The fermenting process requires time, patience, precision and adaption. The results are seen over time with the correct environmental modifications and tweaks in the formula. This can be applied to making booze or barrel cured pickles. The process is similar and so are the principles.
13 years is an eternity. That’s almost a third of my life. If I have learned anything, it is to manage my expectations. I rejected the bootlegs, despite my nagging curiosity. I didn’t count down the days to the single release. I waited until I was ready. I had it on, but it was more so an experience of waiting, analyzing, anticipating. This is everything an artist does not want. They create things to be experienced, not analyzed, that is the death of experience.
But it is exactly what I did. I listened with an agenda. I needed to feel vindicated. I needed to know that it was real. That it was just as powerful as it always had been. This is a recipe for disappointment because the expectations often outweigh the results.
Tool fans are not your typical fans, by any stretch of the term. It is a class of its own, because Tool is in a class of their own. To call it music does not do justice to what they have created. Tool is a tool for transformation, for increased awareness, for going beyond what we call typical experience. It is psychedelic in an unconsciousness sense, chemically induced at times, but far reaching after the drug wears off. The residue remains active, it’s not a flashback. It is a recollection, an entirely difference experience of reality.
Tool has always been about intense transformations, going beyond what is capable. Advancing through adversity, using trauma, pain, suffering as a tool to transcend and become stronger. Tool is the music version of antifragility. Fear Innoculum delivers that in full force.
You can tell the boys have been busy for 13 years. This is not a hashed together regurgitation of old work. I forget where I heard it, but I think it was Maynard who said that bands often turn into cover bands of their former work. The difference is having a distinct sound as opposed to sounding like something. Sometimes the parts don’t equal the whole, or the parts themselves stand on their own, unintegrated from the whole.
Since there are no fair weather Tool fans, if you know Tool, you know their entire catalog. One can deduce pieces from their work, but they are masters at creating new sounds with old elements.
Where the older works from Anima were more of a hammer, pounding and smashing, the later parts of Lateralis mainly the triad, disposition, reflection are the strongest notes of flavor in Fear Innoculum. They have slowed down as they aged, but this is not the result of atrophy, but increased stability and strength of developing their craft.
Tool’s arc has been one of heavy, intense bursts transforming into extended, paced, progressions that evolve, not so ironically like the experience of a fine wine. Tool has naturally transformed into a heavy, psychedelic jam band without the tacky stereotypes and all the arena filled glory.
At over 10 minutes long, this first single had the expectations of being an extension of the 10,000 Days dynamic. But on this single, they traded the extended riffs for evolved progressions. The songs are songs within themselves, whereas one track has the character of many different songs, the way a fine wine has different flavors that blend in a synthesis.
Tool raised us on injections of intense experiences, but now they invite us to sit back and sink into the experience. A seasoned fan can’t do this at first. We need to be convinced that it is real. That it is Tool. That it is not an impostor. But how could you doubt them?
Sit down comfortably, smell the cork before you pour the glass, observe the legs as it swirls, sniff the transforming aroma that prepares the pallet. Close your eyes for the first sip, taste the spectrum of flavors. Your senses will dictate the experience, until it hits you. It’s a slow buzz, until you stand up, then you realize you’ve been reacquainted with an old friend you haven’t seen in over a decade, but you have not forgotten. It is in your DNA. This is Tool and it is glorious.
Fear Innoculum starts in a strange and alluring place but ends with the familiar climax. It is a distinct experience and an authentic flavor from a time tested label.
The most affirming experiences are those where you questioned why you doubted them in the first place. Fear Innoculum is one of them. I can’t wait to see what else they have in store for us. The cycle has come full circle.