Faith No More’s Sol Invictus: The MetalSucks Review
Continuing the past decade’s trend of comeback albums that don’t damage the reunited band’s legacy (see: Alice in Chains, Living Colour, Carcass, At the Gates, Godflesh, etc.) is Sol Invictus, the beyond-heavily-anticipated new album from genre-bending superstars, Faith No More. Indeed, had this record had been released in 1999 as a direct follow-up to 1997’s Album of the Year, no one would have batted an eye.
Which isn’t to say that Sol Invictus is just a retread of the band’s past work. One highly noticeable change: this is inarguably the band’s mellowest album to date. The militaristic, melancholic title track is the first-ever FNM opener that doesn’t kick down the door and get the party started more or less the very second you hit “play.” And although it’s followed by the considerably more rockin’ “Superhero,” that song is followed by “Sunny Side Up,” which sounds as though it were written by musicians in the throes of Prozac, and then by “Separation Anxiety,” a moody, bass-driven track that doesn’t have any moshy parts until it’s nearly over, and then by “Cone of Shame,” which kicks serious ass, but only after two minutes of Mike Patton doing an “R.V.”-style ramble over sluggish guitars. I concede: “Sol Invictus doesn’t rock” would be a fair criticism of the album.
A little disappointing, sure, but not a deal breaker by any means! There may be nothing here to rival “Surprise! You’re Dead,” “Jizzlobber,” or “Naked in Front of the Computer” for sheer energy, but that doesn’t mean Sol Invictus is devoid of great songs — on the contrary, these cats have not lost their skill for writing catchy, creative shit. The aforementioned “Sunny Side Up” is the breezy pick-me-up its title suggests, and its positive vibes are only enhanced by the fact that Mike Patton, whose voice is as versatile and hypnotic as ever, seems to singing about breakfast as a metaphor for a philosophically upbeat worldview (“Tap dancing all alone (and it’s okay)/ Dip into the sugar bowl, whoa, yeah/ Sunny side up/ Such a lovely way to start the day”); the slinky “Rise of the Fall,” with Roddy Bottum’s “Midnight Cowboy”-esque accordion synths, will make your mouth water for a pack of Gitanes and a glass of Pernod, while the retro-mariachi-rocker “Black Friday” feels like it just wandered out of a Quentin Tarantino movie; and “Matador” becomes a soaring epic despite its pensive vibe, like a hybrid of “Zombie Eaters” and “The Last to Know.” Not only are these songs way different from what your average rock band is doing these days, but they’re all beyond-infectious — whatever song you’re listening to when you hit “stop” will be stuck in your head on an endless loop until that time when you can return to the album and get to the next song. Even “Motherfucker,” which is as structurally repetitive as repetitive gets, has a hook so strong as to make its redundancy not just irrelevant, but almost desirable.
“Cone of Shame,” though, is the album’s clear standout. As I said before, the song features a lot of foreplay before the fucking starts… but the delay in gratification pays off in spades, and the song’s explosive catharsis seems to arrive with invisible strings attached to your skull, forcing you to headbang in sync with the beat. The track may also be the single strongest reminder of why a generation of musicians worship Patton as a deity; his vocal performance and lyrics somehow convey rage, insecurity, longing, and regret all at once (“I’d like to pull your wings off,” Patton bellows before immediately softening: “Read your lines like a gypsy/ Just as lonely as anything/ So infinite”).
If Sol Invictus has any shortcomings, then, it’s that the album is the band’s shortest release since the Chuck Mosley era. On the one hand, that makes it a very easy listen (and ideal for leaving on repeat), but on the other hand, when combined with the lack of meatier rockers, it makes the album feel just a little too slight.
But it feels weird to complain when not only have Faith No More come back, but they’ve come back so strong. So I can really just sum up this whole review with three words: buy Sol Invictus.