Faith No More didn’t have to come back and make a record. They could have been one of those legacy bands that reunited, toured endlessly, and cashed in on a discography celebrated by a loyal fan base. But here we are, 18 years removed from Album of the Year with a new record to discuss. I commend them for that, even though it isn’t everything I would have hoped for. It plays it too safe. It’s impossible to satisfy every individual fan, but overall I think by playing it so safe they wind up not satisfying anyone.
You’ll always have the people that say the band died when Jim Martin was kicked out, I am not one of them. The two records after his departure went in a less metal direction, more lounge tinged rock, and that’s where Sol Invictus picks up. I hate that people expect this to be a sequel to The Real Thing or Angel Dust. Those records were then and that period of time is over. You cannot recreate the production sound or the youthful spirit of the band or what was going on in the lives of the band members at the time to inspire them to write those songs, so get over it. Do you have to accept the new music that is produced for you? No, but don’t have unrealistic expectations. Build a time machine if you want to go back and hear “Epic” for the first time. I was there, and it was great, but this is now, so let’s proceed.
There’s not a bad track on the album, although some might consider “Motherfucker” a scribbled lyric on a napkin by a drunken Mike Patton. This was the first single they released back in November, and at the time I was severely disappointed by its simplicity and reliance on one single hook. However, over time the track has grown on me and I can see how hearing it live might make it a better experience. It really starts low and keeps adding instruments until it all comes together for that catchy chorus.
That’s something this record has: choruses that will be stuck in your head for days and grow inside you like a lounge singing xenomorph. Second single and stand out track “Super Hero” is the most guilty of this. It’s the perfect representation of what modern day Faith No More should be. It takes the song writing ability of those first couple of records and gives it an updated contemporary sound. If you’re a Faith No More fan, and that’s probably why you are reading this, you’ll be able to listen to it again and again without getting sick of it. A perfect track on a flawed album. “Separation Anxiety” sounds like a spiraling descent into a film noir of the 1940s, a stand out. “Sunny Side Up” is another one with a memorable chorus and also a nice bass/piano groove. I look forward to hearing these live. That’s one thing I miss from the last three records: that great bass sound they used to get. That’s not something I should have to teleport to the early 90s to hear, it’s just gone. You still hear the bass, it just somehow doesn’t have that same bone-bending sonic wave that once existed. A minor gripe.
Production wise everything is as smooth as silk and goes down easy, but I think that’s one of the problems. This album is too passive, too light and breezy, as if it were recorded to be played along side a funeral not to disturb any of the mourners. It’s like gum you chewed that lost its flavor but you keep chewing it anyway because you like the feeling of chewing gum! There are only minor moments of genius and not enough ideas presented. The Tomahawk LPs that Patton has put out have a lot more creativity and were a lot more fun to listen to. When you listen to Sol Invictus, it doesn’t feel like Faith No More is taking you on an exciting new adventure, it feels like their mother forced them to show you the sights around town and they are doing so begrudgingly.