“Sol Invictus”, the latest album from the super influential, genre-busting Faith No More is not only a satisfying return to form, but an endlessly rewarding concept album that continues to refine and improve the signature sound the band began to pioneer more than 30 years ago.
As Faith No More had been on hiatus for about 18 years prior to the release of the album, there was much uncertainty about this forthcoming material. However, it is this author’s pleasure to announce that not only has Faith No More produced an album that belongs very much alongside the records they released lo these many years ago, but they have also produced what is their second or third greatest record.
Now, 18 years sounds like a lot of time. Listening to “Sol Invictus” however, one might believe that Faith No More somehow found a way to avoid the passage of time. The album sounds as if they never missed a step.
Beyond not missing a step, I would go a step farther, and argue that “Sol Invictus” is a concept album, and as such, possibly the most brilliantly conceived work the band has ever put forth. At least as a whole. By no means would I have the temerity to suggest “Sol Invictus” transcends “Angel Dust” in terms of importance. But could it be smarter and more polished?
I will suggest that perhaps the band put more thought into this record as a whole, than they did on previous releases. That more than a collection of the most recent batch of songs that the band has written, “Sol Invictus” was carefully crafted as an entire album.
The record opens with the title track. Roddy Bottum’s solitary piano welcomes the listener, quickly reminding us, who we are dealing with. One of the most distinguishing aspects of the music of Faith No More was their signature keyboard sound. Certainly, fans of the band were smiling the instant the first notes hit.
This first track is a bit of a throwaway. The band uses it as almost a theme song. A sort of sonic egress. They have built an archway of sound through which they invite the listener to leave the outside world behind, and accompany them on the trip they intend to take us on.
Next up is the second single off of the album “Superhero.” Not only is this jam a hard hitting, and attention grabbing way to get things started, “Superhero” also features the band at their most stereotypical. Rather than wallowing in the successes of the past however, this track serves more to remind people what Faith No More sounded like, before they take you down the rest of the road. The road through where Faith No More resides today.
“Sunny Side Up” is the third track, and third single from the record. This is where the record begins to truly soar. It is at this point on the record that one begins to become warm on the inside. Quite fittingly, I suppose.
This is the track that truly reignites one’s love affair with this incredible group of musicians. It is like one of those YouTube videos of a serviceman returning home from a tour of duty. The ones where they bring the dog to the airport, and the dog starts absolutely flipping out with joy, unable to contain its emotion, for it is so excited to see its friend again.
To be able to rekindle that fire; to have those flames of passion stoked within the furnace of your soul in a way they haven’t been in a long time … it’s a powerful force. A powerful force Faith No More wields with a powerful, yet deft hand.
By the time the one-two punch of “Matador” and “From the Dead” close out the album, I’m wiping tears from my eyes. How is this even possible? To have old friends, who were so important to me, come back to hang out, while armed with a selection of material as powerful and moving as “Sol Invictus”?
Too many times when bands of old get back together to do one last spin around the park, it is motivated by cash. In addition, these bands are typically a mere husk of what they once were when they get to that point. So how is it that Faith No More takes 20 years off, and returns more powerful, relevant, and amazing than they ever were?
Perhaps money wasn’t the first thing on their minds. That concept might be difficult to wrap one’s head around today, but it seems, at least to me, that it may be the case.
No matter the impetus, “Sol Invictus” is raw, brutal, touching, and thought-provoking. A modern masterpiece of skewed emotions, and questionable intentions. It subverts, and reinvents, as much as it is familiar and remedial. It’s just too bad there aren’t more artists who so blatantly refuse to allow themselves to become sedentary, even when they give themselves 20 years to do it.