Top critical review
A bit of a rehash.
2 September 2019
Having been a fan of Tool since 1996, all I can is it’s OK in places, dull in others. After 7/8 listens I’m hoping things will improve.
Each track has at least a few moments when you think “oh that’s from that song on Aenima, or that song on Lateralus”. There is nothing truly original here. Quite often songs are filled out with single note chugging, making them drag and left feeling directionless. Whereas on previous albums these rhythmical breaks would have been focussed bridges, build-ups of endings, here they are flogged to death, reappearing multiple times to the detriment of the songs.
The vocals for me are one of the weakest parts. While there are some nice moments, melodies are sporadic, simple and quite predictable. There are no real song structures, vocally speaking. Half the songs are limited to chanting-esque lines, which come and go for 30 seconds at a time. There are no building crescendos, aggressive rants or jaw-dropping build-ups. There’s no “The Pot”, “Eulogy” or “Lateralus” here. I don’t know if MJK has always written and recorded separate to the rest of band, but in this instance it really shows - the vocals just seem like a complete afterthought.
On the guitar and riff front, it seems interesting time signatures can’t hide the fact that many of the guitar licks and chord choices are often quite predictable and I hate to say a bit cliched. Dynamically speaking it’s quite poor. Listening back to 10,000 days through Jambi, Wings for Marie 1&2 and The Pot - the landscapes are immense – ups and downs, atmosphere, inventiveness. Same with Lateralus – through Schism, Parabol, Parapola and Lateralus. There is none of that here, or if there is, it’s lost in the overbloated chugging fest.
There are moments that I do enjoy, especially as a drummer, but these really do feel like off-cuts from previous albums. 13 years was clearly too long for thing to keep feeling fresh, as you would expect to be honest. But I was hoping for more than this.