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Sol Invictus - 73%

H_P Buttcraft, September 16th, 2015

“Sol Invictus” is the first album from hard rock titans Faith No More since 1997. After disbanding, each member went on to form different projects and only started touring together again a couple of years ago at a few select music festivals. A band that was once on top of the modern rock charts have seemed to wipe their slate clean and show the world what a Twenty First Century Faith No More sounds like with “Sol Invictus”. One thing I can tell from “Sol Invictus” is that they certainly are not the same band they were when their smash hit single “Epic” came out in 1990.

There isn’t a whole lot that I can say about Faith No More that hasn’t already been written before. They are a California-based alternative hard rock band that formed in 1979 by Roddy Bottum, Bill Gould and Mike Bourdin that became popular for incorporating a huge variety of different musical styles into their compositions. Elements of funk music, blues, punk and even hip-hop are expressed in the bands’ melodic versatility. With their third album “The Real Thing”, it became the band’s breakthrough into the mainstream of the music industry. If you were alive in the 1990’s and saw at least two hours of MTV, you more than likely encountered Faith No More before from their iconic music video for “Epic” that concludes with a live fish flopping around on the ground and a TV set exploding while a soft, somber piano plays in the background.

As a revolt to this new appeal to a mass audience, the band released “Angel Dust” in 1992, which challenged industry and cultural standards. Although the album didn’t satisfy their American audiences, it remains Faith No More’s best selling album outside of the States, selling more than three million copies. “Angel Dust” was a tremendous artistic and commercial triumph. It was Mike Patton’s first album where he had a role in the songwriting as he joined the band during a time where all of the songs for “The Real Thing” were already written. “Angel Dust”, in my opinion, is still the single greatest record I have heard to this day.

After guitarist Jim Martin left the band, the changes that Faith No More made to their sound were huge and perhaps the contrast was a bit much for their fanbase. 1995’s “King For a Day, Fool For A Lifetime” and 1997’s “Album of the Year” were two very strong albums from the band but the world hasn’t heard much from Faith No More since then. Mike Patton has been working as a voice actor as well a fronting the bands Tomahawk and Fantômas while the other members of Faith No More have gone on to do such things as write movie scores, run record labels and most of all perform music.

But recently, as soon as 2013, Faith No More has begun to make a come back. Here’s what Faith No More had to say about “Sol Invictus” which was published on their official website and helps clear up some of the mystery of their absence:

“What's changed is that this year, for the first time, we've all decided to sit down together and talk about it. And what we've discovered is that time has afforded us enough distance to look back on our years together through a clearer lens and made us realize that through all the hard work, the music still sounds good, and we are beginning to appreciate the fact that we might have actually done something right.”

Some of the songs on “Sol Invictus” come out hard and gritty with a touch of class, mostly from Roddy Bottum’s keyboards/piano like their song “Superhero”. And there are a lot of tracks on “Sol Invictus” have this sun-stained and color burned rock song. Tracks like “Sunny Side Up” and “Motherfucker” got a lot of that catchy art rock that is soured or twisted. On songs like “Seperation Anxiety”, you hear a very pensive and dramatic expression. They sing about “being a part of me and not apart from me,” perhaps related to the band being separated for so long and now they are reunited to make music again because that is what is true to them. The vocals by Patton go from a heavy pant to sweet and high ranged vocals. This reminded me of lots of sounds from older works that can be heard on here like from “Angel Dust” but with some of the viciousness that’s unique to John Hudson’s guitar playing. Patton’s screams on this album are some of the strongest I’ve heard on a Faith No More album although I’ve heard crazier from his work with Mr. Bungle.

“Cone of Shame” exhibits more of Patton’s affinity for both rich and deep vocal tones and high range, soulful vocals. There is a strong rockabilly vibe but with a crime noir twist to it. One of the album’s heaviest moments are on this track.

The album’s unquestionable single is the song “Motherfucker”. I supposed this is, similar to songs they’ve recorded in the past, a giant middle finger to how business-minded individuals in the music industry simple don’t care anymore if you release a single called “Motherfucker” anymore because look at all of the popular rap and hip hop songs that are at the very top of the music charts right now. “Motherfucker”, much like hip hop artists today, deliver the word “Motherfucker” as something that just purely rolls off the tongue that is extremely responsive with the tone of voice it’s being said in.

Mike Patton provides his true, over-caffeinated craft of speech and holding vocal notes on the song and turns that word into a sleazy rock radio single for the absent radio stations out there that will play the new Faith No More in a world where Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and of course μtorrent exist. Perhaps Faith No More have reunited to celebrate the death of Rock Radio after being held accountable for their absence from it with the exception of “Epic” and every now and then I’ll hear “A Small Victory”.

I still consider myself a fan of the band but I am handing “Sol Invictus” a faint seven out of ten. Although the album is daring and it is very exciting that Faith No More is making music again after an 18-year long hiatus, the music conveys this fatigue from trying to reconnect with an alienated group of fans who have mostly moved on. And it certainly doesn’t make the effort to try and appeal to a new generation of fans but without any real guess as to whether there will be another album, perhaps this isn’t their foreseeable goal and the apathy for this audience is more than obvious to me. The music is genuinely well made and the songs are expertly crafted. Everything is squeaky clean and has been gone over with a fine-tooth comb to look and sound very neat and handmade. I just didn’t think it’s their strongest release they’ve ever come out with.

Originally published on Metal-Temple.com, 5-09-2015.