Faith No More
Sol Invictus

Even in the wake of their reunion tours stretching back to 2009, the reality of a new studio album from Faith No More, the kings of genre-bending alt rock-metal, seemed highly unlikely. At the height of their powers Faith No More shared a strained relationship with each other, a prickly tension and volatile chemistry that failed to derail their creativity and innovative song-writing. They were always fiercely determined to do things their own way and on their own terms, often in contrast to what fans and critics alike would have expected. So needless to say, the idea of the band writing a new collection of songs together without opening up fresh tensions and old wounds seemed more fantasy than reality. Well lo and behold some 18 years after dropping the solid Album of the Year Faith No More are back from the dead with their much-hyped comeback effort, entitled Sol Invictus. And guess what? It doesn’t suck.

Instead we are treated to a solid, mostly engaging and typically unpredictable addition to Faith No More’s oddball legacy. First and foremost Faith No More sidestep a couple of obvious pitfalls of the comeback album, in that they don’t sound like an aging, tired version of their former selves nor do they lean too heavily on the past. Sol Invictus sounds unmistakably like a Faith No More album, but one that carves its own unique little space in the band’s storied history.  Straightaway the band throwdown a trick shot with the opening title track, a darkly seductive number which has an underlying menace but cruises along in a laidback and silky smooth fashion with Patton crooning over the top. “Superhero” lifts the tempo considerably and looks set be become a live favorite. It rocks hard in a straightforward and vintage Faith No More way, bringing truckloads of energy and classic Roddy Bottum keyboard melodies.

Sol Invictus begins solidly enough, but after the first two songs shit gets really interesting with an inspired mid-section of the album. The funky grooves, sly hook and dreary melancholic tone of “Sunny Side Up” finds Patton sounding particularly inspired, both vocally and through his weird and wonderful lyricism, while the band displays their trademark mastery of song-writing dynamics. “Separation Anxiety” recalls some of the simmering tension and claustrophobic rhythms of Angel Dust, eventually exploding with a heavy climax and typically schizoid Patton performance. The superb “Cone of Shame” and “Matador” are probably the album’s strongest two cuts. They both feature Faith No More’s quirky, experimental and inventive song-writing in all their modernized glory, sounding classic and fresh at the same time.

Compact and punchy, Sol Invictus is an intelligently concise listen that doesn’t overstay its welcome, leaving the listener wanting more and demanding repeat plays. The subtleties of the album and some of the more abstract and elusive hooks take a while to reveal themselves, but once they do they prove difficult to shake. Sol Invictus is very much a ‘grower’ album that becomes increasingly addictive through multiple spins. Musically the band members are in great form, losing none of their chemistry, although Jon Hudson remains an adequate but unremarkable guitarist, lacking the creative spark and chops of the dearly departed Jim Martin or Trey Spruance.

Despite its ample strong moments and sprinkles of brilliance, Sol Invictus is by no means a flawless album. While there are no outright clangers to be found, there are a few weaker spots, such as Patton’s goofy vocals and lyrics dampening some of the more interesting moments on “Black Friday”, or the overused “leader of men” refrain that bogs down “Superhero”. Acoustic based closer “From the Dead” has some pleasing melodies but it also comes across as a weaker cousin of the classic “King for a Day”. Meanwhile, there’s something amiss with the production that I can’t quite put my finger on but sonically the album isn’t quite as impactful as it could be.

Quibbles aside, Sol Invictus is a more than respectable addition to Faith No More’s legacy and while it can’t touch the dizzying greatness of Angel Dust or the underrated King For a Day Fool for a Lifetime, it’s a fine album in its own right.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
June 1st, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    so far this is top of my list of most disappointing albums of the year… has neither the brazen wackiness or surprising, unlikely catchiness of either Angel Dust of KFAD. Felt warmed over and just meh, like I was listening to yet another of Patton’s post FNM side-projects. A few songs like Sunny Side Up or Separation Anxiety piqued my interest a bit but that’s it. Great review as always, I just don’t agree this time :(


  2. Commented by: Luke_22

    Yeah seems like it’s destined to be a very divisive album and while I concede it’s no classic, it has easily exceeded my fairly low expectations and I have kept coming back to it. On another note I’m working on a review of an album from a band called Wilderun that you might enjoy a lot more. They play folk metal with a healthy Opeth prog-death influence.It’s great stuff and I’m generally not much of a folk metal guy.


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