones is starting to become my focus.
“Descending” finishes with more ocean waves.
Track 7: “Culling Voices”
“Psychopathy”? “Don’t you dare point that at me”? Maynard seems to be singing about personality disorders in this song.
I’m feeling more hypnotized at this point. I’m less able to pick out distinct characteristics, rather floating around in a psychedelic sonic stew. Absolutely losing focus and being carried away by the music.
Track 8: “Chocolate Chip Trip”
More bells and weird drums starting this song. The intro turns into f—ked up computer noises and nightmarish sonicscapes. This actually reminds me of Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared. Maybe don’t listen to this for the first time while you're on psychedelics.
It’s becoming apparent that this is a drum solo track with a wild backdrop of noise. Danny’s drumming ability is completely unparalleled. How did a human even make this?
This is, by far, the weirdest thing Tool have ever recorded.
Track 9: “7empest”
We’re probably an hour into the album. Coming up next must be the reclusive, 20-minute epic track people keep talking about.
Wow, GIANT riff right away. That’s more like it, Adam Jones. Maynard’s going into his classic grunting style. This is the first time Maynard has sounded angry this whole album. It’s definitely the most pissed off I’ve heard him in a long time… maybe since “Ticks & Leeches” or even “Aenema.”
“Acting all surprised / When you’re caught in a lie / We know better.”
Adam Jones is just slinging riff after riff after riff. Dude must have saved a dozen fat leads and crammed them, brilliantly, into one song. The song is mostly instrumental, but I don’t even miss the vocals. The interplay between Adam, Danny and Justin Chancellor is magnificent.
This thing is BRUTALLY heavy and there’s no breathing room at all. No little soft transitions to connect crucial landmarks, just vicious and relentless metal. How can a band string together so many gigantic parts without taking a breath? Tool give absolutely no fucks.
This is the best thing Adam Jones has ever recorded. It’s beyond epic. I’m absolutely blown away and baffled by this 20-minute monster. No other band could do this. Not a chance.
Track 10: “Mockingbeat”
Are those monkeys or birds?
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