Review Summary: The Sound of Perfectly Calculated Revenge.
It's apt that the first Faith No More album in 18 years would be named after the Roman god of the sun and, by extension, the soldiers who kept said empire afloat. Never ones to fall victim to routine, Faith No More have defied the odds- no label, no producer- and have become as unadulterated as possible. Truly, they remain unconquered.
Then again, why has it taken them 17 years to reconvene and release something that's not just enjoyable, but remarkably relevant to the timeframe it was released in? Profundity is Faith No More's bread and better, so when their live shows began including toung-in-cheek covers of Kanye West and Lady Gaga songs, it all seemed a bit counterintuitive to the Faith No More arrangement. Surely they had something up their sleeve? The criticism that their reunion was purely for nostalgia's sake sadly grew in respectability, as year after year of American shows trotted off well-worn hits "Epic" and "Easy" to satisfy the masses. Certainly, music rags have made the case that creative outlets weren't exactly restricted for the core members- Mike Patton, Mike Bordin, and Roddy Bottum have experienced massive (however variably fleeting) success in side projects- and it's hard to debate that Faith No More were itching to put out new material.
In that sense, it made sense that Faith No More would delay releasing original material for this long. The general antipathy in the Faith No More camp towards routine and convention has typified their above average quality control. That's part and parcel of Sol Invictus
' concept, replete with necessary pretense and catharsis, as if to deny the onslaught of nu-metal they inadvertently unleashed upon us as of 1998. However Sol Invictus
doesn't feel like a statement record, nor does it ever imply itself to be basic in its intent; to put it rather candidly, it's the sound of perfectly calculated revenge. Faith No More haven't just made another album because the material exists, it exists because it inherently must be exorcised from their collective creative conscious.
To bring it all back to a sense of reinvigoration seems appropriate, as the caustic and tense throb of lead single "Motherfuc
ker" contrasts wildly from anything the patchy ilk of Album of the Year
could muster. Part of that can be referenced in Billy Gould's assertion Sol Invictus
was brought about by classic aspects of music experimentalism. In some circumstances it recalls the rudimentary Chuck Mosley-era in its direct simplicity, with "Separation Anxiety" working a muscle of restraint with an incessant and tense refrain. Again, the need to prove themselves repeatedly makes for some sensational listening, as the barking madness of "Cone of Shame" can attest. It would've been easy for the band to approach a comeback record as perfunctory and rewrite King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime
; the fact Mike Patton and Billy Gould unashamedly name-checked Siouxie & the Banshees and The Cramps as direct influences upholds Faith No More's unsatisfied craving to be bigger and better than everybody else.
However to define Sol Invictus
as an homage to post-punk luminaries would be unfitting. Truth is, the pulverizing intensity that defined the better facets of Faith No More's career defines Sol Invictus
' rampaging and concise 40-minute run time. As if the single-worded titles weren't enough to imply the direct to the bone approach Billy Gould's latest compositions take, Patton's bombastic vocal range serves shoulder-to-shoulder with fierce grooves matched by few tracks in the Faith No More canon. The reckless inanity of "Cone of Shame" makes that point well, with a monolithic riff befitting any number of no wave industrialists. Particular attention must be paid to "Superhero", where the myriad of influences on display recall a band in juvenilia- not in that indistinct and angst-ridden way, but in its lack of shame in aspiration to simply burn through the empire. Faith No More haven't simply returned, they're seeking for their rights to be seen as relevant in 2015.
It would be perhaps too hyperbolic to say the world needed another Faith No More album, but it's hard to see how it hasn't benefitted from the fact. Sol Invictus
is rare in that it revels without caution, yet it appears so wonderfully restrained and tethered to basic concepts of what rock and/or pop music should be. Translated, Sol Invictus
refers to 'The Unconquered Sun'; it's rather clear that Faith No More see themselves at the other end, unadulterated by commercial presence or any of the other shi
t that comes along with enormous success. Sol Invictus
doesn't sound like a proving record in the strictest sense because Faith No More have always challenged the status quo. Instead, Sol Invictus
is yet another remarkably valuable statement in the catalogue of a still remarkably pertinent collective.