European Tour 2019 Rock Werchter (Diamond Records DR-280619)
Rock Werchter, Belgium – June 28, 2019
Disc 1 (75:40) Third Eye Intro, Anema, The Pot, Parabola, Descending, Schism, Invincible, Part Of Me, Jambi, 46 & 2
Disc 2 (75:39) Vicarious, (-) Ions, Stinkfist. Bonus Tracks: Le Zenith Arena, Paris, France – December 10, 2006: Lost Keys, Rosetta Stoned, Swamp Song, Wings For Marie, 10,000 Days, Lateralus
The release of Tool’s Fear Inoculum on August 30, 2019 marked a 13 year gap between albums, the longest in the band’s 29 year history. Needless to say there was a huge anticipation for the record that, coupled with a limited physical pressing, shows the band’s understanding of the current market place for new music, the digital download. I was one of those lucky nutcases who had a copy set aside by my local independent record shop and I was there at noon to pick up my copy. Actually, in a twist of fate, I did not listen to the CD for a couple weeks after that, I wanted to be in a clear state of mind when I could fully immerse myself in it.
I have seen Tool a dozen times since 1998, their music on CD is only part of the picture, the visual aspect of their presentation is the other, when combined you get as complete a picture as your mind and imagination allows. I was quite excited to see the band on this tour, managing to see them twice this tour, one being the VIP experience. As usual the band did not disappoint, the new music in the live setting seems to warm the experience when listening to FI. I was quite intrigued when I saw this release as I was not familiar with Diamond Records, thankfully a visit to Discogs illuminated me. Diamond looks to be European in origin and have three Tool releases from this tour as well as various other artists like Iron Maiden, Metallica, KISS, and Roger Waters. The price was right, I took a chance and was pleasantly surprised with what I found.
First off is the sound quality, this release is an excellent audience recording that sounds like it was done close to the stage with good equipment, digitally recorded with external microphones. A perfect frequency range with all instruments and vocals being clear and very well defined in the mix, with just enough audience sounds to bring out the ambiance, a very easy and enjoyable listen. During the loud parts there is virtually no distortion so it sounds great quiet or played loud. The majority of the 14 dates on Tool’s summer tour of Europe were festival dates, the concert here being from Rock Werchter Festival in Werchter, Belgium. This festival is a music festival with a variety of acts, 2019’s line up included Pink, The Cure, Momford and Sons, Florence and the Machine, and Bring Me The Horizon to name a few. As one would expect from a festival concert, the set list is just a bit shorter than the headline dates in the fall.
The recording begins with an intro, on this title it is referred to as Third Eye intro but it is not from the Ænima song but a pounding soundscape not unlike a heartbeat. This goes on for a couple minutes while the band soundchecks their instruments leading into the heavy breathing intro of Ænima. Singer Maynard James Keenan’s vocals are well defined in the live mix, same thing as the two concerts I went to, and is in fine voice. While he does not sing with the angry tone he is known for, more smoothed with age. That being said instrumentally, the band is as tight as ever, modern prog at its best, musicianship reigns supreme. Don’t be afraid, turn it up.
The set list is a nice mix of song covering their entire career, save for Undertow, although they do visit this record as the spot taken on this night with Part of Me (from the Opiate EP), does switch off with Intolerance. The Lateralus track Parabola is actually both parts, Parabol and Parabola. Fear Inoculum is represented by two tracks, the first is Descending, while Keenan, or the other members of Tool for that matter have every given direction to lyrical or musical meaning always letting the listener make of it what they will, most agree the song lyrically is referencing the health of the planet and the harm that has been done to it. Like all good Tool music, the vibe is heavy, and like the rest of Fear Incoculum, heavily centered on time signature. What is even more amazing is how a song that is over 13 minutes long goes by so fast.
The second new song is Invincible, along with Descending was one of the first songs from FI to be played live and there were many a shitty youtube video to watch and hear it pre-album release, I never bothered preferring to hear it in best quality. When I first did hear it I immediately got the feeling of listening to Rush, I find Keenan’s opening vocals to be almost Geddy Lee like in his phrasing and his lyrics Peart like. Musically one of the more intense songs on FI, very structured with all three instruments playing a part of the musical landscape and in direct contrast to the simple yet aggressive Part Of Me, which during Maynard goes old school on the vocals. The crowd pleasing “hits” make up the rest of the show, Vicarious features a slow building intro that musically follows the same chord sequence and Stinkfist gets a cool Ions intro both audible and visual. A superbly played concert, a stunning recording, Tool is alive and well.
To round out the second disc there is 60 minutes from the tour to support 10,000 Days at Le Zenith Arena in Paris, France. The recording is again an audience source and is excellent quality, extremely clear and detailed, perfect blend of instruments and vocals and sounds like it was done close to the stage. I hear a much more complex soundscape of Lost Keys (Blame Hoffman) that I have in other live recordings, bubbling liquid seems to emanate from the mix and the song leads into Rosetta Stoned, Maynard’s vocals clear in the mix and quite enjoyable. Always great to hear Swamp Song from Undertow, it has an almost corrosive soundscape introduction. For me the highlight of this recording is the Wings for Marie > 10,000 Days, this is one of Tool’s masterworks both musically and lyrically, quite moving. During the very quiet and gentle beginning of Wings, there is a rambunctious element in the audience, very American in their whooping and hollering. Typical for Tool shows, once the music and vocals start, the crowd becomes transfixed and more behaved. These two songs are entwined with the A Perfect Circle song Judith, a lyrical catharsis of sorts for Keenan that is quite intense.
The packaging is excellent, tri gatefold sleeve with close up live shots of the band on the interior as well as official Art work on the cover. The sleeve itself is not flimsy and while the CD’s slide in and out, they are easily removed with enough room for me to use my own white paper CD sleeve for a bit more protection. The price was also very reasonable, similar to a double disc from Japan. I was so pleased with this release, I orderd another Tool and Iron Maiden title, it is always nice to see companies catering to the collectors market. Tool bootlegs are few and far between, thankfully I was able to find out about them and hopefully we get more in the future.