THEPRP REVIEWS

Faith No More Sol Invictus

2015 Reclamation! Recordings

Restoring the faith.

Faith No More - Sol Invictus

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Time and distance, two defining factors that have led to the creative rebirth of Faith No More. Even when in the midst of a reunion tour there was a lengthy stretch when so much as entertaining the thought of new material from the pioneering outfit seemed impossible, and yet here we are, nearly 19 years later with “Sol Invictus“. All the key players from the bands tail end are back onboard and as ornery and self-indulgent as ever.

Still, close to two decades outside of the studio together might instill some hesitation, and for good reason. “Sol Invictus” is a complicated return, one no doubt wrought by your own expectations of what the band should sound like today.

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For their part, the songs are simplistic at face value yet intricate and carefully written upon inspection, riddled with metered outbursts and salacious changes. If anything has been modified in the time apart, it’s not recognizable upon first listen.

In the past, external pressure was the lash that kept the band driving forward, more times begrudgingly than not. This time out, there’s a discernable amount of respect for individual tastes and input. You won’t easily be able to pick out which musician was a key advocate for this song or who fought for what part. Probably because for once it doesn’t sound like there was any real fighting to be done.

Indeed, this return finds the group performing as a collective. The past strains of the music industry meatgrinder alleviated, you can sense a unified respect for each other. Even so, they may be having fun again, but this isn’t a tepid affair by any means. Patton screams, distorted guitars lunge out, bass licks brood and groove and trace elements of diverse genres seep their way through the cracks.

What this album has more so than their prior works is stability and trust. There’s certain flourishes and shifts that emerge at repeated intervals, yet you’re likely to miss them unless you pay full attention. It’s a sound framework of clever songwriting that lends itself greatly to repeated listens.

Arguably a standout track, “Separation Anxiety” stalks like the bands mid-90’s output, establishing an unnerving sense of dread with an overbearing bass line and vocals that deviate from sinister chanting to manic outbursts.

Cone Of Shame” starts out as a dusty ballad a horn or short two of a spaghetti Western with lingering guitar notes and sorrowful refrains. I say starts because it all gives way like a sinkhole into a demented, funhouse mirror distortion of itself. “Rise Of The Fall” remains understated, enriched by some less conventional instrumentation and a simmering buildup.

Black Friday” on the other hand is a rollicking, madcap romp that revels in a cartoonish delight with piercing choruses of “buy it”. It appears to be a satirical send-up on the hysteria caused by the event it takes its name from. In fact, it’s a missed opportunity that it wasn’t this track rather than “Motherfucker” that they actually released on ‘Black Friday’ last year.

Speaking of which, “Motherfucker” is an ugly duckling here, one that hews to frontman Mike Patton‘s work with Peeping Tom; effusive vocally, yet taciturn and spartan musically.

All in all, it’d be hard to call “Sol Invictus” a flawless venture. It’s a bold proclamation, but boasts a song or two (I’m looking at you “From The Dead“) that serve more as an thematic function than an integral component.

Repeat listens also reveal a slight disconnect between the vocals of Mike Patton and the band themselves, with Patton at times feeling more like a decorator than a designer.

That said, as Patton was often seen as the most reluctant to rejoin the group, he admirably dives in headfirst with an anamorphic performance that captures the fervor of his fading youth and the graceful crooning he’s cultivated amongst the breadth of his various projects. One must also praise the work of keyboardist Roddy Bottum, as his parts emerge foundational rather than mere situational enhancement.

The thing that is great about “Sol Invictus” is that it doesn’t feel like a ‘reunion album’. It isn’t a dramatic rebirth or a nostalgic pisswash. Think of it more of a reawakening, the resurrection of a corpse laid to rest too soon. Twenty years after writing “Midlife Crisis“, the band have actually survived their own and seamlessly picked up right where they left off.

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