It’s finally here: the first new Tool studio song in 13 years.
On their tour earlier this year we were treated to Descending and Invincible, both long, winding jams that showcased Adam Jones and Justin Chancellor’s chemistry and Danny Carey’s superhuman hypnotic beats. But hearing the title track from forthcoming album Fear Inoculum is something else – a recorded, polished track in all its glory.
Opening with discordant sounds and electronic bubbling, it draws you in slowly for a minute before characteristic tabla comes in. Another minute in, and Maynard James Keenan’s honeyed voice slips in to deliver the line, ‘Immunity, long overdue, contagion I exhale you’; on a basic level, Fear Inoculum indicates vaccinating yourself against fear. Another minute in, and he’s chanting about blessing the immunity. Then another minute: a chorus, the payoff, as Maynard’s voice takes on an almost spiritual quality.
Around the seven-and-a-half-minute mark, there’s another moment that sounds a prayer or a ritualistic incantation: ‘exorcise the spectacle, exorcise the malady, exorcise the disparate poison for eternity’. It’s hard not to imagine the vivid Alex Grey artwork from Lateralus, white light rushing out of a body knitted together by sinew and tendons. The lyrics are full of references to the breath, and there’s clearly something about human life and connectivity going on here.
The journey continues as Maynard’s vocals are flooded by those Tool polyrhythms. The last minute is one of the most intense parts of the song, the riff reminiscent of Parabol’s opening on Lateralus, while the whole thing echos that album’s Reflection. It’s the sort of thing you’ll want to listen to in a darkened room with your eyes closed.
Fear Inoculum is a lengthy, polyrhythmic song that slowly reveals its secrets. A carefully calculated trip that nevertheless hits emotional pressure points. And it’s great to have them back.