Faith No More — Sol Invictus
As surprising as it was to see Faith No More reunite for some small tours, actually getting a new record from the group was even more shocking. In the time since the group disbanded, following the release of Album Of The Year, it seemed like all parties involved had outgrown their main band — frontman Mike Patton especially, with his countless side-projects. Whether or not the band members were utterly sick of each other, I don't know, but by the time they called it quits there was a feeling of inevitability to their disbanding. So, now it's 2015, and a reformed — and ostensibly revitalised — Faith No More have released Sol Invictus for public consumption.
Often cited as the main influence for the countless nu metal bands to follow in their wake, Faith No More never bore anything but a passing resemblance to the legions of track-suit wearing, nose-ringed miscreants who induced 90s crowds to "jump the fuck up." While I am sure a lot of nu metal bands listened to Faith No More, the common elements were few and far between. The reason I mention this that Faith No More have been out of the public spotlight long enough that most younger music fans likely have no clue who they are, beyond perhaps the odd reference to them — and the aforementioned influence they had. So, if you've heard that these guys "invented nu metal," and you're expecting some kind of late 90s radio-metal revival, let me dispel that notion right away: that's not what Faith No More was about, and that hasn't changed.
The album's title, Sol Invictus, comes from the Latin phrase "unconquered sun", and not the similarly named Libertarian nutjob (redundant) from Florida who is running for a position in the US senate. The album's lyrics do have some religious undertones, especially in album's opening / title track, though Faith No More retain their peculiar mixture of specific and abstract, metaphorical wording. At first glance, it seems like "weird for the sake of weird," but the material rarely sounds pretentious — bizarre, difficult to parse, sure. Similar to John Garcia (Kyuss, Unida), Mike Patton is such a capable vocalist, that even when he's spouting pure nonsense, it's still compelling and engaging somehow.
Musically, Faith No More combine elements of funk, punk rock, pop, and traditional metal, though it's a thorough mixing — it's not just straight-up metal with non sequitor interludes that break into various styles. Billy Gould's thick, groovy bass lines — my personal favourite aspect of Faith No More — are excellent and feature prominently on each track. For such a creative, strange band, it's difficult to have expectations — the 18 year hiatus notwithstanding — of what they will do next; Faith No More is the sort of group you just wait to see what happens next and evaluate things after. Releasing a single titled "Motherfucker" is notable, though not shocking when one considers previous works such as "Crack Hitler" and "Jizzlobber." (Incidentally, all three of those are good songs.)
The bulk of my memories of Faith No More revolve around Angel Dust, an absolutely amazing album — by which I mean it's in the "you're stuck on a desert island and can only bring X albums" conversation — but the rest of the group's output never really stuck with me. I'm more a fan of Gould's work with Brujeria, and Mike Patton's never-ending list of side-projects (Peeping Tom, Tomahawk, Mr. Bungle, etc) than I am am of the band itself. I didn't expect another Angel Dust, and Sol Invictus isn't that, though the feeling and quality of that album is absolutely present. It's not a surprise that after 18 years, Faith No More sound matured and refreshed, though this is absolutely not the rule — hewing closer to the exception, actually — when it comes to reunion albums.
It pleases me to say that Sol Invictus is a very well written album, and doesn't sound the least bit phoned-in. Running just a shade under 45 minutes, the only part of the record that feels a little too long is the seemingly endless repetition of the chorus in "Superhero," while the opening track feels too short. Aside from those minor complaints, there's little else to criticise on this record; the last three tracks are probably the best cuts, though there is no filler material. The slow build in "Matador" and vocal tones remind me of "Everything's Ruined," although the piano isn't the lifesblood of this song. "Motherfucker" feels like an intentionally radio-averse track that would otherwise be a perfect single for the broadcast medium. The album's closer, "Back From The Dead" sounds like a crooner ballad from four decades ago, but at this stage of Mike Patton's career this is an entirely normal thing — it also sounds great and serves as a fine closing track.
Every song on Sol Invictus serves to illustrate just how diverse the Faith No More 'formula' is, with each song sounding very distinct from the others. I don't know where I rate this record in the band's discography, but Sol Invictus absolutely deserves a place near the top. For a band with such a peculiar, uniquely diversified sound, personal taste is a huge factor in assessing their work — fans have always been divided over past albums, and I expect this record to be no different in that regard. Whether it's the spoken-word stylings of "Sol Invictus," the frantic intensity of "Separation Anxiety," or the slide-guitar funk of "Sunny Side Up," Faith No More attack from so many angles and yet still manage to hit their mark.
An excellent comeback effort from an already legendary band, Sol Invictus is a strong addition to Faith No More's discography. There is a lot to take in on this record, and multiple listens may be required to really get comfortable with the material. Long-time fans ought to be pleased with a prime collection of new material, while those new to Faith No More get a great introduction to a seminal modern band.
Release date: May 19th, 2015
Record label: Reclamation Records
Mike Patton — vocals
Jon Hudson — guitar
Billy Gould — bass
Mike Bordin — drums
Roddy Bottum — keyboards, vocals
- Sol Invictus
- Sunny Side Up
- Separation Anxiety
- Cone Of Shame
- Rise Of The Fall
- Black Friday
- From The Dead
Published: November 25, 2015