Thirteen years saw a whole series of Marvel movies, three presidents take office, a solar eclipse, and this reviewer in kindergarten. But what about Tool? In that amount of time, the ’90s progressive metal legends laid dormant in terms of album releases after countless issues such as legal troubles, creative gridlock, and tendency to side projects. But now, the time has come: the mighty Tool returns with Fear Inoculum, which dropped at the end of August this year to edge out pop titan Taylor Swift for two weeks on Billboard’s #1 this month.
There’s a lot to this release that can be covered, but Tool is best discovered on one’s own. The good news here is that the band remains generally fixed to the unique sound we all know and love with no departure from their identity. This is where this album diverges between dedicated fans and those new to the artist. For the classic fans, what Fear Inoculum trades for strict tradition is artistic variation. Many of the tracks are familiar with that of prior records drawn to marathon lengths -six of the ten tracks span at least ten minutes- and might leave you wishing for something more. But don’t let that stop you from jamming to these grandiose melodies – their meticulous craft is still as fascinating as ever. For anyone new to Tool, crank it right up. The title track is an alluring lead-in for the journey, highlighted with weaving and beautiful “Descending” and the volcanic epic “7empest”.