Faith No More: Sol Invictus
Thrilling comeback from reborn San Franciscan mavericks
It’s both amusing and embarrassing to observe entitled music fans stridently declaring what reformed ‘heritage’ rock bands should or should not be permitted to do with their own careers, as if they, and not the musicians themselves, are the only true, trust-worthy custodians of these iconic brands.
However, save for the inevitable try-hards crowing ‘No Jim Martin, No Faith No More’ – or indeed ‘No Chuck Mosley, No Faith No More’ – the revelation that the reunited Faith No More were working upon their first studio album in 18 years didn’t generate the same sort of anguished indignation which accompanied, for instance, the news of a new Pixies record, or the idea that Refused might have the temerity to attempt to follow up The Shape Of Punk To Come. It might just be that FNM have earned that most valuable and rare commodity, trust, or simply that the quintet’s patient, slow-burning resurrection has been conducted without any recourse to self-aggrandising or hype. Whatever, the wait is now over.
Perhaps the most instantly notable aspect of Sol Invictus is just how seamlessly the album follows on from its predecessor, 1997’s cockily-titled Album Of The Year. Recorded at a time when more than one member of the band seemed more interested in individual side projects than the collective whole, Album Of The Year assimilated FNM’s disparate influences – post-punk, metal, electronica, grindcore, soul, whatever - into arguably the most tightly-bound body of work in their canon, and impressively, given how long these five musicians have been uncoupled, Sol Invictus goes further, to even more potent, startling effect. While deep immersion in the album’s 10 tracks allows the isolation of numerous wonderful individual ‘moments’ – the sweet melodica swells in Rise Of The Fall, Roddy Bottum’s earworm cyclical keyboard riff in Superhero, the utter contempt heard in Mike Patton’s voice on Black Friday – the overwhelming first impression is just how brilliantly Faith No More’s component parts interlock and engage here. That these long-estranged collaborators can achieve such cohesion and momentum without dependence on nostalgia or familiar tropes is laudable, and indeed at various points here, utterly remarkable.