On May 19th, the ever eccentric and wildly unpredictable rock band Faith No More will return with Sol Invictus, their first new studio album in 18 years. This announcement shocked and delighted the music community, surging a renewed interest in a band that once dominated headlines and commanded attention.
With this new album coming out, I wanted to look back at this band and recognize the important role they played for many listeners. This wasn’t just another band to enjoy for a while and then put to the side. No, Faith No More was something that always offered more and they should be recognized as such.
In order to demonstrate the importance of the band’s return with Sol Invictus, I’m going to focus specifically on their 1992 album Angel Dust. I’m doing this for a few reasons:
- It’s the first album where vocalist Mike Patton had a significant impact on the writing of the material. That’s why there’s a rather noticeable difference between the sound of The Real Thing and Angel Dust.
- It’s the last album that had guitarist Jim Martin, so there was still that sound that brought them acclaim and popularity.
- Because it’s a great fucking album.
Now, before I dive into the amazing qualities of Angel Dust, you’ve got to remember that The Real Thing was incredibly popular, reaching Platinum status in the US and selling over 4 million copies worldwide. This was the band that made a metal song wildly popular with “Epic” and they knew exactly what it took to make that kind of music, which they could’ve easily done again. Instead, they eschewed that path, creating what might be one of the best anti-sellout albums.
Angel Dust was an album that mystified yet delighted critics upon its release. Most hailed it as a wildly original and fascinating album, one that demanded focus and an open mind. Lyrically, musically, and visually, it was nothing that anyone expected.
If you look at the lyrics for Angel Dust, you’ll see that this is not your normal fare. They are poetic and are wasted on anyone who doesn’t take a closer look, belying the playful, carnivalesque nature of the music. They are often delivered with a Tom Waits-styled swagger, pouring forth with strange rhythms that are as unexpected as they are delightful.
Look for example at the opening track, “Land Of Sunshine”. It’s an amalgamation of Chinese fortune cookie fortunes and questions that are asked by the Church of Scientology. However, it fully embraces this nonsensical approach and instead twists and turns the lyrics into a scathing commentary on how happiness can only be found when properly “ordered”.
Vocalist Mike Patton has always been able to do unbelievable things with his voice and Faith No More never held him back from allowing him to showcase those talents. A stellar example would be “Smaller And Smaller”, where he chants almost like some Gregorian monk, hitting dissonant notes that manage to fit in perfectly. Suddenly, he is screaming like some horrific reptilian monster only to fall back to a growling rasp, a creature whispering and seducing from the shadows.
Musically, this album, like other releases, was all over the place. Each member contributed greatly to the overall sound, creating a landscape that never repeated itself, always offering something new and enrapturing. From the exciting chants in “Be Aggressive” to the gothic and sinister “Malpractice”, from the odd surfer rock ballad “RV” to the chaotic “Jizzlobber”, there is always something unique.
At the end of the day, Faith No More never really gave a shit what people thought about them and that’s precisely what made them so appealing. They did their own thing and it just so happened to resonate with enough people to make its mark.
Drummer Mike Bordin perhaps said it best, when he stated:
…we made our record, we produced it our way, we wrote our songs, we played them our way, it sounds like us. [Source]
After years away, with each member doing their own thing, they’re back with that same irreverent attitude. And in a society that’s so concerned and paranoid with what people think of them, this is the breath of fresh air that is desperately needed.