Faith No More – Sol Invictus

Nearly two decades after their last album FNM don't give a damn about your expectations

When it’s been nearly two decades since your last album, when you split swearing never to reform, when your feverish fanbase latches on to every rumour of your current activity, the pressure is on. If they’re going to come back at all, Faith No More need to come back hard.

And yet… they don’t. Every one of the studio albums that preceded this came roaring in with fire and purpose. Yet Sol Invictus’ eponymous lead track saunters in and simmers, all minor-key piano, cinematic scope and sombre rumination. Because, despite everything, there’s nothing to prove.

It speaks of ease and confidence to lead with this rather than the obvious – riotous second track ‘Superhero’, all boot-to temple punk-metal, maniacal roaring and thunderously psychedelic outro. Things start to get really interesting with ‘Sunny Side Up’ – part lilting ballad, part punishing assault, with an unsettling, cheerfully acidic refrain.

Propelled by one of Bill Gould’s greatest ever basslines, ‘Separation Anxiety’ is relentless, claustrophobic and disturbing; while ‘Cone of Shame’ shifts from velvety and gothic into churning, swampy noise-rock. ‘Rise of the Fall’ crafts a supremely eccentric patchwork, combining elements of wiry ’80s FNM, jagged riffs, mellow sunshine pop, and the bouncy carnivale of early Mr Bungle.

Familiar to FNM-watchers as the first new track to appear in their comeback gigs, ‘Matador’ was large and lean on stage, but the studio version is just colossal – a multi-part epic, piling on layers of sound, massed vocals and production flourishes to a degree that’s brilliantly, almost absurdly overblown. ‘Black Friday’ and closer ‘From the Dead’, a warm reflection on FNM’s return, both evoke late-’60s Scott Walker, one of many uncharacteristic touchstones that pepper Sol Invictus.

However, the beautiful paradox at the heart of this band is that they are always at their most archetypally Faith No More when they sound nothing like archetypal Faith No More. The result is a masterclass in what they’ve always excelled at – not giving a damn about your expectations.

Sol Invictus is out Mon 18 May on Reclamation Records

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