20 May 2015

Faith No More - Sol Invictus

This is something I never thought I would be saying again – today I am going to look at the latest review from Faith No More.  This band formed a big part of my youth, from not liking “Epic” too much (I always preferred “Surprise, Your Dead!!!”), to the brilliance that was Angel Dust and seeing them hand Guns N’ Roses their own arses at Gateshead Stadium, the left of field ‘King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime’ (an album that took me a long time to actually understand, once I did I was very impressed) to their last release called ‘Album of the Year’ which is still my personal favourite.  Even going back to their first two albums with Chuck…. is something that I enjoy as you can see the ideas forming in the band.  There is no subject that they will not face and each member of the band is as important as the other – with only Jim Martin from the dubbed “classic” line-up not in the reunion, not to bothered either way about his presence if I am honest – and after a few years doing their greatest hits, the band have followed Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Pixies, etc and released an album with new material.  It is sometimes best to leave something alone, it can be seen as either a brave attempt at former glories, reclaiming those aforementioned glories or crapping all over your legacy; it can be seen as a fool’s errand and this is a dangerous move. With Faith No More, it is sometimes hard to see what the album is about; it can take a few years for the full picture to be fully completed, there is also a certain level of expectation (rightly or wrongly) that gets given to this sort of release – i.e. is it as good as their original stuff.  This really should not be the case, but albums do get viewed in comparison to earlier works – the backlash from people I know who are fans has been really harsh in places and on a level to the situation when Morbid Angel released 'Illud Divinum Insanus' (Cleverly linked here), also it is understandable and ridiculous at the same time (but I will get to that at the end of the album). So with that said, let’s see how they have aged…..

Starting the album is the song and title track “Sol Invictus”, a slow piano lead introduction to the album; it does not explode out of the blocks as you would expect from a band who have been away for so long, it is all about the slow burning on this number.  It creates an interesting atmosphere on the album and it asks more questions than it answers.  It is also over before it can make too much of an impression as the band dive straight into the second song from the album called “Superhero”, which was also the second single to be released from the album; it is a strong song much in the mould of “Epic”, “Midlife Crisis” and “Everything’s Ruined” – it was one of those songs which you can see was destined to be a single.  However, as good as the first part of the song is – the second half is aiming for an epic ending, slow moody pianos and long solos which are all performed very well; but then it has the shouty non chorus over it and it just sounds weak for showing that part of the song again.  If it had have been without the no shouting part again (i.e. – done differently and not at the same pace as the faster section) it would have worked a hell of a lot better.  But a disappointing Faith No More song is sort of like a disappointing pizza – it is still good.  Track three is called “Sunny Side Up” which can either be took at face value with its lyrics about food and light, or it can be another song about morning sex – it really depends on how much you read into the lyrics.  For me personally, I find the music to be much more focused on this number and it has a similar vibe to “Evidence” from ‘King for a Day…’ it is not too heavy, but it does not take itself too seriously either.  It has a familiar feeling already and sounds really good.

“Separation Anxiety” once again feels very familiar upon first listen, rumbling bass and guitar from Billy Gould and Jon Hudson which mixes in with the pounding drops of Mike Bordin, atmospheric keyboards of Roddy Bottum and the sheer mad menacing of Mike Patton is something that others have tried to ape over the year and have not quite succeeded in various degrees to complete.  It starts off like being a self-referencing piece, but it improves after more listens.  It is a really strong track which shows the animals within the band are still dangerous.  Fifth track “Cone of Shame” starts with a slow plucking guitar that is joined by a military style drum roll and clicking as well, it take a while to make its point and every now and then reverts back to the guitar and keyboards.  It does get heavy towards the end to keep the old faithful happy and has enough of Mike Patton sounding like he is back in his “RV” mode in places, but this is the first song which I cannot put my finger on it; it has stumped me and I cannot make up my mind if it is a band playing in their own shadow and being self-referencing, if they are trying to reclaim those glories or if they should have done a bit of editing.  Either way, it has really confused me (maybe they are referring to the audience when they are talking about pissing people off).  “Rise & Fall” is the next track, this song does a similar sort of thing to “Cone of Shame”, it has me a little perplexed and wondering if the band are playing in their own shadow too much; it is a great song and the middle really makes the hair on the back of my head stand on end (it comes across so primal in places), but the quieter places of the song just feel a little too clichéd, a little too much by the numbers for them.  It is still a very interesting number, but also a little confusing for my tastes.

“Black Friday” is flat out funny, I mean I was laughing out loud when I was listening to it for the first time, getting some very odd looks and feeling like it is either a big joke or that the band have just gone into another dimension that we are yet to catch up with them.  The acoustic strumming, the bass pounding, Patton sounding like the beast he always does and the almost stop-start chorus just hit all the FNM buttons for me.  It helps the album a lot, it also makes other songs come into focus (but more on that later).  Next is “Motherfucker” – I am not going to lie, I do not like this song.  It was the first single and I purchased it upon release, I was disappointed upon the first listen and that has not gone away.  It sounds like the band Cake trying to make a Faith No More song; I like Cake, I like Faith No More – but they are two separate acts who do not mix well for me.  It is not a song for me, I can accept that and it is time to move to the next song.  The penultimate track is called “Matador” which is the longest song on the album; this song is just towering, it is the polar opposite to "Motherfucker".  It shifts and turns in the ways that only comes from a band that have experience together, it feels well crafted, grand in design and with an air of justifiable arrogance that is warranted.  Ending the album is "From The Dead" which ends the album with a number welcome people from the dead, it sounds like it could be the song for the end of a horror movie and it is slightly unnerving; at first I was not too sure about it but the more I listened to it, the sense it made.

Let us address the elephant in the room - this is not the return that people were demanding or expecting, it is not as big as their earlier work (but with that said, it is not in a bad way
; at least they are trying something different) and it does have its flaws.  But, I also find it hard to agree with the people who are saying that this is the sound of a band playing as if they are a shadow of their former, younger personas.  Yes, they have been apart for many years; yes, it is there first album in 20 years; yes, I wish it was Jim Martin too (some of the guitars were a little weak).  But the problem that comes with the album is that the band were on the cutting edge of music when they were first out and people are expecting that again - but most of the band have went on to do some really out there moments which have given them different things to bring back to this album, this is an album by people who have a different set of experiences than the guys who did "We Care A Lot", "Naked In Front of The Computer" or the cover of "I'm Easy".  I love Faith No More as well, but you have to accept they have changed - the people who are listening to this in their youth and that are saying that this is the work of a spent force have grown as well, so maybe they have moved on to different things?  It is something to consider and will be discussed at length.  I have to say that overall I like the album, I do not love it like I do some of their earlier work but here is the rub for me; each Faith No More album I have listened to does the exact same thing for me, it always takes a while to digest and sink in and I do not envision this album doing anything different - I like puzzles and this album feels like it will be one of those releases.  If you are wanting to relive your lost youth, there is a back catalogue for you; if they are no longer your cup of tea, there are other albums out there for you; if you want to hear a band come back and drop an interesting album which is a bit of an enigma, look no further.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - Matador

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Faith No More website here

You can also follow their activities on Facebook here

You can stream the album on Spotify here

You can stream the album on Deezer here

You can stream the album on Tidal here

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