It doesn’t take but a moment into Sol Invictus, the long awaited album from a newly reunited Faith No More, to be reminded of all we’ve been missing in the 18 years since Mike Patton and company first called it quits. A stark piano chord flows from the speaker, feeling more like an announcement than anything else—“We’re back,” it says, “prepare yourself.”
This kind of boldness is indicative of the Faith No More oeuvre that’s been missing in pop-music for almost two decades now. FNM has never been a band that mixed words, despite how often they might mix genres. Their entire body work has all at once suggested whatever trends might be big at the time of release while totally dismantling them at the same time. The piano opening leads into a battle ready drum beat, creating the perfect backing for the intoning vocalizations that only serve to further the thesis of the opening notes.
Really, it’s just about the most Faith No More thing that’s ever happened, setting the tone for the whole rest of the record. No matter what you might get—and you get quite a bit—it’s going to be wholly and unabashedly Faith No More.
The opening salvo fades into the second track, “Superhero,” a politically charged powerhouse of a song that stands with the best work Faith No More ever produced. As always, it’s a bit all over the map—but in the best way possible. Style and sound changes on a dime, creating the kind of compositional depth that many bands eschew these days for the purposes of playing it safe.
But that’s never really been Faith No More’s style, has it? Safe doesn’t even pop up on their radar as a possibility. This is a band who is popularly thought of as a purveyor of rap-rock, thanks to their 1990 hit “Epic,” despite the fact that their entire output outside of that song sounds and feels absolutely nothing like it. Casual fans were confused by their straight-forward cover of “Easy” just one album later, but Faith No More has never shied away from dichotomy.
Indeed, a dichotomous dynamic is at play throughout Sol Invictus—the soft and the hard meld in new and fascinating ways. Piano chords give way to thunderous guitars and vice versa, only to find both instruments playing together beautifully just a few minutes later in the same track. This idea plays out on the macro level as well, as each track sounds completely unique while also adding to the larger design of the work as a whole.
It’s a bit of a schizophrenic approach to the art of album making, but it’s one that’s always worked for the band, even as they were in their death throes following their last record, 1997’s Album of the Year. But whereas the cracks in the band were readily apparent throughout that album, Sol Invictus makes full use of the disparate sounds and styles. The end result is an album that’s both accessible and challenging, giving both the casual listener and the snob something to appreciate.
Never is this more apparent than in “Rise of the Fall,” a track that feels almost like it belongs in a musical while managing to capture the core elements of what makes Faith No More the band we all know and love. Traditional musicality is filtered through a prism of bizarreness to create something new. Juxtaposed to this is “Black Friday,” a song driven by an acoustic backing in ways that are almost reminiscent of The Cult while also doling out tiny hints of heaviness in pure FNM glory.
Standing with “Superhero” as a new Faith No More classic is the penultimate “Matador.” Once again, the interplay of piano and guitar drive the track forward towards progressive greatness. The intensity builds and builds, creating a haunting whirlwind that sticks with you long after the album is over.
Coming in at just under 40 minutes, Sol Invictus might feel like a sparse offering, but Faith No More makes full use of their—and your—time, pulling no punches and delivering their best album since 1992’s Angel Dust. They’re clearly aware of the skepticism surrounding reunions and do their best to dispel these trepidations one track at a time, winning over even the most jaded and cynical music fans among us.