Bless This Immunity
REVIEW SUBMITTED BY DAVE MULCRONE
A lot's happened since May 2nd 2006. The whole world revealed themselves to be self righteous cynical twats through the launch of Twitter. America endorsed three presidents, the daft one who started loads of unnecessary wars; the charismatic first black President who prolonged the wars; and then rather surprisingly, an inept-perverted-gangster with a blonde wig who wouldn't stop yelling managed to get through the door, who was also interestingly enough, the most self righteous twat of all on Twitter. Humans became obsessed with photographing their own faces as the world burnt around them and it didn't seem like there was much hope... until American rock band Tool revealed they would be releasing music for the first time in 13 years, their fifth studio LP, Fear Incoculum. Being the most anticipated rock album release in recent memory, the band put their entire back catalogue on internet streaming services prior to release, topping charts and breaking records before anyone had even heard a second of Fear Inoculum. How would this record compare to their brilliant previous efforts? As they introduced a new fan base to their discography by agreeing to compromise with modern technological needs, this new album had a lot of responsibility on its shoulders, and musically, is anything but compromising.
An immediate realisation is the role of the front-man as he tackles vast progressive odysseys, all of which clock in over the ten minute mark. Maynard is far more restrained and selective with his vocal parts compared to previous records. However, it seems on a lot of tracks (Descending, 7empest) he almost performs side by side with Adam Jones' guitar solos/leads. As A Perfect Circle's Eat the Elephant last year demonstrated his ability to hold back from his signature aggressive growls and groans and adopt a more mature singing style, just as angelic as it is technical. He triumphantly continues this evolving trend on Fear Inoculum.
Descending shows the band at their most progressive and ambitious. A phenomenal adventure, really exploding into life in the middle section. "Sound the dream alarm! Through the primal body!", could be as grandiose and epic as Tool have possibly ever sounded. Maynard then seems to abruptly walk out of the vocal booth as the band approach a huge crescendo involving a brilliant dual guitar solo by Adam Jones, an earth shattering gong hit by Danny Carey, with a shuddering climax. Invincible is similar in vein, and these two prog monsters are sure to become staples in future live shows.
Culling Voices sounds like the most stripped down version of Tool since Parabol/Wings for Marie. Asides from some very subtle poly-rhythmic percussion from Carey, he doesn't really enter the song with force until around the 6 minute mark. The song ends beautifully with a brilliant funky off-time riff. It's possibly the most conventional 'song' on the album.
On their recent European Tour, Danny Carey opened the final act of their 2 hour set with a crazy drum solo that was backed by swirly synth loops in 7/8. His performance was blisteringly erratic with a symmetrical birds eye view camera angle peering over him being projected out to the crowd from the back of the stage. This crazy psychedelic piece managed to make the record under the quirky title of Chocolate Chip Trip, which is basically a 5 minute piece of drum porn. Carey pounds the skins harder than ever, but also plays with an amazing disciplined intricacy which leaves you asking the question "sorry what on earth is he doing to that drum kit?!"
In terms of the drums on this album, some people may ask themselves "isn't it a bit odd that Tool never released a press release or told anyone about the fact they've hired three more drummers to help with the recording?" The second half of Pneuma sounds like a drum circle with about eight people performing a ritual.
7empest is a contender for the heaviest and most ambitious Tool song of all time. Opening with a beautiful guitar line reminiscent of King Crimson's Discipline, there's a brief pause before Adam Jones unleashes a gnarly riff which the whole band jumps straight on to and venture off into a crazy metal-prog-jam for fifteen minutes. Maynard sounds pissed for the first time on the album. After a four minute guitar solo that sounds like Ted Nugent back in the 70s, they drop a riff Meshuggah could only wish they wrote around the 10.30 mark, with Carey banging away on a china cymbal which is as groovy as it is technical. Do you want a showboating guitar anthem full of monstrous riffs and punishing rhythms? The 7empest... will be... just that...
Diehard fans will listen with high anticipation, and the niggling thought in the back of their heads will be "but is it really as good as The Grudge or Jambi? Is it as heavy?" Making such a knee-jerk analysis is a losing game, but also it wouldn't be very admirable of them to make another Lateralus or 10,000 Days, no matter how truly special those records are to dedicated fans.
The whole piece is extremely atmospheric and nuanced, the guitar riffs are generally quite pristine and laid back compared to previous releases. It definitely demonstrates how they've evolved and matured. It's unlike any other Tool release. Already, people have stuck there noses up at it all, because there are no tracks like Hooker With a Penis or The Pot. Shame really... this is the sort of album that'll take a while to digest, due to its complexity and beautifully constrained build ups during each piece. The seven main tracks should be considered movements or arrangements more than traditional rock songs. In contrast to other releases, this album does not focus on tension and release like how Aenima and Lateralus did, this is one long journey that slowly ascends with magic and precision. As opposed to Tool normally blowing up a mountain with musical dynamite and screaming and riffing as the rocks fall around you, on Fear Inoculum you ascend the peak on their psychedelic jam train and enjoy the view. It's almost incomprehensible on the first few listens, then slowly unravels its glory to you. Bless this Immunity.