Review: Faith No More – Sol Invictus

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As a longtime fan of Faith No More (think before Epic became the fluke-hit of 1990) I can’t tell you how badly I took their 1998 breakup. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth… but also hope. Hope that they would one day follow up their “final” 1997 release Album of the Year. For over a decade the prophets were silent. Then Mike Patton finally changed his mind regarding how he “wasted all of his twenties in that band”. There was a live reunion that began in 2009 and ended in 2012 (an extensive tour which largely ignored their homeland in the States).

Currently touring the States and maddeningly selling out each venue before most can get their hands on a reasonably-priced ticket, Faith No More will drop Sol Invictus worldwide later this month. As previously mentioned, this will be their first album since 1997 and will include that album’s line-up (Jim Martin fans need to just give it up. Even Chuck Mosley was given a little stage-time a while back at their homecoming show).

I must admit that, upon my initial-listen, this album sort of passed me by. It doesn’t have much in common with any of the other Faith No More albums, but then again those albums were all sharp-departures from each other; each one with sonic-signatures all their own. After a few listens I feel I’ve started to “get it” so here I am with the play-by-play analysis.

FAITH NO MORE San Francisco - October 28, 2014 Dustin Rabin Photography 2680

FAITH NO MORE
San Francisco – October 28, 2014
Dustin Rabin Photography 2680

Roddy Bottum opens the album’s first track Sol Invictus with piano. There’s a lot of piano on here and FNM without keyboards isn’t really FNM so take it or take it. Mike “Puffy” Bordin begins a marching-drum intro and the album is off to a promising start. Mike Patton’s smooth and completely unmistakable vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Mr. Bungle’s California… or maybe just Mike Patton’s vocals.

Superhero brings a little more heavy and would fit in quite well on any Tomahawk album save for Anonymous. The guitar-sound is surprisingly close to Trey Spruance’s guitar-tone on the still-hella-awesome King for a Day…Fool for a Lifetime release from 1995. The true resurrection of the long-deceased FNM begins with lines like “Ain’t no grave gonna hold this body down” and a triumphant (though somewhat loosely-defined and semi-psychedelic) guitar solo, keys, and Patton wailing over it all.

The one thing that truly distinguishes this song from Patton’s two thousand other Ipecac bands is that it’s only a little “busy” at times. Mike’s bands have a propensity to really saturate their songs with almost too many instruments playing at once. To the casual listener with pop-sensibilities this song may sound busy as well but it’s only a little busy by way of comparison.

Sunny Side Up is memorable and has some of that pop-sensibility but I highly doubt it could ever be a radio single in most markets. Good song nevertheless.

Separation Anxiety follows and Billy Gould’s Bass Lines. (That’s the end of the sentence: “Billy Gould’s Bass Lines”). Whispered verses are juxtaposed with some of Patton’s crazed shrieking and a vocal part that would likely be done with his megaphone in a live setting.

Cone of Shame begins with a simple picked intro and another marching beat from Puffy. Probably gonna wanna snap your fingers to a some of this track. A spoken verse reminds me of King For a Day’s “Just a Man” and builds up to heaviness and talk of stripping someone’s bones off and whatnot. It then proceeds to turn into a vicious standout track as it nears its conclusion.

Rise of the Fall brings a little funk in the verses. The strange key-flute instrument known as the melodica, featured prominently on Angel Dust’s “Midnight Cowboy,” makes its welcome reappearance here. The band deftly balances the dynamics between the mellow and the maniacal and the song concludes with a soothing calm.

Black Friday again displays Gould’s criminally-underrated talent as a bass-wielding beast. This song is a seriously musical and rewarding listen in its semi-simplicity (by latter-day FNM standards). It brings back a tiny bit of the funk that FNM has been short on since The Real Thing-era.

Motherfucker starts somewhat poetically and in a spoken almost-rapped way. This could be a SERIOUS contender for airplay on edgier stations… well, if not for the whole emeffer-thing. A lot of self-important comment-board critics (JAG hates people like that) panned this when it was pre-released, but after a few listens it will be stuck in your head as it ought to be. I found myself almost yelling “GOOD-BYE-MOTH-ERRR-FUCKERRRR!” whilst driving and listening for about the third time. This is typical classic Faith No More goodness. I only wish it was a bit longer.

Matador includes some impressive vocal-acrobatics from Patton… as though anyone expects less from him at any age. At about 2:41 (and elsewhere) you’ll hear some brief histrionics coming from the Hallowed Pipes of Patton that are somewhat reminiscent of their over-the-top cover of the Bee Gees’ “I Started a Joke”. Holy living breathing crap, this is a good track. It’s a damned shame these guys couldn’t have worked together a bit more since the 1998 breakup. This song sounds nothing like “Epic” but it is nothing short of epic.

From the Dead’s beginning acoustic “riff” sounds a bit like Echo & the Bunnymen or just about any other ‘80s British New Wave band. Though Patton’s vox are such that one never needs to use autotune to correct him, he does however layer his vocal tracks here to great effect. The background “aaaaaahhhs” sound like they couldn’t even be better replicated by Roddy’s synth.

Clocking in at about forty minutes Sol Invictus never gets a chance to overstay its welcome. It may be a challenging listen to some, but for many it will reward you after a few listens. This happened to me big-time when I picked up Angel Dust upon its 1993 release. I had gotten so used to the candy-coated sensibilities of The Real Thing* that I was expecting Part 2. Nope, not after you give Patton any real measure of creative control.

*A word about The Real Thing: Since this album’s 1989 release thousands of nü metal bands took a  few small elements of that then-mindblowing album and just ran them into the ground *Korn*. I imagine it’s hard for younger people to look back at that album and understand how exciting, fresh, and innovative it was in its time. Younger people were made to first suffer all manner of rap-rocking ‘90s shit-bands that copied the bass and what little rap was on TRT, mixed it with some Suicidal Tendencies, and turned it into limp bizkits.

This album is not The Real Thing. It’s not Angel Dust, King for a Day…., or Album of the Year for that matter. What it is is a long-overdue next chapter in their career. … It’s not “metal” but it’s not exactly “poppy” either. It is still somewhat accessible by today’s tr00 metal standards. a/k/a A Good Thing.

Sol Invictus will be released to the public on May 19, 2015. Get it.

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