Tool returns in strong form at the top of the Billboard 200 albums chart, as the band’s first album in 13 years, Fear Inoculum, debuts at No. 1 with the biggest week for any rock album in over one year.
The band’s third No. 1 bows with 270,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Sept. 5 in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music. Of that sum, 248,000 were in album sales.
The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S. based on multi-metric consumption as measured in equivalent album units. Units are comprised of traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). The new Sept. 14-dated chart (where Fear starts at No. 1) will be posted in full on Billboard’s websites on Sept. 10.
Of Fear Inoculum’s total unit start of 270,000 units, album sales comprised 248,000, TEA units were under 1,000 and SEA units were 21,000 (equating to 27.6 million on-demand audio streams for the album’s 10 tracks in its first week).
Fear Inoculum was only sold in two formats: a digital download and a limited-edition CD, which was physically packaged with a 4-inch HD screen and exclusive video footage, a speaker and a 36-page booklet. The elaborate CD retailed for around $45-$50 and quickly became scarce at retail. (Following the huge demand, Tool announced a small batch of additional CDs would be manufactured and, in turn, sold a CD/download combo offer via its webstore on the final day of the tracking week. Customers received the download immediately, with the physical CD arriving later in the month.)
The over-the-top CD packaging is an extension of what other artists have employed in 2019 to enhance the allure of the CD purchase. Taylor Swift released four collectible CD editions of Lover via Target, while BTS also had four variants of its CD for Map of the Soul: Persona. Both albums debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with strong sales.
Remarkably, Fear Inoculum’s big debut is a now-rare example of a No. 1 album without the assistance of a concert ticket/album sale redemption offer, any sort of album pre-order/pre-sale access code promotion, or a single merchandise/album bundle — all of which have become the norm for most major albums in recent years as artists struggle to sell albums through more old-fashioned or traditional methods.
The last rock album to post a bigger week than Fear Inoculum — in either equivalent album units or album sales — was Dave Matthews Band’s Come Tomorrow, which bowed at No. 1 on the June 23, 2018-dated chart with 292,000 units (with 285,000 of that sum in album sales). However, Come Tomorrow’s first-week sales were goosed by a concert ticket/album sale redemption offer.
Fear Inoculum is Tool’s first studio album since 10,000 Days, which opened at No. 1 on the May 20, 2006-dated chart with 564,000 copies sold in its first week. (Until December of 2014, the Billboard 200 ranked albums only by weekly sales.)
In total, Fear Inoculum marks Tool’s third No. 1, following 2006’s 10,000 Days and 2001’s Lateralus. The act has also tallied three further top 40-charting efforts: Salival (No. 38, 2000), Aenima (No. 2, 1996) and the band’s 1993 full-length studio debut Undertow (No. 19 in 2019, following its digital and streaming release, along with most of the band’s catalog).
Back on the new Billboard 200, Taylor Swift’s Lover falls from No. 1 to No. 2 in its second week, earning 178,000 equivalent album units (down 79% from its big first week of 867,000 units).
Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! debuts at No. 3 with 104,000 equivalent album units (with 66,000 of that sum in album sales). Norman tallies Del Rey her sixth top 10 effort. Her last album, 2017’s Lust for Life, opened at No. 1 with 107,000 units (with 80,000 of that in album sales).
Coming in at No. 4 is Lil Tecca’s debut effort We Love You Tecca, starting with 68,000 equivalent album units (with just 4,000 in album sales). The set is powered by streaming activity, as it garnered just 1,000 in TEA units, but 64,000 SEA units (equaling 100.5 million on-demand audio streams for its tracks). The album is driven by the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hit single “Ran$om,” which has spent the past two weeks at No. 1 on the Streaming Songs chart (through the most recently published chart, dated Sept. 7).
Young Thug’s former No. 1 So Much Fun falls from No. 2 to No. 5 in its third week (61,000 equivalent album units; down 21%), while Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You retreats from its No. 4 peak to No. 6 (45,000 units; down 8%).
Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? dips 6-7 (38,000 units; down 6%), Chris Brown’s Indigo climbs 9-8 (34,000 units; down 1%) and Ed Sheeran’s No.6 Collaborations Project falls 8-9 (33,000 units; down 6%). Rounding out the top 10 is Travis Scott’s Astroworld, which vaults 20-10 with 31,000 units (up 55%). The set gets a big boost thanks to attention generated by the documentary film about Scott, Look Mom I Can Fly, which premiered on Aug. 28 on Netflix.