As far as most mainstream bands are concerned, Tool has likely never cared about writing or releasing singles, and wouldn’t at all if the entire conventional music industry says “you have to”. Nope. I supposed Tool wants to “be a tree” to paraphrase one of my favorite superhero flick soliloquies from a few years back. They want to challenge themselves. To change. To transform. Otherwise, why keep at it? Anything else is presumptuous. So as we examine this title track of their new album Fear Inoculum (RCA), let’s put it out on main street that this is the title track of an unreleased album, and it’s hard to judge this as a stand-alone piece of music without hearing the rest as it is probably intended. In terms of expectations, the track has nearly a million plays on YouTube alone in less than eight hours, so fans are hype and the curious are also digging it.
The track itself is what we expected to hear. Veteran bands, especially ones with Tool’s backstory don’t need to reinvent themselves. It sounds like Tool should sound. There are some parts and elements we will recognize from previous albums. Familiar ingredients, cadences like memories resurfacing. The unique parts are best found in the guitar work, the drumming, and the vocals too. What you do hear is a long song that doesn’t feel too long. It feels purposeful like it’s over too quick. This is always a good sign.
After the slow intro builds into the full-on track, we hear sounds of bright picked bass and muted guitars flowing around a trippy Tabla drum beat that will remind fans of deep cuts such as ‘Reflection’, ‘Disposition’, and ‘Right In Two’. The song has some very dramatic drums and bass guitar lines towards the end, but typically is just an ever-morphing mantra giving way into a steady rumble.
Maynard James Keenan’s vocals are great. Ethereal and serious, similar to his most recent work with A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, his lines are neither too reedy or deep. Just sitting perfectly in the pocket to deliver his message to our ears. As the band revealed in recent interviews, the track seems to be about coming to terms with the slowing pace of life. MJK’s harmonies late in the track are the perfect finish to the rest of the song.
Sweeping aggressive tempo shifts towards the end give a feeling of crowning and has a heaviness fans will crave from their best work. Not blistering hot or hostile, but focusing more on grooves and different polyrhythms playing off each other to create a real ebb and flow. The ending forty seconds or so is just classic stuff.
With all the time elapsed between albums and new songs, a lot has changed in the world, the world of music, and the lives of the band members as well. Die-hard fans will likely love this track, and haters are gonna go right on hating. The jury is until we hear the rest, but this is definitely an encouraging start.
8 / 10