I'll be honest, before this album, I have not heard of this band. I got familiar with them during their performance of Aleister Black's theme song at NXT Takeover New Orleans (2018), and thought it was a great performance. Along with the brilliant theme song of "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) television, I knew that I could support this band. Normally, I am not a fan of music with LOTS of screaming, however, this band can be an exception. While I can admit that I went into this album thinking that it was not going to be anything special, I can also admit that I got a lot out of this record. Given my expectations, this exceeded them in every way, and this record has tons of replay value.
Let's start with the three singles released beforehand: Underneath, Swallowing the Rabbit Hole, and Sulfur Surrounding.
I believe that Underneath was the first non-WWE song from them in which I heard, and it is great. It has a great blend of melodic and heavy vocals, and the instrumentals are fantastic (which, spoiler alert, is a pattern with this album). Out of every song on this record, I feel that this one would have the most commercial/ mainstream success, and that does not take anything away from this song. I compare it to the song Critical Darling, from Slipknot's 2019 record, We Are Not Your Kind.
Swallowing the Rabbit Hole, being the true opening track on the record, is fantastic. The positioning for this track is perfect, as the heavy nature gets the listener excited for the rest of the album. However, the only problem that I have with this album comes during this song. At around the 1:30 mark, the song suddenly stops twice, for a brief moment, almost like a buffer. Upon first listen, I thought that something happened to the device I was using, only to realize that the song is still playing fine. It may seem like a very small nitpick, but I hated that. I do not know why they put that "glitch" effect in when the song was so outstanding musically. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic song that is perfect for opening up an aggressive album.
Sulfur Surrounding is the most melodic track out of the singles, but not out of the whole album. It also blends elements of melody and heavy vocals without taking away elements of the band. On a controversial note, the first 1:15 of this song KIND OF sounds like something I would hear from A Perfect Circle, and that, again, takes nothing away from the song (Please save all destruction until the end). If the three singles proves anything, it is that this band, without even listening to the rest of the album yet, makes great music.
These songs gave me the interest to listen to the entire album, so I took the first opportunity to hear the record early. One thing I noticed upon first glance is the total runtime of the album, clocking in at 47:26, is kind of short, in my eyes. This is a debatable statistic, as my ability to judge runtime is inflated due to my experience in listening to progressive rock/metal. It felt weird listening to songs that average at around 2-4 minutes again, but the things that they did with that time were remarkable. They packed lots of music into the time used, and it is impressive. I compare it to Power Trip's 2019 single, When Things Go Wrong, which is a 1:56 TRACK that is absolute chaos.
Giving a basic rundown of the tracks that came out on release day:
In Fear is a blend of slow and fast instrumentals, but has consistent, aggressive vocals. Following up the opening track was tough, but I feel that they did a good job at that.
You and You Alone gives me signals of Nu Metal, as it would be a perfect metal track for the late 1990's. Once again, the instrumentals are fantastic, and the vocals still sound good. This is another great track from an album that is about 25% done.
Who Am I sounds more on the commercial end. The intro takes a bit to get going, but it transitions into a great song that I would classify more on the "hard rock" end.
Cold.Metal.Place has a killer intro that lets the listener know that this will be great. In this song, the vocals sounded similar to something that I would hear from Meshuggah. The instruments are great, and this is another great track.
At this point, I realized that this album has been very consistent, heading into the 7th track. I like the fact that each song has something that would help someone identity the band, but has enough variety so each song does not sound the same.
The Easy Way is another song that sounds very "hard rock". The vocals are slightly more melodic, but I learned that no matter what style the band does, it will be good. I will admit that the first 30 seconds are a bit "too electronic" for my taste, but immediately after, it becomes a song with instruments again.
Erasure Scan is an extremely heavy and fast thriller. Being 2:32, it is quite amazing how they were able to have lots of layers to a song with the time used. The vocals on this track work perfectly, and that tagged with the instruments are blended great. It also does a bit of that "glitch" effect that was seen on the opener, but this is not as bad.
Last Ones Left continues where the previous track left off. At this point, I was adjusted to the screaming vocals, and learned to appreciate it more, despite also enjoying the vocals that I am used to (variety is a good thing). This song has loose elements of thrash and heavy metal, and the vocals make it another great track. I love the way that the guitars were on the lower end for this one, and it provided a tone that would be seen on slower death metal tracks. It was great.
I do not know which song is the most melodic out of the album: Autumn and Carbine or A Silver. When mentioning the former, I cannot help to admit that I really enjoy this track. The vocals are very clean, and the heavy tone of the instruments makes this feel like a classic metal track (which I love). The vocals on this song sound KIND OF similar to something I would hear from Dream Theater. In this case, the vocals work.
I think that Back Inside the Glass is the most aggressive song on the album, and that is saying many things, given the rest of the album being the same way. The vocals are screaming with passion, and the other band members are playing their hearts out. Even though it has elements of electronic, something that I tend to avoid, this is absolutely brilliant. It slows down in the second half, but the heaviness is still alive and kicking.
A Silver has REALLY clean vocals, and amazing pacing for a 4:37 song. It starts off slower with soothing vocals. As the song progresses, the song gets heavier, and the singing gets more aggressive. This is a progressive metal skill that the band mastered, and it is fantastic.
Right after I finished the closing track, I was surprised about how short the listen felt, which is a marvelous thing when listening to a full album in one sitting.
Long story short, I approached this album with very minimal experience on the band, aside from a couple of performances on professional wrestling shows. I was pleasantly surprised with this album, as I felt that every song was consistent and good in their own way. When it comes to aggression, my favorite off of this album is Back Inside The Glass. If you like cleaner vocals, you would really enjoy Autumn and Carbine, along with the great pacing of A Silver. This is one heck of an album, and is indeed worth the listen
Genres: Industrial Metal Metalcore
When Ænima was released, I was blown away. The blend of heavy metal and progressive metal was done so perfectly that I had no choice but to give it 5 stars. This album focused on the progressive end, and while I feel the previous album is a bit better, this is yet another fantastic entry in the band's elite catalog. There are MANY positives that can be drawn with this album, including the INCREDIBLE first half of the album, which, in my opinion, can be argued as some of the best in which Tool has done. This album brings you into another world with its trippy sound, and The Grudge is the perfect opening track for this. If I could only pick one song on this album, this would probably be it. Right away, it is heavy, packs a punch, and has the length to make it feel complete. From that point on, you can tell Tool was trying to make another masterpiece, and that was accomplished. The Patient, while slower, is another song that has great pacing for the length. I do not think the first two songs packed as much of a punch like Stinkfist/Eulogy from the previous album, but very similar. One problem I found rather quickly is the addition of the dreaded "Interludes," or those "songs" that are under two minutes and either A) provide nothing to the album, or B) are used as a "prelude to the song", but there was no reason that it should be it's own separate track. Eon Blue Apocalypse should just be added to the beginning of The Patient, Parabol and Parabola should be together (after all, they are together in the music video), and I do not even know if Mantra should be included at all. The interludes on this are not nearly as bad as the ones on Issues by Korn, but I cannot help myself but to complain about these when I see them. In this case, the fantastic quality of music makes this not as big of a deal.
Being one of the most famous Tool songs to be released, Schism has an all time GREAT bass track. Similarly to how YYZ and La Villa Strangiato by Rush are considered as the elite dum tracks, this is the elite bass track. Once again, it is paced brilliantly, and provides a heavy sound that can be enjoyed by Tool fans of any era. Speaking of heavy, meet Ticks & Leeches, which is another FANTASTIC Tool song. The drumming on this is off the charts, and would not be seen again until Chocolate Chip Trip, on Fear Inoculum. In fact, this won the best drumming performance by The Rolling Stones for that year, and it is easy to see why. It seemed like Danny Carey had about eight arms to play those complicated fills, and it was fantastic. This is a HEAVY song, and has Maynard ANGRY. After that, it gets softer, providing a rest period for the listener, until it picks back up for a great outro. This reminded me a lot of Bottom, off of Undertow, which is a big compliment.
We all know about the story of Lateralus: the extremely complicated song writing strategy that used the fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio that turned into a very memorable song. The efforts of this song led to something that will be talked about until the end of time.
After this, it gets..... interesting
Disposition is the biggest reason why I say this, and it is because I do not know what to feel of it. I like the song, but was it needed? This was a slow song that repeats "Watch the weather change" along with other phrases. However, the song right after, Reflection, is also slow, but is also fantastic. I cannot see it put together with any track, so it is not necessarily an interlude, but I do not know with that track.
What I DO know is that while it is one of the slowest songs on the album, Reflection is worth a listen. The bass is strong in this, and that "trippy" sound is at an all time high. It works, and that is the important part. Triad is a fantastic instrumental. It sounds a bit like Parabola from earlier in the album, but has its own qualities. To me, this is the real closing track of the album, mainly because I do not understand why Faaip de Oiad was put here. It is not that it is BAD... just.... odd. If anything, this could have been added to the beginning of another track to have Triad as the true closer.
Long story short, this is yet another fantastic album that hit lots of popularity by the public. This has lots of variety, from the heavy styles of The Grudge and Ticks and Leeches, to the softer tracks, like The Patient and Reflection. While this is not my favorite Tool album, I cannot help but to give lots of respect to the band for going outside of their comfort zone for this record, as it was much different than most albums of this era. Even with a great music year like 2001, that had God Hates Us All by Slayer and Silver Side Up by Nickelback, this album would still win best of the year. This is absolutely worth a listen by any music fan.
Genres: Alternative Metal
This is a very tough album to explain to someone who is not experienced with the more "progressive" style of music. There is progressive rock, which was mainly specialized by bands such as Rush, and that style influenced many more to follow in their footsteps. However, alternative metal has not been branched out as much as the others. Tool was one of the few bands that hit it off with this style, and grew a cult following, starting with their first studio album, "Undertow", in 1993 (not including the Opiate EP from 1992). It proved to everyone that that style of music can work, and is not just a fad. Normally, it would be tough for a band to follow a great debut album, but they shattered the glass ceiling with their absolutely INCREDIBLE 1996 album, Ænima.
First thing's first: this is NOT an album where you can skip around and pick off certain tracks and call it a day. This is 77:46 of PERFECTION, from the beginning riffs of "Stinkfist" all the way to Maynard saying how his third eye was pried open for the last time. The track placement is great because all of the songs have a smooth transition from the end of one to the beginning of another (tough to type that one out). The previously mentioned "Stinkfist" is one of the best opening tracks I've ever heard, and the track right after, "Eulogy" is pure art. That is probably the best Tool song out there, which is saying many great things because of their elite discography from 1993-2006. Other notable highlights (without mentioning the entire album) include the famous "Forty-Six & 2" (which was the first Tool song I've ever heard and got me into the band), the brilliantly paced "Pushit," and the epic closing track, "Third Eye." All of these songs could be considered perfect, and it is the track placement that makes everything better
Now normally, I despise songs that go under 2 minutes. I don't even rate them on my imaginary star rating system. For example, let's use "Issues", an album released by Korn in 1999. That album is fantastic, but there are so many of those tracks that it threw me off from the rest of that great album. With Ænima, however, these little tracks don't come off to me as a lazy way to add a track, but rather a way to tell the album's story and show off how special it is (and you would not get that special feeling if you skipped around the album). The 40-second track "Useful Idiot" hooks me in to get excited for "Forty-Six & 2," which is something an album is supposed to do.
Ænima is one of those albums that can be used for any circumstance. Celebrating graduation? Use Tool for the party music. Dealing with other problems? Use the album to help get over everything. For whatever, listening to this album from start to finish with no interruptions would be one of the greatest decisions a human can make.
Long story short: This not a typical album where you can skip around and pick off certain tracks. This is perfection from start to finish, and it deserves the 5 star rating
Genres: Alternative Metal
Is it safe to say that this is the most anticipated album of the 2000's so far, maybe of all time?
In 2006, Tool released 10,000 Days, and while different than any other of their previous albums, it still served it's purpose as being a great collection of material. As years went by, fans were speculating whether a new album would come out at all. This changed in 2019, when two new songs were debuted live (they would be Invincible and Descending) and gave a release date for the new album. Along with the title track, Fear Inoculum, being released on August 7th, 2019, fans were more excited than ever to hear new Tool for the first time in thirteen years.
Thanks to the Great Fear Inoculum Vegas Heist that took place on Reddit in late August 2019, the world got to hear the CD version of the long-awaited album a bit early. The CD version has 7 tracks and the total runtime is 79:10, making it the longest Tool album they have made, beating Ænima by around two minutes. However, having a long runtime does not automatically make an album fantastic (look at Reload by Metallica, which came out in 1997.)
It takes a special kind of music to have an album be consistently good for the long time. Does Fear Inoculum hold up to the previous four Tool albums (five if you count Opiate from 1992, but that is more of an EP)?
The answer... is ABSOLUTELY
This album is a work of art, and an absolutely PERFECT collection of songs. Each song, minus the drum solo track named Chocolate Chip Trip, is over ten minutes, however it does not overstay it's welcome. To compare it to something, I will reference the 60 minute ironman match between Joey Janela and David Starr at Beyond Americanrana 2019, a professional wrestling show. They went crazy for an entire hour, with many revolutionary spots, and telling a fantastic story with it being the last match between them before Janela goes to All Elite Wrestling. This album is the music version of that match: nothing feels too long. It is like the phrase "Time Flies When You're Having Fun," but the fun is listening to one of the greatest albums ever made.
Talking about the songs some more, the top tracks (besides the whole album) are Pneuma, Culling Voices, and 7empest. Having to follow up the insane title track is one thing, but being able to actually top it is another. Pneuma keeps a consistent pace that is interesting. Culling Voices, for the first half, is very soft, similar to the ending tracks of Lateralus. This might be the best paced song since Leader of Men by Nickelback, from their 1998 album, The State. The second half picks up, and is a notable song off of the album, which is one of my favorites.
And then we get to 7empest, which is the second longest Tool song, only behind Disgustipated by four seconds. This is the angriest I've heard Maynard sing since Ticks and Leaches, and the best Tool song since The Grudge. I've never heard a song that can keep a CONSISTENT, HEAVY tone for over 15 minutes, that is absolutely fantastic. This album is music at its BEST
Long story short, this is one of the greatest albums in the history of Mankind. Go out of your way to listen to this album on release day. Long Live Tool!
EDIT NOVEMBER 8TH, 2019
For many great albums I listen to, the magic often wears off after a certain amount of time, and those once great songs felt regular again. In a less extreme measurement, that happened to me with Rush's Rush from 1974, however that is still a very solid album in it's own right. There are other albums that grew on me as I listened more, such as Load by Metallica, or The Sound of Perseverance by Death. With this album, the love I have has not gone anywhere. You can argue that I appreciate this album even MORE than I did before. I understand that not everyone likes an album filled with ten-plus minute songs (and I am not mentioning the interlude tracks found on the digital version of the album), however that style is right up my pathway. To me, if done right, longer songs can be the most complete form of music imaginable. Other bands have had fantastic long songs, such as Mercyful Fate by Metallica, from Garage Inc. (11:11); every part of Close to the Edge by Yes, from Close to the Edge (18:38); the title track of 2112 by Rush(20:33), and many more.
With Tool in general, and specifically in this album, all of my favorite qualities of a song were blended together to form "super songs," and then the whole album turned "super."
In my original review, I never gave track four on the CD version, Descending, the credit that it deserves. Just like the track right after, Culling Voices, in which I mentioned in my original review, masters the art of pacing, and at around the five-to-six minute mark, one of the brightest moments of the album blesses the listener's ears. The slow build of Maynard's vocals, specifically in those two tracks, have an explosive climax that makes the song like a roller coaster, or a wrestling match that is telling a fantastic story.
On a semi-final note, I do not feel that I put enough emphasis on how incredible 7empest is, just as a piece of art. In my eyes, this is probably the best song the band has ever created, and top three in the best songs I have ever heard (the other two are South of Heaven by Slayer, off of South of Heaven; and Mouth for War by Pantera, off of Vulgar Display of Power). Unlike almost every track on the album, that has a great build that leads to a fantastic climax, this song starts off white hot, and never lets up on the quality. For wrestling fans, I can compare this song to a match with nonstop action, and it receives five stars for the effort. Every band member shines on this song, however I feel that this was Adam Jones's moment to prove that he is an elite guitar player. Lots of complicated riffs were played during this 15:43 masterpiece, and every second of it was better than perfect. To me, this is a six star song that ends one of the greatest albums I have ever heard.
As an album in general, Danny Carey shined like no other, and had a drumming performance not seen in decades (not knocking the other members, as without them, this album would not be close to the caliber in which it is at now.) I have seen fantastic drumming on albums, like every 1980's Slayer album, or every other Tool album before this. With this album in particular, Danny Carey can make a legitimate claim that he is the best drummer in the world right now. The technique in every pattern he does is insane, and is one of the many reasons why I rank this album so highly. I do not know if I would say that he is the greatest drummer of all time, however I would say that I have not seen a performance like this in a very long time; maybe since 10,000 Days.
Long story short, I cannot stress how much I love this album. I honestly feel that it might be their greatest work, or at LEAST on the level of Ænima. The long length of the full songs just make it feel complete, and like a New Japan Pro Wrestling show, the songs build up to the fantastic, 7empest main event, which is one of the greatest songs ever made. The songs fly by, and every song is absolutely perfect. This is a once in a generation album, with the thirteen year buildup and the hype behind it; and I do not know if there will be an album at this caliber again. Long live Tool!
Genres: Progressive Metal