“A collection of profound and epic album reviews and musical articles by former astronaut and brain surgeon, Alasdair Kennedy. Reaching levels of poetry that rival Keats and Blake, the following reviews affirm Alasdair to be a prodigy, a genius and a god whose opinion is always objectively right. He is also without a doubt the most modest man in the universe.” - Alasdair Kennedy
Tool’s first new album in 100
years is a disappointment.
The last time Tool released an
album, Obama hadn’t even become president, smartphones didn’t exist and I’m not
even sure the lightbulb had been invented. Okay, slight exaggeration there, but
it’s felt like that long. Because of the long wait, expectations from fans have
Every Tool fan waiting for this album
Although I’ve never been a huge
Tool fan, I was still interested to see how this album would turn out. Lead
single and title track ‘Fear Inoculum’ contained everything I enjoy in a Tool
song – innovative sounds, mental drumming and a suspenseful steady build that
kept it captivating for its ten-minute-plus running time. The main riff felt a
little derivative by Tool standards, but otherwise it felt fresh enough.
I hoped the remaining tracks would
be just as captivating – but alas, this is not the case. Unlike opener and
title track ‘Fear Inoculum’, the following tracks lack that steady build. They
flow and progress incredibly well, but never seem to reach a climax. As for the
band’s sense of innovation, there are brief moments of fun creativity such as bluesy
slide guitar of ‘Culling Voices’, as well as the drum solo over looping
electronica that makes up ‘Chocolate Chip Trip’, but for the most part it feels
like Tool is recycling ideas from previous albums. They continue to experiment
with odd time signatures (the band are allergic to 4/4 grooves), but the guitar
melodies they compose to these disjointed rhythms tend to be pretty dull – especially
the three-minute moments of diet djent chugging found on several of these
tracks. Even Maynard’s vocals are surprisingly uninteresting.
Me listening to this album
Most of the tracks are over ten
minutes in length, with the exception of a couple interludes. These interludes tend
to me more gripping than the lengthier tracks (aforementioned track ‘Chocolate
Trip Chip’ being one of them), simply because they swap out guitars for ambient
electronica. Title track ‘Fear Inoculum’ contains some of this ambient electronica
towards the beginning and it did make me wonder as to why Tool didn’t try to integrate
this electronica into some of the other ten-minute-plus marathon tracks rather
than reserving it for the interludes. This could have been the vital ingredient
to give these tracks more contrast.
I think tempo may be an issue too.
Almost-sixteen-minute epic ‘7empest’ serves as the album’s closer (if you
ignore the random interlude that comes after made up of distorted bird tweets),
and it does feel slightly more engaging than the other tracks if largely for its
more energetic pace. The rest of the album is slow and ambling in comparison.
Were there a few more speedier moments peppered throughout, it might feel more
All in all, it's a meandering slog of an album. Some Tool fans may enjoy meditating to it, but I can't see anyone getting Lateralus-level thrills out of this record. Let's hope that they release a more exciting album in the future (and that we don't have to wait quite as long).