I saw Tool live for the first time in a decade last May in Florida at the Welcome to Rockville festival. They played two songs from the then-unreleased album, Fear Inoculum, “Descending” and “Invincible.” The crowd was taken in, me too, and I wondered again on the spot (and yet again right now) how Tool can play such complex music and still have incredibly widespread fan support. They do, and no mistake, as I saw when thousands of people stood with me on that Sunday night in the Jaguars Stadium parking lot and listened to 15-minute-long songs at the end of three days in the sun. Over the years their music is getting more complex, the songs are getting longer, and the fans are still there. And not boutique fans, either – metal fans, the same fans who listened to Judas Priest and Rob Zombie the day before. Tool is a fixture in heavy music and their fans have been clamoring for a new album.
Puts me in a Pink Floyd state of mind a little bit, this new one does. It is more of a Tool structure with Pink Floyd shading than the other way around. To see whether having the Floyd thought was crazy or not, I listened to the other Tool releases to suss out similar refrains and flavors – do they have the same feeling? The new one owes a lot to 10,000 Days, which I see as a bridge between Lateralus and Fear Inoculum. Makes, sense, right? It is a progression, one album to the next. It is a trajectory. The early music to me was mournful, then it turned toward rage and after that … well, if not understanding, maybe the beginning of acceptance. What is it now? What does the percussion and the synthetics and the guitars add up to now? No one word really seems right, but it is knowledge and wisdom and experience that the band has combined into the next step of what it is. That either makes sense or it doesn’t. And you know what? Forget about Pink Floyd. This is all Tool. It is a mesmerizing and menacing meditation punctuated with crisp percussion and aggressive guitars, bound together by prophetic, even Stygian, vocals. So, in other words, I like it a lot.
This is the kind of new release fans want from older bands – truly new music that is just as clever and inventive and good as the songs we already know. There are six songs here longer than ten minutes each, along with a few connective musical tissues. None of it is bloated or overlong or unnecessary. It is a major musical accomplishment. The end.
Words by Wayne Edwards, © 2019.