Faith No More rise from killing floor, release glorious, pushy comeback record ‘Sol Invictus’

FAITH NO MORE San Francisco - October 28, 2014 Dustin Rabin Photography 2680

Dustin Rabin Photography

The past few years have brought the world myriad heavily anticipated reunions, including the likes of Carcass, At the Gates, and even Refused, who just announced a new record. It’s a good time for people who have followed those bands over the years, and the fact new music accompanied those returns is even better. Icing on the damn cake.

But all of those bands coming back paled in comparison to the return of Faith No More. At least for me. I count them as one of the most important bands of my life, one of the groups that changed the way I hear and think about music. They came along at just the right time in my life when I realized mainstream, predictable music wasn’t doing it for me and that I needed something a little bit more in my life. That’s when their unreal, ultra-polarizing fourth record “Angel Dust” arrived, and from there, my life was changed. Getting to see them open for Metallica and Guns n Roses at now-defunct Three Rivers Stadium was one of the great music highlights of my life, and few bands ever have been as important to me as Faith No More have been. From that point, the band itself morphed, putting out heavily underrated “King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime” and, at that point, their final record “Album of the Year,” when they called it a day, thus ending the band’s phenomenal, bizarre run.

FNM_frontBut a few years ago, Faith No More started performing live together again, and then came word of a new album, a fact that enthralled and terrified me. Look, I love the band, but “Album of the Year” fell flat with me, and I was worried this would wind up being a bad idea. But as clips arrived online of the guys—vocalist Mike Patton, guitarist Jon Hudson, bassist Billy Gould, keyboard player Roddy Bottum, drummer Mike “Puffy” Bordin—performing some of the new stuff, hope emerged. And a couple months ago when their new, seventh record “Sol Invictus” arrived in my inbox, my love affair with FNM was heavily rekindled. The record sounded so good. So inspired. Of course it’s not “Angel Dust.” Nothing ever will be. But it’s a damn fun, damn good record. I listen to this thing several times a week, and not out of some personal obligation to like it. I do because it makes me happy, and it sounds like the music also has reinvigorated the band. It’s probably the least metal of all of their albums, but Faith No More never was a metal band, despite people trying to shove them into that shelf. Instead they make heavy, agitated, melodic, sometimes schmaltzy sounds, and they haven’t sounded this good in ages.

The opening title cut is an interesting start, a slower, more reflective piece that has Patton wondering, “Where my faith?” over strummed guitar and contemplative keys. Then it’s into “Superhero,” one of the first cuts the band released to the world and a healthy dose of classic FNM. The guys take turns barking “Go!” at the start before they launch full bore. Bottum’s keys that rain over the chorus add a subtle but great touch to the song, with Patton poking, “Leader of men, will you be one of them?” Good song that’s sure to be a live staple. “Sunny Side Up” is a really cool one, with a nice groove built into it that Patton uses to his advantage with his phrasing. I love this one, and it’s one of my favorite tracks on the record. Also, the agitation that’s weaved into an otherwise breezy cut makes for a nice about-face. “Separation Anxiety” also is pretty much classic FNM, with a frantic pace, Patton going from whispering psychopath to high-register crooner, and the band hammering you with a churning pace that should only amplify the panic in your own head. “Cone of Shame” has Patton doing some deep singing and spoken storytelling over steely guitars, snaps, and tapped drums. Later the thing opens up, with Patton wailing, “I’d like to peel the skin off so I can see what you really think,” some thick playing emerging, and some heavy body blows dealt. This one took me some time to warm up to, but I’m firmly on board now.

“Rise of the Fall” is a peculiar one, kind of traipsing along, piano leading, and a cool Euro vibe colored into the melodies. The chorus picks up, with Patton noting, “We’re only chimneys’ remains,” before we head back into dark, mysterious vibes. This also isn’t one that strikes instantly, but further exploration reveals this song’s vast colors. “Black Friday” is just damn shady, with acoustic guitars strummed, heavy echoes and claps driving the point, and fireworks charging out at the end of each verse. This song shows some new wrinkles for the band, and they fit into their DNA just fine. Then it’s onto “Motherfucker,” the song that seems to have drawn the ire of some people, mainly because it was the first glimpse anyone got into the new album. I’ve liked it from day one because I figured it was the ultimate red herring, and now that I hear it in its place on the album, that’s exactly what it is. Each FNM album has a song like this one—“RV,” “Cuckoo for Caca”—that causes heads to tilt and brains to burst into ooze. It’s easy to imagine FNM having fun at everyone’s expense with tracks like this one, especially when Patton wails, “You had it coming.” “Matador” is a great cut. It’s near ballad-like, with piano dripping, Patton going high range and hushed, and the feeling the guys are going to go spacey. But when Patton delivers, “We will rise from the killing floors, like a matador,” the goddamn sun rises, and the songs hits its full pace. From there, the bass strikes its groove, the vocals hit a high point, and the thing just takes over. I just love this one. Closer “From the Dead” is fairly quick, a final ode to the band’s amazing survival, and feeling almost like the euphoric closing credits. Over acoustic guitars, chimes, and exuberant melody, Patton fittingly sings, “Welcome home, my friend,” which might as well be every FNM’s statement to the band itself. Nice ending to a super satisfying record.

To me, “Sol Invictus” is a triumph, and Faith No More’s return has come full circle. This is a genuine, organic portrait of FNM in 2015, and the fact they delivered fresh, relevant, exciting songs makes a longtime fan like me unbelievably happy. I don’t know if there will be another Faith No More record, and I don’t know how long this reunion will last. But I don’t care. I’m living in the moment with this record, and because of that, my smile never has been more ridiculous. Is it going to have that same effect for everyone? Of course not. But I don’t care. The FNM I always loved is back, and that’s all I can really ask.

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