Any TOOL fans around here?
I've been one since 1992 and although my overall music taste has changed quite a bit since then (I'm pretty much sick and tired of ALL kinds of metal, except maybe for some drony/doomy/noisy/experimental stuff with very little to no vocals), I'm still a sucker for this pretentious, arty-farty yet funny prog metal band that releases a new album what feels likes once every decennium.
Anyways, just got my hands on their new album "Fear Inoculum"
and I'm kind of disappointed... It's way too safe, too TOOL-formulaic, too polished (as in crisp and commercially friendly sounding), too obvious and familiar. Also, Maynard's voice and singing sounds weirdly clean and commercial - he almost sounds like a voice-coach teaching someone on how to sing like James Maynard Keenan, but prettier and breezier, i.e. soulless. I do however appreciate the odd analog/synthesizer intros, outros and segues, just as I appreciate the carefully woven webs of intricate polyrythms, interloping time-signatures and orouborical riffs, but in the end it's not enough to carry this highly awaited album.
I thought that their last album ("10.000 Days") was too safe and formulaic, as well as sounding quite tired, almost uninspired, but "Fear Inoculum" is even more of a downturn and a letdown.
Tool has always flirted with Eastern philosophy and Western mysticism and gnosticism, which can be heard in their melodic and rhythmic song structures and soundscapes in companionship with the at times almost sacral, almost choir-like singing of Maynard, i.e. there's always been an esoteric and kind of psychedelic element in there, almost like a dark DMT tantric chakra hippie vibe to it, albeit never fully explored. Even the semi-serious hidden extra song on their first EP ("Opiate"), "The Gaping Lotus Experience"
, hinted that TOOL does indeed have the potential to follow a more George Harrison musical route, albeit on TOOL's terms and premises of course. What I'm trying to say is that I hoped that TOOL would expand and try something new and dearly hoped that they would've explored their heavy psych-prog raga-rock influences and tendencies further, go all in, rather than reverting to safely plagiarizing themselves.
Oddly but typically enough, my favorite track on this otherwise stagnant album is the supposed tongue-in-cheek track "Chocolate Chip Trip"
, which is a hypnotic number based around a jazzy drum solo and hectic acidic electronica percussions in an oddly TOOL flavored digital noisescape ...Sure, there was the track "Faaip the Oiad" on "Lateralus", as well as the track "Merkaba" on their live 'album' "Salival", that kind of followed the same premise with Danny Carey drumming like the jazzy chakra prog-metal yogi drummer he is on top of a vivid carpet of weird samples, noise and electronica, but since "Fear Inoculum" is so formulaic and clean yet stale, I guess that that the soulful jazzy drumming of Danny Carey really shines through.
If I'd had to grade TOOL's albums, including the latest one ("Fear Inoculum") it would go something like this:
1 - "Aenima" (1996)
2 - "Lateralus" (2001) & "Undertow" (1993)
3 - "Opiate" (1992)
4 - "10.000 Days" (2006)
5 - "Fear Inoculum" (2019)