Happy TOOL Day! My first Fear Inoculum listen experience reviewed

I remember exactly where I was the last time TOOL released a new album: college, 2006, alone in my apartment. I think I had a paper to write, but instead, I downloaded 10,000 days and listened intently.

Then, I downloaded an audio editor to piece together the secret track that some fans had posted about on a forum. 

That summer, I spent many hours listening to 10,000 Days through earbuds as I shelved books at my library job.

It’s wild to think of how much has changed in the 13 years that have passed since…

I’ve seen TOOL perform live a small handful of times and had the absolute honor of seeing frontman Maynard James Keenan’s side-project, Puscifer, at a historic theater in Asbury Park, New Jersey. 

I’ve gone through my own Saturn return. Pursued a life as a farmer and ended up as a writer. I started running. I become obsessed with running.

More recently, I read MJK’s memoir, A Perfect Union of Contrary Things. Shortly thereafter, I moved to the Verde Valley in northern Arizona, mostly because that’s where Maynard lives. I tasted many samples of his wines and got my head shaved at his barbershop in Jerome, Arizona. 

I bathed in the Verde River (I showered after, they call it the dirty Verde). I spent time alone in the desert with psychedelics and began a meditation practice that still holds.

I started down my own path to spiritual awakening. 

And sometimes I get lost on tangents.

Soooooo… when I learned the release date of TOOL’s fifth album, I marked my calendar. I had to be prepared. 

I love how the album dropped on the new moon in Virgo. What a beautiful day for new beginnings, amirite?

I knew the album would be available on Spotify, my streaming service of choice. Maynard revealed this juicy news during an interview with Joe Rogan last month.

Fear Inoculum went live at midnight, EST. Because I live on the west coast (like all smart people), it was a more manageable 9pm for me. 

I could feel the buzz of energy as I opened Spotify and saw it there. IT WAS THERE! AFTER 13 YEARS! IT WAS RIGHT AT MY FINGERTIPS!!!!!!

So tempted to listen right away, I opted to download instead and save it for this morning. This required a lot of discipline, but I knew it would be worth it.

The album is more than 80 minutes long and, not only am I kind of an early bird, but my husband was due home from work soon and I just couldn’t risk him interrupting my listening experience. That would be even worse than when he finishes my chocolate.

Anyway, I wanted to go someplace special where I could listen to the album alone. 

Because the mountains are my natural dwelling place, I took my headphones and listened to the album while hiking up Black Butte. Because why not indulge in a private listening party on a mini volcano?

I’d already listened to the title track, Fear Inoculum, because it was released as a single. But I gained a new appreciation for it as I listened to the full album. 

And then Pneuma, a word that means breath in ancient Greek but also describes your soul or creative force.

While my focus fragmented on the boulders that lay immediately ahead, a part of me latched on to the lyrics: 

Wake up, remember

We are born of one breath, one word

We are all one spark, eyes full of wonder

And I was like, hell yeah! I HEAR YOU!

Has anyone else been fixated on the unity that encompasses all division?

No? Just me and Russell Brand?

The lyrics weren’t even what did it for me on this album. I thought Maynard’s voice was as smooth as ever and told the stories of connection, struggle, defeat, anger, and greater purpose I expected. But there will never be another Lateralus.

Instrumentally, it all felt familiar, yet unique. There’s still insane beats from drum-genius Danny Carey. Seamless transitions from soft and vulnerable to heavy and aggressive. Trippy instrumental tracks. Swirly crescendos and time signature changes that still surprise you even though you kind of expect them at this point. 

When I reached the top of Black Butte, I was listening to 7empest, a 15-minute song that comes second-to-last on Fear Inoculum. 

It was this song that made me realize I would have to listen to the album again later. Many times, probably. Without the visual distractions of beautiful mountain scenery or a whirling wind whipping past my headphones.  

Even with all those things in place, this song brought me to tears. I can’t even explain why, but I think it had something to do with Adam Jones’s guitar.

What he does there… I just… I… have no words. 

Clearly I’m not a music writer or reviewer. It’s better you listen for yourself. The album is available here:

soooooo goooooood

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