Despite an absence of 13 years, Tool has somehow managed to remain at the top of the musical food chain and retain most of its fanbase. Since the 2006 release of 10,000 Days, the band members have been keeping busy with other ventures, creative and otherwise. Topping charts and selling well, Fear Inoculum definitely did not pass under the radar. Famed for the use of unconventional time signatures and song structures, you’d be hard pressed to find any Tool fans that don’t consider themselves connoisseurs of all things far out of the intellectual reaches of the average person. Yet, at some point, all this complicated and overdrawn work, rife with esoteric humor, starts to come across as rather ostentatious. Patience is required to listen to this album, which doesn’t have a single song under 10 minutes, save for the random interludes on the digital deluxe edition. The title track, “Fear Inoculum” is rather restrained and understated for a band of this nature as it utilizes Danny Carey’s on-brand tribally influenced drums that help to make up Tool’s iconic sound. Layers of Adam Jones’ wavering guitar and Justin Chancellor’s bass slowly build along with Maynard James Keenan’s legato vocals. Though not particularly bad, this song spends 13 minutes going nowhere as there isn’t enough progression throughout the track that would warrant the need for such an exaggerated length when the same effect could have been achieved in about five. Additionally, if you would have told me that “Invincible” was the same song, I wouldn’t think twice; both songs sound more like a hippie jam band meandering about, rather than the well written, thought out works of such seasoned musicians. The interludes offer nothing interesting to the overall sound of the record – erratic and redundant, they most often sound like someone playing around with new studio equipment. Lowering the already sleepy pulse of the record, “Culling Voices” is comprised of nothing more than some layered guitars and Keenan’s voice for the first three quarters of the song. It isn’t until the drums kick in that the song starts to have some sort of movement. “7empest” is the only song that managed to hold this writer’s attention to some degree; the mix is great, and the creative use of vocal layering and present guitars make this song stand out from the rest, although it’s hard to deny that it is highly reminiscent of the 10,000 Days sound. What really holds this album together is Carey’s outstanding drumming – that’s the real pulse of this record. Ultimately, Fear Inoculum is for the diehard Tool fans out there. Considering the time it took to produce this record, one would expect something extraordinary and perhaps a little different, but instead, we just got the same old recipe yielding the same, albeit more underwhelming, results.