Wherever the obvious choice lies, Faith No More is off in the other corner, revelling in their deviance. Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that Sol Invictus, their first record in eighteen years, sounds less like a comeback record and more like a reinvention. Rather than re-treading old ground, the band take a step in a markedly darker, more haunting direction, and the artistic choice pays off in droves.
Album opener Sol Invictus is as creepy and bizarre a number as the band have ever turned out. Mike Patton remains one of the most interesting and versatile vocal performers rock has ever known, and the way his voice twists and contorts between melodic howls of pain and throaty, gruff rumbles impresses as much now as it did twenty six years ago on The Real Thing, his first album with the band.
Motherfucker is another unashamedly sinister number. It has a delicious vein of obsidian-black cruelty running through its surface, but it never takes itself too seriously. One can almost imagine the gleeful sneer spreading across Patton’s face as he sings a line like “get the motherfucker on the phone.”
There are a few more traditional numbers included on the record, and though these still impress, they suffer slightly when compared to Sol Invictus’ weirder side. Superhero, for example, is brash and epic, but comes right before Sunny Side Up, a demented anthem that makes the previous track sound a little bit slight. Separation Anxiety similarly comes to feel just a touch predictable, despite the incredible vocals and the insistent, demented guitar work. On any other album by any other band, these tracks could be highlights, but here, sandwiched as they are by brilliant, bizarre work, they come across as lesser.
But such missteps are few and far between: on the whole this is a determinedly delirious record; a hideous, pained call to arms. Cone Of Shame features intoxicating guitar riffs and a decidedly evil sound that snakes its way towards an incredible climax. This is music for summoning the devil, or, perhaps more practically, for providing a soundtrack to those days when you become utterly sick of backing down from authority. Rise Of the Fall is another success: the track switches styles incessantly, trading in jazzy riffs with the year’s most demented pop choruses and then back again.
Comeback records as good as Sol Invictus are few and far between these days. Perhaps Faith No More hold the key to releasing a great album after such an extended period of time: ignore the hype; ignore critics (whinging buggers we are); ignore your own legacy, even. Craft songs as off-kilter as album closer From The Dead. Do what you want to do, with abandon, with chaos, with skill.