Faith No More – Sol Invictus (Review)

Faith No More - Sol Invictus (2015)
Faith No More – Sol Invictus (2015)

My favourite Faith No More albums, Angel Dust and King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime, took time to grow on me. Big chunks of the albums would go over my head but there were always enough instantly accessible songs to keep me coming back for more. And with each listen their darker, more challenging material would start to work on me until I was completely won over. Continuing this tradition, their reunion album Sol Invictus has taken repeat listens to reveal itself too… but in a slightly different way. 2015-05-28 17.37.18-1 The news that the reunited Faith No More would be releasing their first new music since 1997’s Album of the Year was hugely exciting but the early singles Motherfucker and Superhero seemed disappointing. And on initial spins it seemed like Faith No More were playing it too safe. The material and delivery seemed lazy and half-baked. But, strangely, the album was more instantly satisfying in its darker, denser moments. Songs like Separation Anxiety, Matador and the fantastic Cone of Shame all reminders of the band at their very best and it was these tense and claustrophobic tracks that brought me back for repeat listens. And on those repeat listens songs like Sunny Side Up and Rise of the Fall began to exert a magnetic, hooky pull. Turns out that there’s a lot going on in the album’s short running time. I found hidden depths, enigmatic lyrics and moments of joy in songs I’d previously deemed throwaway. Even the singles started to grow on me, working better within the context of the album.

The things that struck me as weaknesses in early listens (the safe approach, restrained guitars, empty catchiness) are all objectively still there but now they just don’t seem to matter. Mike Patton’s remarkable vocals and Roddy Bottum’s keyboards prove to be the star turns here but mostly the band foregoes grandstanding in favour of serving the music’s expression and theatricality. Fans of the band’s more Caffeine-ated explosiveness might be disappointed but that was only ever one part of their style. This is still recognisably a Faith No More album, reminiscent of their past work but also a step forward and a new start. It’s a hugely rewarding listen and it’s also very much a grower. In other words, classic Faith No More. Welcome back.

HMO Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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38 thoughts on “Faith No More – Sol Invictus (Review)”

  1. NICE!

    Motherfucker and Superhero work much better on an album! I really like the Superhero remix on the Japanese version — better than the original. I don’t know if it’s the same remix that was on the single, or not.

    ” Mike Patton’s remarkable vocals and Roddy Bottum’s keyboards prove to be the star turns here but mostly the band foregoes grandstanding in favour of serving the music’s expression and theatricality.”

    Well put, much better than I could have put it. But that’s it right there.

    This is a good album. It will take time to grow on me. I have only played it 1 and 1/2 times since getting it two days ago!

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      1. I didn’t get it until a good while later but, by the time I got it, I knew loads of the songs. They did pretty well in the UK with that one so I had saw lots of videos and lots of TV performances. I’d say I knew about half of it by the time I bought it but even then it took me a while to “get” all of it.

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      2. I can remember getting it — I should do a post about this scenario. Ever do the “one for you, one for me?”

        I went to HMV to buy my friend Bob his birthday present. His birthday is July 29 so I know it was July. He wanted to new Killer Dwarfs, Method to the Madness.

        Because I’m a real “one for you, one for me” guy when I buy gifts, I got Faith No More for myself that day. I do it whenever I buy gifts, I can’t seem to stop myself. At checkout it’s always about equal, how much money is spent on “them” vs “me”!

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  2. I enjoyed this Scott. As a redneck, truck driving, meat-eating, glasses-wearing dude I miss Jim Martin, my FNM faves are Real Thing and Angel Dust – I think he balanced out the more experimental, cerebral side of the band.

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  3. Yours is the first review of this I’ve read (I’ve avoided the press and Amazon reviews, waiting for the fine folks in this community to get to it first). You’re absolutely right that their albums are growers (beyond the hits). I took a long time to get to them, but when I did, when I really did, well, consider mind blown.

    That they are back and the new record is more awesome FNM that rewards repeat visits thrills me. THANKS FOR THIS!!

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  4. Man, I heard this for the first time on Wednesday evening when I was over at a friend’s. Hit me straight away – I think it’s the production (I’ve often found the sound a bit thin despite the awesomeness of the songs). Anyway, great review, sir – between the cursory listen and this I intend to pick it up once I’ve gotten some other bits and bobs out the way!

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      1. You know what…I was torn on Jim for a while but not anymore. He had a critical place in the first four Faith No More albums and their initial sound. But since King For a Day their music has grown so far beyond Jim’s style that this album could not possibly have come from that version of the band. My preference for FNM is Trey Spruance on that one album he did, but Jon Hudson’s totally fitting the bill.

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      2. I wouldn’t say I was torn but I do miss his playing and especially his tone anyway. It was a great sound. But I agree they went as far as they could with him. I was saying a similar thing to Joe the other day. Love Spruance on KFAD! His playing is astonishing on that album. Hudson… he’s OK. He’s a bit faceless but he does the job. I think he probably works just in terms of band chemistry and just serving the songs like I said in the review.

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      3. Yeah I agree. And judging from past stuff I’ve read from Jim, the way those guys write is keys, bass, drums, all together. Then Jim would listen to the tapes and add guitar stuff. So I would tend to think even today, those three guys are still the main three who write. Jon’s probably not having as big an impact on the music as Jim or even Trey had (because Trey came in when they were changing how they worked). But he’s probably the “right guy” as you said.

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      4. Obviously I’m basing that on a single listen, but the production stood out right away. I no longer own any FNM stuff other than Angel Dust (go figure!) and normally wouldn’t rush out and pick this up, but between the cursory listen, Motherfucker, and the reviews from you and Mike, I think I need pick this up sooner rather than later.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review, thanks. Like you, I was a bit underwhelmed by the first two singles/leaked tracks but I’m glad it sounds like there are hidden depths to the album. On first hearing, maybe it’s more like ‘Album Of The Year’ than ‘King’ or ‘Angel’? Either way, definitely gonna check it out.

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    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting. They’re are definitely hidden depths. I’d say it’s most similar to ‘King’. At least, the mellower tracks on that album. There’s not a lot of riffing on this. ‘RV’ springs to mind a lot too: the deep voice and the way it builds up to the “I’m a swinging guy” part.

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      1. Oh great, I love when Patton gets into his spoken word stuff! I’m just really glad he’s doing something halfway ‘commercial’ and song-based after all this time. The last thing of his I really loved was the Mr Bungle ‘California’ album.

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      2. It’s a pretty varied album though but it’s definitely on the mellower side of FNM for the most part. You know, the lounge crooning kind of stuff! I’ve not followed Patton much outside of FNM. I liked the first Mr Bungle and Peeping Tom was quite good but, outside of that, I’ve not heard much. I agree it’s great to hear him edging more towards the commercial side and I’m glad they’re having success with the new album. I’d love to hear what you make of it when you hear it.

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      3. Hi, no, I haven’t heard Dilinger Escape Plan with Patton, I will check it out. Thanks for the tip. I keep hoping that Bungle will reunite for one last album/tour but the three albums are a pretty good legacy anyway.

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