I first came across Tool back in 1996 when I was sent a copy of ‘Ænima’ to review by the record label. I knew they were special, and I knew they were going to be big, but no-one back then knew just how big they would become. To put them into context, prior to this album there had just been two others since 1996, and prior to the album release this had already sold 13 million copies in the States alone. Oh, and along the way they have picked up four Grammy Awards to go with the multi-platinum discs on their walls. One wonders what many of their fans would say to hear them being described as a truly progressive artist, but that is what they are. They are experimental, post metal, prog metal and so much more, all wrapped in a style which is commercialised and somehow makes sense while never following any particular fad or fashion. No other band really sounds like Tool, often Tool do not sound like Tool, and while it is possible to create a massive list of potential influences, there are so many in the melting pot that the list is even more meaningless than normal.
This is an album which while not exactly metal to the walls has plenty of riffs, just combined in at atmospheric fashion with strange time signatures and plenty of other things going on. In some ways this is quite a mellow release, and there is certainly little in here to frighten off small children, and in some ways is quite mainstream but in the warped style which allows Tool to grab the middle ground and share it with absolutely no-one. There is a huge myth about the band, caused in no small part by their refusal to conform to anyone’s ideas about what they should do and how they should do it. For example, just listen to “Mockingbird” the two-minute-long closer which combines weird percussion, electronic noises, and birdsong. It does not fit at all with the rest of the album, yet at the same time seems curiously apt and not out of place at all. The whole of ‘Fear Inoculum’ is like that, taking the listener into many strange and wonderful places as the band pushes the boundaries and defies any critic to call them anything apart from what they are, a modern cutting edge progressive rock band. This is a very easy album to listen to and enjoy on first hearing, but the more it is played, the more the layers reveal themselves, and the more majesty and magic there is to behold.