How many years has it been? Almost a decade between drinks. Eight years since their Album of the Year. It would be easy to list all the things the new Faith No More release is like; there are hints of Peeping Tom, shades of Tomahawk, a dab of Fantomas, and even a little latter days Bungle. But every example boils down to the same substance, Mike Patton. Sol Invictus is exactly the same, and yet it’s more, it’s a Patton who listens, one who shares, a star that leads by letting his band shine around him. Simmered but not reduced, it’s easily the most well behaved of all FNM albums.
That’s not to say Sol Invictus is tame, and it’s certainly not a problem of old age as there’s not a single twinge of the rheumatic apathy that hovers over some late life bands, rather, there’s a feeling of understanding that permeates the album. It seems like any problems the band had with each other in the past have since been smoothed over. The whetstone friction that honed their previous releases may be absent, but the results are just as sharp, exhibiting a craftsmanship that only comes with time and dedication.
While previewing some of the new songs at recent live shows, the band played with the same fierce passion contained in all their material, delivering their choice of singles with frenetic and immediate energy. The studio cuts of these songs, however, feel almost restrained in comparison. It’s the difference in tone between saying I hate you through clenched teeth and yelling it at someone’s face.
Though the album is missing some of that live furiosity, it draws as much of its strength from what it’s not as it does from who it is. In that way, it’s oddly reflective and even exhibits a certain level of patience, almost a controlled temper. Here, the immediacy of their live performances doesn’t actually acknowledge the heart of the album. Sol Invictus is a seething thing, measured and quietly vicious in its intent. Somehow, in its own subdued way, it articulates itself better than its screaming front man ever could.
Plenty of the tracks are still rife with rage. Superhero, Separation Anxiety, Cone of Shame, there are plenty of moments all throughout that are plenty angry in their own right. Though Faith No More have had their fair share of mellow over the years, the feeling this time is just a little bit softer overall. There doesn’t seem to be a rough edge left to rub between them. Throw some rocks in a tumbler for thirty years, though, and see what happens.
Sol Invictus is softer, yes, but only because it feels refined, white sugar not raw. Though definitely not saccharine, its easily as addictive, equally delicious and was certainly worth the wait.