If you are already a fan of Faith No More, then rest assured, Sol Invictus is exactly the kind of album you want them to make. It’s alternately playful and angry, quick and mournful. It rocks hard nearly all the way through, and in true FNM spirit, has a satisfying anthem song that will make you joyfully shout out a very bad word. Newcomers to the band will find themselves in good hands; the songs here have all the expert craftsmanship and raw emotional power required for mighty fine rock indeed.
Many of the songs on the album (“Separation Anxiety”,”Superhero”, etc.), include the quick, frantic rhythms that fans have come to expect. There is a lot of spoken word lyricism among the songs here (“Sol Invictus”, “Matador”, etc.), a kind of growling mutter rock that, when provoked, will progress into animalistic screams (“Sunny Side Up”). Much of this music retains an intriguing operatic quality; spoken word lyrics drive the stories or mini-plots of the songs forward, the tempo tight and steady, only to swell into grand, emotion-rich punctuation belted at the top of Mike Patton’s lungs (“Motherfucker”, etc.). This alternation between the spoken and the sung, the quick and the slow, creates a rich aural environment constantly on the move.
Thus the themes of the album are often dark, but never moldering. “Sol Invictus” launches into deliberations about faith, sin, and redemption, with vocals asking “Where’s my faith? My blasphemy?” (quoth the fandom: faith no more!). “Superhero” may soon become the new anthem for cosplayers, as the heady and brooding meditations of the mythic cape-clad crowd alternate with shout-volume adrenal injections of “Go!”. “Black Friday” uses 90s funk guitar twangs to playfully disparage the bitterness of blind consumption culture, while “Motherfucker” spits naked vitriol at the culture itself. There is enough justified rage here to satisfy both every literal adolescent, and every lingering adolescent soul.
These songs are frequently influenced by the past, but never feel like they’re stuck there. “Cone of Shame” has all the grit and twang of a 90s indie film set in a small desert town, but the hard rock guitar and drums lift it out of time. “Rise of the Fall” stands out as one of the more experimental songs on the album, and features some percussion and harmonica work that feels distinctly and delightfully spaghetti western-flavoured. There are also some fun cartoon-y touches to the instrumentation in “Rise of the Fall” that are usually found in the music of one of Mike Patton’s other bands, Mr. Bungle. The least successful song in the collection is “From the Dead”, which just comes across as slightly too mild in the exhuberant crowd, and fails to stand out among all the other bigger, louder songs jostling for attention.
Over the years Faith No More has undergone an organic progression from style to style, expanding upon its musical themes steadily and often innovatively. Much like watching a child grow, you cannot see exactly how much development and change has occurred until you compare photos from the past to the present day; and while Sol Invictus doesn’t bear an uncanny resemblance to 1989’s The Real Thing, this album definitely passes the Faith No More paternity test. All the genetic signifiers are there, from moody overtones to range-defying vocals. If you’re looking to adopt one of the Faith No More brood, Sol Invictus will make a fine addition to the family.