There is a prevalent mentality within the world of music that you’re only as good as your last hit. It holds a certain merit to it in the right context, but what if your last ‘hit’ of any kind was in 1997?
“That wasn’t that long ago,” you’re thinking, until it hits you: You’re doing that thing where you still think the ’90s were 10 years ago again. There’s someone born in 1997 that’s legally drinking as we speak. Potentially, anyway.
The point stands: It’s been a very long time since Faith No More were in town with more than nostalgia to offer.
In essence, Sol Invictus is an album that rests dangerously upon the precipice of the band’s continuing existence following their big-business 2009 reunion. Its purpose is to sell the band as a current event as opposed to an artefact.
Even still, how does one go about approaching an analysis of such a release? Is it to be considered a separate entity to the rest of the band’s discography given the proximity; or does the legacy of one of the more peculiar genre-defiant acts in the canon of alternative rock loom overhead on a permanent basis?
It’s to Sol Invictus’ credit that, any way it’s cut, it stands up as a Faith No More record. It doesn’t feel forced, tired, desperate or hackneyed – an especially impressive feat, considering that under the circumstances it has every right to be.
As has always been the case, a myriad of styles and sounds weave their way through the album. One prevalent influence throughout the record, curiously enough, is Faith No More. Think about it: After roughly a half-decade of playing through the songs that they made their name with to begin with, surely it was going to rub off when it came to writing afresh once again.
Look at Superhero, which blends the hyperactivity of heavier moments on records like King for a Day and even Album of the Year; subsequently letting it melt into an extensive piano-led outro that recalls their signature song, Epic.
Elsewhere, there’s the churning Separation Anxiety, an all-guns-blazing shuffle and stomp that allows guitarist Jon Hudson (playing on only his second FNM record overall) to show what he’s learned from playing through the band’s entire catalogue; while lead single Motherfucker is as wonderfully weird as any of FNM’s more experimental moments.
It doesn’t always reach the same glorious heights on every track, see the inconsequential Sunny Side Up or the petered-out closer From the Dead, but it’s telling that the band have taken the good with the bad. They were never perfect to begin with. As a matter of fact, it was a thing to pride themselves on.
At the very least, Sol Invictus should be appreciated as a genuine product by fans. This was an organic development that has gone beyond a cash-grab and into a further extension of the band’s history. It’s a record that sounds like Faith No More learning how to be Faith No More again in the present tense.
‘Sol Invictus’ is out Friday May 15.
Listen: Faith No More – Superhero