REVIEW: Faith No More – Sol Invictus


faithnomore-solinvictusListening to a Faith No More album can be an adventure. The diverse and influential alternative rock/heavy metal (among many other things) band has a history of creating albums that travel in a bevy of different directions stylistically, often times giving listeners something unlike anything they’ve heard before, or at least unlike much of what is being made around the current music scene.

Sol Invictus, Faith No More’s first album in 18 years, fits that description well. Like the band’s other albums, Sol Invictus requires multiple listens and some deep digging before being able to fully appreciate it. And, like other Faith No More albums, Sol Invictus doesn’t fit in with everyone’s tastes and may be only for more adventurous listeners. But the album delivers plenty of rewarding moments and proves that in spite of the long layoff, the band can still deliver a strong, challenging, and fascinating collection of music.

Many Faith No More fans may miss the presence of guitarist Jim Martin, who didn’t take part in this unexpected reunion. However, while Martin’s playing isn’t an advantage Sol Invictus has over albums such as The Real Thing and Angel Dust, there’s still plenty for fans to get excited about here.

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Frontman Mike Patton’s wide-ranging voice is on display throughout Sol Invictus, starting with the Leonard Cohen-esque baritone of the opening title track. From there, Patton moves into the heavy metal screams of the single “Superhero,” which is the heaviest, fastest, and probably most accessible song on the album:

While Patton shifts effortlessly back and forth within his wide vocal range throughout the album, the band does the same stylistically. The album’s highlight might come on “Cone of Shame,” which comes out of the blocks as a bleak march before exploding into a soaring, thunderous heavy metal climax. Another highlight is “Rise of the Fall,” which carries a Wild West-feel that Rolling Stone labeled “Morricone Metal.” As previously mentioned, several of the songs need multiple listens before every reward can be discovered, but there’s at least a little something to take from every track.

The album may slip slightly towards the end with the laid-back closer “From the Dead,” which isn’t as powerful as the album’s other tracks, and the somewhat silly love-it-or-hate-it single “Motherfucker,” which if nothing else should work well as a call-and-response live track. Like the other content on the album, however, even “Motherfucker” can grow on you after a few listens.

Clocking in at a lean 39 minutes, Sol Invictus is a triumphant return for Faith No More. Whether or not it winds up taking its place among the favorites of the band’s fans remains to be seen, but for now, Sol Invictus stands out as proof that Faith No More has plenty left to offer and still has room to grow after all these years.

As Patton sings on “From the Dead,” welcome home my friend.

Sol Invictus is slated for a May 19 release. You can listen to the album early at NPR:

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