So I used to be a Tool fan - a HUGE Tool fan. Like, Tool-army, listened-to-Lateralus-almost-daily-for-years, Tool fan. Longtime genre favorites like them are kind of interesting to me, especially as a group that actually used to get mainstream radio play. I've also been a big Opeth fan, and comparing the trajectory of the two acts' is also kind of interesting. Tool was always pretty political, they kind of shaped (along with Rage) that "angry 90's political metal" sound, and it's kind of funny to hear them coming back to it now that, well, politics are getting effing heated these days.
But I'm not sure I'm really impressed with Fear Inoculum. It's very Tool. Very. And I'm not sure that's a good thing, especially after over a decade of waiting. I haven't given it more than a single listen yet, to be fair, but I'm honestly not sure I have the patience to do it again. Listening to Tool feels like homework to me these days: long on ivory tower theory, musical arcanities, and the pontifications of industry patriarchs who might need to start considering retiring, and short on... I don't know, earthiness? Relevance would be too strong a word here, but listening to post-Lateralus Tool feels a lot like listening to Elon Musk talk about going to Zeta Reticuli or wherever he thinks he can mine more rare metals for Tesla batteries. I agree with the assessment of one critic who felt that the album was overworked. Contrast with Opeth, an act that's constantly reinventing itself. Moving forward, yes, but also unafraid to feint or leap or crawl. Tool feels almost like a joyless forward march in comparison.
But my tastes might just be changing. To me, though, there are so many bands out there making music just as good as Tool who don't have the benefit of a pre-internet, pre-rise-of-hip-hop reputation to precede them. Bands who aren't swimming in cash. Bands whose response to Black Lives Matter wasn't to side with cops.
Anyways, this is an album I was much more excited to listen to than Fear Inoculum. It's not prog, but it's out-of-this-world psychedelic rock at some of its best. It actually makes me feel like the things that Keenan was telling me about feeling in Lateralus. That sort of atmoshpheric "showing" (as opposed to "telling") is something that I'm coming to really appreciate as I get older.
And though Tool may not be my jam anymore, I'm pretty excited about this putting prog and metal back on the map for a new generation of young listeners.
PS - The flakiness lately has been due to yay more mental health crap and also working way too much. After 3 straight 45+ hour weeks, I plan on submitting a hard scheduling restriction at work that will go into effect at the beginning January. I've talked to my boss about not giving me 6 days of work there in addition to other stuff I have to do (like this comic!), and I've gotten a soft promise from him that he won't do it again, but until it's in writing he can't guarantee anything. Keep yer fingers crossed for me.