Ghost Cult had the opportunity to visit RCA Records’ headquarters in New York City to take part in an exclusive Tool listening event for press for Fear Inoculum, releasing on August 30th. We appreciate being counted among the major media in attendance and getting to experience this highly anticipated new album. Although this is not a full review (check back next week), this contains our initial thoughts on Tool album number six.
Walking into the RCA (also Sony) HQ on Madison Avenue, it’s as New York as you imagine. A monolithic building. Inside the office, everything was pristine and clean like a hospital. Getting off the futuristic elevator you see the classic RCA logo of the phonograph and the pup, with the very metal official name of “His Master’s Voice”. The label staff greeted us and were awesome as we went into a dimly lit conference room with a sick speaker system. I knew I was in the right place as there were incredible posters of David Bowie on each side of me. Fitting. We then heard the digital version of the album, in sequence, one time only. Here are our early thoughts cribbed from the eleven pages of notes we took during the hour-plus listening time.
01. ‘Fear Inoculum’:
We discussed this track at length in our single review. But on further listens and in the context of the album to follow, it’s obvious why this is the title track, why it leads off the album and how it perfectly sets the table for the rest of the album.
Initially our favorite of all the new tracks and definitely a highlight reel type track with amazing writing and musicianship. Typical kitchen sink approach: insane drumming, creepy bass lines, sick guitar riffs, all capped by an amazing vocal performance. Of note is the distinctive guitar solo, one of many on this album, and more than any Tool album has ever had. The ending is indicative of much of their best songs, a huge flourishing crescendo at the end.
03. ‘Litanie Contre La Peur’
This is one of the three interludes and the calm before the storm. Very trippy and weird with only strange sounds and perhaps a backward masked vocal, but it was hard to pick apart without a second listen.
Arguably the centerpiece to the album. This song is many times bigger on the record than on the YouTube clips we have been watching and sharing since the band first played it in April. Everything from classic prog rock to progressive metal themes abound in this constantly evolving track. The song has Maynard James Keenan’s haunted vocal delivery and philosophical lyrics that will likely make the die-hard fans freak out hardcore. The full version of this song is stunning. As long and complex as this track is, if they were to release this officially as a single, it would make a lot of sense.
05. ‘Legion Inoculant’
Another clever interlude piece bridging the two halves of the album. It’s definitely got a sound-EFX flavor that would make Pink Floyd proud ca. Meddle or Dark Side of the Moon.
The other track we have heard evolve over time since they first performed it at Monster Mash Festival in 2015. Another track you really can’t appreciate until you hear all the layers on the album version. This is likely the single track on the album outside of spare moments here and there will call to mind the feeling and sound of their big “hits”. Still, a great tune, full of originality, heaviness, and a lot of panache.
07. ‘Culling Voices’
A chill, full-length track by comparison to some of the utter crushing riffs of other tracks. This is more contemplative with a Kraftwerk/Devo/Gary Numan quality synth sound and some more lovely vocal melodies and deep thoughts, by Jack Handy. I mean MJK.
08. ‘Chocolate Chip Trip’
Essentially a fantastic solo drum and synth performance by Danny Carey with a 1970s overall feeling. More thoughts on this after some further listens, but all the Carey fanboys are gonna wet themselves after they hear this one.
Maybe the most “metal” track on Fear Inoculum, which includes several of the heaviest riffs ever on an album by this band. As in Meshuggah levels of heavy. Also, a certain contender for best track among the fans. It goes through many motifs and dynamic changes over the long track, but didn’t feel long when it was over. ‘7empest’ definitely calls in all of those recurring “7s” the band has been talking about. It also has some classic old-school OGT vibes, and we mean Undertow and Aenema without repeating or copying what came before. We’re anxious to listen to this one about one thousand more times.
A decompression track to begin the cool-down needed after your head was ripped open by the previous track, and really the entire album.
There you have it, out first thoughts on the album. We really needed a few moments to collect our thoughts after hearing this, in the best possible way. It definitely doesn’t suck and it was super heavy for the most parts. We think it was worth the wait. More to come in our full review. In the meantime, pre-orders are live at this link.
Photo credit: Travis Shinn