Over their initial, 17-year run, Faith No More established themselves as one of the scene’s most adept genre-blenders. The band dabbled in everything from funk (“We Care a Lot”) to thrash (“Surprise! You’re Dead!”) to trip-hop (“Stripsearch”) eliminating the typical sonic expectations that befall so many bands. Really, they should be the ideal candidate for a killer reunion album; if a band’s not supposed to sound like anything in particular, how can they go wrong? Unfortunately, they’ve found a way. While not a bad effort, the band’s new album, Sol Invictus, leaves no lasting impressions, and ultimately makes you wonder why it came to be.
To the band’s credit, the album sounds fantastic. Billy Gould’s done some terrific work behind the controls, ensuring that everything—his own meaty bass lines, Jon Hudson’s crisp, clear guitar patterns, you name it—comes through dynamically. Mike Patton does…really, exactly what you’d expect Mike Patton to do, turning in yet another virtuoso vocal performance. He covers a great deal of ground stylistically—from the call-and-response squawks in the intro to “Superhero” to the subdued near-whispers on “Motherfucker”—his every move enhancing its respective song to great effect.
The trouble is, despite the band’s best efforts on the performance side of things, there’s simply not that much to the songs themselves that ends up really sticking. A handful of songs in the early-going (really, from “Superhero” through “Separation Anxiety”) find ways to linger past the first listen, but most beyond that end up being decent, yet forgettable. A track like “Rise of the Fall” will sound decent in the moment, but after the fact, you’ll be hard pressed to recall or describe it without a cheat-sheet—even after six or seven listens through the album. (The lone exception to this trend is lead single, “Motherfucker,” though let’s not kid ourselves: that one hooks you with its name more than anything.)
If this review comes off sounding like an indictment, please know it’s not meant as one. You’ll certainly hear better reunion albums, but you’ll also hear worse. Sol Invictus is just one that’s kind of tough to feel particularly strongly about. It’s neither good, nor bad; it just…is. And after 18 years, that can’t help but feel like a bit of a letdown.
Keep it heavy,