Thursday, September 26, 2019

Tool - Fear Inoculum

It has now been about a month since Tool released its first new album in 13 years. If you haven't heard of Tool, they are what I like to think of as 'intellectual Metal'. They produce heavy, intricate, gorgeous heavy prog metal that really makes you think. And you have to spend time getting to know their music--you can't take one listen and dismiss it or you are simply missing all the nuances.

I truly believe that the singer of Tool--Maynard James Keenan--is the greatest singer/songwriter of my generation, with all due respect to Chris Cornell or Eddie Vedder. He's prolific as well, leading three very popular bands with Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer. I've been fortunate to see him live three times now, twice with APC and once with Tool, and this past May when my wife and I saw Tool in Jacksonville, we got to be in the audience for the first public performances of two of the songs from this new album.
Maynard James Keenan
Since I have now listened to Fear Inoculum 50 times, I thought that should give me enough perspective to give my feelings about the new album. The verdict is that the 'real' songs on the album are terrific and worth investing quite a bit of time into delving into their subtleties. Why do I say 'real' songs? Because Tool likes to put some filler stuff onto each album. This is an album with six true songs, which sounds like a small number until you realize that each song is long, with 7empest coming in at over fifteen minutes and the shortest song, Culling Voices, at just over ten minutes. Then there is the filler, four tracks that some fanatics may enjoy but don't add much, and I can't say I ever really enjoy such tracks.

But the six true songs on this album are all great, all five stars on my iTunes. Is the album as incredible as Aenima, Lateralus, or 10,000 Days? Perhaps not quite, but I think that's only because those albums had some tracks playable on FM radio, whereas this album doesn't even come close with their very long track lengths. But the quality is up to par with the older albums.

It's difficult even after fifty listens to rank which of the songs I enjoy most. There are tiny moments within each song that really grab me. I see a lot of people ranking Pneuma as their top choice, and I won't argue with that. It's a great song. For me I think I'd rank it fifth among the six songs. Even the sixth best song on the album, Culling Voices, is really good, with some beautiful guitar moments and a rocking ending.

I'll rank Invincible as my top choice. Some of that may perhaps be sentimental since I saw it live and it was amazing, but the moments in the song that really grab me are very subtle and are even difficult to describe. There is a point at the 9:34 mark when the music pauses before the drums crash in and the music picks up a cool crunching rhythm. What I love is something you have to listen very hard to pick out. Turn the volume way up so you can feel what I mean. Let your ears listen to the primary beat going on, and every so often just off of the beat the drummer throws in these incredible little fills that just MAKE this part thrilling for me. I get chills each time I hear/feel them. One is at the 9:44 mark and you hear the next at 9:52. (note those times are in my iTunes so don't necessary come in exactly the same on Youtube)
Adam Jones
Descending and the title track are also both really cool, but I'll go with 7empest as my number two choice. It has the most traditional rock radio sound to it despite its incredibly long length of more than fifteen minutes. It won't bore you, though! Guitarist Adam Jones really shows his chops throughout this song with some amazing solo work, the drums as always are jaw-dropping, and Maynard even seems to be rapping a bit during some of the lyrics, and while I'm not normally a fan of rap music, it works with what he's doing here.

Fear Inoculum is a slightly more mature and thoughtful Tool, and every bit as worthy an album as their greatest ones. I hope you'll give it the depth of listening that it deserves.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Living in Rome

This summer we moved to Rome, Italy. I first visited Rome way back in 1995 when I was living in Moscow, Russia. I later visited northern Italy quite a number of times while we were living in Croatia. We finally visited Rome as a family in 2013. But now we get to actually live here, which is awesome!

I have always been a huge history buff, and ancient Rome was always my favorite. If you have never read the Rome series by Colleen McCullough, it's the best historical fiction I've ever read. I intend to re-read the series now that I'm living here.
View from our apartment

You can see the balcony of our apartment
Our apartment is right in the historical center of Rome, not far from the Pantheon and Piazza Navona.

Monument to Emmanuele II and the Capitoline

Walking anywhere around the city center is simply amazing, blending so many historical styles.
Spanish Steps
Even my new place of work is gorgeous. The hallway below is just steps away from my office!
It's going to be a fascinating three years here!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Summer Move

This summer we moved from Nassau, Bahamas to Rome, Italy. In between we spent about a month and a half back in the US. We visited family and friends, but mostly we drove all over the western United States. We started in Phoenix, Arizona and went through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and back to Arizona. It was exhausting but fun.
Me in Yellowstone Park
I last visited Yellowstone Park when I was four, so it was great to see it again. I even had a deja vu moment where I realized the spot we were in must be one that I had been at as a four year old.
Visiting Seattle
I hadn't yet been to Seattle, so it was nice finally getting up there.

We visited the Museum of Pop in Seattle, which had nice sections for Pearl Jam and Nirvana, but strangely had nothing for Soundgarden or Alice in Chains.
One highlight was stopping by the Seattle Library (due to its amazing architecture) and noticing that they had one of my novels! Later I checked in Portland and their library system had two copies.
Crater Lake
On our way down through Oregon we drove through Crater Lake, which had the bluest waters I have ever seen.

I loved spending this summer with my wife and younger son, though we missed having our eldest with us, since he was doing an internship for college.