There’s always been a certain social stigma associated with a band reuniting and releasing new material. Phrases like “It won’t sound the same” and “They should’ve stayed broken up” get thrown around frequently, regardless of the length of the hiatus of the band in question.
A preposterous claim, considering the severe gap in time between studio albums a band is sure to undergo more than a few changes, so to pick up exactly where they left off is a feat that few groups pull off entirely successfully. Alice in Chains come to mind as a recent exception, with Black Gives Way To Blue proving their relevance long after the passing of late singer Layne Staley, as well as David Bowie’s resurgence with The Next Day as a more recent staple of an acclaimed “Don’t call it a comeback” album.
Having reunited in 2009, Faith No More have been in and out of limbo ever since, with the group performing the occasional festival dates before fading away into obscurity ad nauseam. Now, almost 18 years after their last studio album, Faith No More aim to continue on their legacy with the release of their seventh full-length Sol Invictus, so is it a hit or is it simply shit? We decided to find out.
The record begins with eponymous title-track acting as a brief introduction, with layered jazz-like piano and drums accompanying Mike Patton’s unmistakable soft-spoken vocals before launching into the first proper track ‘Superhero’.
Skeptics should be aware of just how much this sounds like a Faith No More album. There’s undeniable progression from the Californian quintet, but it comes hot off the heels of their last full-length Album Of The Year, almost as if their breakup and subsequent reformation straight up never happened.
The group retains fine form musically, and perhaps even more astounding, is the fact that Patton’s voice hasn’t faltered since their last record, even with the surplus of side-projects and guest spattering he’s made himself involved with, he’s still able to drive home some of the catchiest hooks of the band’s career so far.
“Superhero, I’m tugging on your cape. Tell me will your sons, know their father one day?”
It’s Patton’s eclectic mixture of hostile lows and soaring highs that cement this as classic Faith No More, with nary a reason for listeners to think otherwise. Each track feels like it was ripped straight out of the nineties, but abstains from carrying with it the weighty afterthought that makes a record feel like a compilation of some of the best B-sides of their career stuck together.
Perhaps the album’s biggest (but potentially only) fault is that due to the positioning of some of the tracks, a few of the earlier songs tend to bleed into one another, making them hard to distinguish. It’s debatable that the album’s second half is vastly superior to the first, which is why offerings like ‘Sunny Side Up’ and ‘Separation Anxiety’ sound somewhat nondescript when compared to the likes of later tracks such as ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Matador’.
[include_post id=”447635″] That’s hardly a fault when it only serves to further highlight the record’s most compelling material. Every album has its less memorable tracks, it’s just unfortunate that they happen to stick out a little more due to them being grouped together.
Sol Invictus is a touch on the short side as well, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and, at just under 40 minutes, there’s no justifiable reason to complain. However, with a few of the aforementioned tracks being lumped together, it suffers from feeling like a more fleeting listen than it actually is.
Luckily, the second half clusters together some of the group’s freshest sounding material to date. The tongue-in-cheek lyricism of ‘Black Friday’ focuses on the mass consumerism that plagues modern day society, as Patton lets out a long grizzled scream of “Buy it!” during the song’s chorus as Jon Hudson indulges in an infectiously haphazard guitar riff. Moreover, Patton’s layered vocals on ‘Motherfucker’ in conjunction with Mike Bordin’s “forward march” style of drumming makes for an incredibly catchy and hard to omit anthemic chorus.
“Hello motherfucker, my lover. You saw it coming. Goodbye motherfucker, my lover. You had it coming.”
However, it’s the penultimate ‘Matador’ that stands far and away as the album’s best cut, and one that the band had been playing on tour years prior to release. A slow-creeping, more progressive number unlike any other song on the album in which Patton yet again takes center stage during the gloriously infectious chorus before the whole band bombastically spirals into its apex, with Hudson soloing away in the background.
The album ends with the perhaps somewhat self-referential ‘From The Dead’ in which Patton’s voice soars “Back from the dead, I can see you end. Welcome home my friend.” Ending the record on a somewhat optimistic note and possibly hinting that this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Faith No More 2.0.
It’s hard to fault a new Faith No More record based on the fact that Faith No More would have to try pretty hard to release something lackluster. Luckily for fans, the band have seamlessly returned into their groove, and delivered a record that is not only an acceptable return to form, but also a genuinely great release by their standards.
With the exception of a few less-memorable tracks towards the beginning, Sol Invictus is a worthy addition into Faith No More’s catalogue, as well as an incredibly solid Alternative Rock album in general. Even after almost 18 years of inactivity, Faith No More remain a fully-fledged creative force. Welcome home, indeed.