Thursday, June 11, 2015

Album Review: Faith No More - 'Sol Invictus'

There are a few top-shelf magazine critics out there who gave this album a less than mediocre review upon the eve of it's release, from the ones I read they were all expecting and/or hoping for an album's worth of material that sounded like a modern day version of the band's most popular records The Real Thing and Angel Dust. To put it bluntly, they are fucking idiots. One of them even went as far as to call the groups last two releases prior to Sol Invictus; King For A Day..., and Album of the Year "nigh unlistenable". That guy shouldn't be a critic, obviously has no grasp of the concept of what Faith No More is about - and is a fucking idiot.

Before you read the rest of this you should know that prior to Sol Invictus I'd rate FNM's albums best to worst in the reverse order of their release. Which means I think Album of the Year is the best thing they've done and so forth down the line. Yet Sol Invictus, while feasibly sounds like the logical next step in the audio journey of Faith No More's discography, fails to better the two albums that came before it. This record is as acceptable today some 19 years after their last release as it is/would have been in the year 1999. I didn't have the hype built up for it that others may have had because its Faith No More, and you have no idea what to really expect - the whole thing could have wound up being a cover of German folk songs done in spoken word over Polka music and I'd have shrugged my shoulders and thought 'whadda ya gonna do?'.

It succeeds in what it is as it is it's own self-contained monster, just as all of their other albums can be perceived. We Care A Lot was the New Wave / 80's Punk - Funk answer to the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the time. Introduce Yourself wasn't much different in it's being. The Real Thing held onto the monotone synth heavy bottomless end from start to finish. Angel Dust's musical mosaic-like dichotomy was it's own incomparable characteristic at the time. King For A Day... stuck to it's faster, more rock-oriented roots, and Album Of The Year was as everywhere as Angel Dust only serving more as a Greatest Hits album by being a consortium of everything they'd done up to that point delivered in a brand new bag of goods.

Sol Invictus feels like the most grandiose of their albums in each songs presence and as a whole collection of songs. The song writing here is fantastic, the unmistakable totality of the instruments harkens back to the unique sonic presence of the group's first four albums. Patton pulls from his bag of a thousand voices several times in each song without ever sounding contrived. It is in all angles of it's being a solid Faith No More entry - so in that aspect this is a four star album.

On a personal level, I would have loved to have heard a lot more variation between the songs. While the first track serves more as an intro than anything else, "Superhero" truly starts the album off perfectly as a near epic rock song, borrowing from the pensive determination of "Last Cup Of Sorrow" and the free-wheeled drive of "Get Out". Its a fine kickstarter to massage your ears in prep for the sound of FNM some 19 years later.

 It becomes a bit formulaic for Faith No More after that: "Separation Anxiety", "Cone Of Shame", "Rise Of The Fall", "Matador" and even "Sunny Side Up" to a point all feel very similar in their structure (though I dig "Matador" the best). They all seem to follow a fuse to a climax, even teasing at it after the first verse before letting it give way after the second. Granted their methodology and writing is top notch, but 'formulaic' and Faith No More shouldn't be two words married together often. "Motherfucker" sticks out here like a sore thumb, in a good way - but put it anywhere on Album Of The Year or Angel Dust and it would feel a whole lot less like a square peg and even add to those efforts' fluidity.

The acoustic guitars that drive "Black Friday" help keep that song from blending in too much with the others, even though it's structure feels just as similar as it's surrounding peers, and album closer "From The Dead" is a nice change of pace too, sounding damn near like Faith No More covering a Stone Temple Pilots number - also in a good way. I really enjoy the album, it definitely feels like the biggest thing they've ever done, like I said - grandiose, but the extreme music asshole in me kept wanting them to take it further, waiting for an 'Ugly In The Morning' or a 'Got That Feeling', but I suppose that's what Fantomas and to a degree Tomahawk is there for. Never-the-less I'd be a hypocrite if I said I expected anything with any degree of confidence from Faith No More, which is the monolithic characteristic of this band that's always made them great.