Sun Gods Awaken: Faith No More’s Sol Invictus

With the typical sly hubris of a band whose swansong bore the legend Album of the Year, Faith No More resume their twitchy narrative nearly two decades later with Sol Invictus.

Yes, that’s ‘Unconquered Sun’ to you cheap seaters.

I’ll give you a moment to Wiki it.

Back? Cool.

Them lads’re still pretty cheeky, right?

Our revered alt-metal princes, who fragmented in ’98 in the very thick of their bastard nu-metal offsprings’ heyday, trod a long, tentative path to new material after first reuniting in 2009 for huge, globally successful, festival shows.

Where’d they get to in those ensuing years?

Founding member Billy Gould, stalwart from back when the band bore the dubious monicker Faith No Man, mixed his time between low-end duties with extreme metal outfit Brujeria and (The Dead Kennedys’) maverick Jello Biafra’s Guantanamo School of Medicine project, not to mention interludes with members of Korn and Bad Religion (for his main gig’s aforementioned sins).

Meanwhile, erstwhile Imperial Teen guitarist (and lyricist of FNM concert staple Be Aggressive) Roddy Bottum, spent the post breakup years soundtracking indie films, and composed monster romance Sasquatch: The Opera, which opened recently.

Skinsman Mike Bordin, metallic rhythmic spine, served as timekeeper for Ozzy Osbourne’s band, including the much reviled re-recordings of solo classics Diary of a Madman and Blizzard of Oz. Bordin also pulled rhythm duties for former and future Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell (oh, and, again, Korn; that flat circle).

Former Gould roommate, Jon Hudson, who replaced Mr Bungle’s Trey Spruance on Album of the Year, and returns to the fold here, appears to have been in suspended animation, given the dearth of interim biographical information.

Then, of course, there’s dark jester-prince Mike Patton, that seminal, bug eyed dervish of an emcee, whose demented fingerprints are all over Sol Invictus. (Drafted in 1988 and forever synonymous with the outfit, Patton is a man who, notoriously, packed his own excreta into hotel hair dryers for on-tour giggles.)

With an exhaustive catalogue of pre/during/post Faith No More side projects careening across the entire spectrum of musical lunacy — be it Italian telly theme covers, brazen hip hop, horn-dog lounge croon, sludge metal horror soundtracks and onwards into the velvety sonic abyss — the palette with which Patton and his cohorts daub is expansive, lush and reliably sinister.

The tar that binds this majestic coiled lunacy — a raving, infernal genius prince, hell’s own lounge lizard — Patton slides seamlessly between soaring operatic flourishes, fuck-daddy croon and spittle flecked, guttural barks with aplomb, his renowned pipes rich vehicles for sustained menace, juvenile asides and nihilistic ruminations on those old favourites, sexandeath.

Clocking in at a feral forty minutes, Sol Invictus is the statelier offspring of the mad cabaret of 1993’s seminal opus Angel Dust, a frenetic, splenetic slab of surging hardcore nervous breakdowns, hair pin swings into signature baroque operatic interludes.

Characterised by Gould (who also assumes production duties) as worshiping at the three altars of The Cramps, Link Wray and Siouxsie and the Banshees, these ten tracks are a brooding collection of creaking horror flick atmospherics, spaghetti western swagger, trademark menacing lullaby sing-song, swingin’ bossa nova, and anxiety attack prone vocal dummy spit meltdowns.

That’s not to say there’s short shrift given over to aspects of the band’s diverse portfolio — Sol Invictus occasionally bristles with the mad flamenco and surf inspired tangents of King For A Day… and kookier career B-Side selections, whilst the sparse new wave desert snare of Album of the Year (which was co-produced by Gould) is omnipresent.

Worry not, fans of a ‘certain vintage’: the spiky thrash flourishes and elastic funk exercises of the first three discs are all in rude evidence.

Lyrically, the band is as warily opaque as ever, though single Motherfucker pointedly kicks off on the state of the music industry with savage majesty, a moment of towering martial thunder bombastically heralding the album’s home stretch.

Embracing the gobby, switchblade humour and psychopath energy of their catalogue (something their unwanted nu-metal offspring lacked the wit and nuance to embrace), Sol Invictus is a confident, concise collection.

Even in middle age, Faith No More retain the ability to be confounding, obstinate, snotty upstarts, sneering gutter punks who (still) don’t give a fuck what you think — the lads may not have delivered the Faith No More album you think you want, but it’s definitely the one you deserve.

Originally published at www.hopscotchfriday.com.