In the build-up to the release of Faith No More’s Sol Invictus, we’re introducing a new feature at FNM 2.0 where we’ll be speaking to Faith No More experts about the new record and more. First up is Matt Evans, a freelance music writer for Rock-a-Rolla, Wire, The Quietus, The List and Plan B. Matt wrote a very insightful and rewarding Sol Invictus review for The List and also penned a wonderful feature for The Quietus looking back at The Real Thing 25 years on.
You reviewed the new album Sol Invictus for The List – what is your overall verdict on the band’s return?
It’s been surprising. Exciting. Immensely satisfying.
I’ve been into FNM since The Real Thing came out, and I’ll admit that I had a lot of trepidation about them reforming at all – and even more about them recording a new album. One of the many things I always appreciated about Faith No More was that they knew when to quit. And though I like Album of the Year a lot, it did feel like a band on the way out. And given that the individual members, Patton in particular, were thriving creatively after FNM split, I saw no artistic need for them to reform. So when the reunion gigs were announced, it was very exciting, but I was a bit dubious about their motives, and fearful that they’d have lost their spark and enthusiasm for it in the intervening years. I also couldn’t quite believe it would really happen. Of all the bands who ever split, Faith No More seemed about the least likely to reform.
And so, on the evening of the first reunion gig at Brixton in 2009, I and a bunch of fellow FNM acolytes were following from afar, gazing at Twitter as the setlist unfurled. It was indeed really happening. Even though we couldn’t be there in person, we felt connected to it. And the next night we got the live stream from Download… we saw and heard them for the first time in more than a decade. They were better than I could ever have imagined. They were energised and powerful, still with that air of depravity and vindictive sense of humour.
As the tours rolled on, the fact that FNM were back became less of a novelty, more a fact of life. Until ‘Matador’ happened. The band wouldn’t admit it, but I think we all knew that something big was brewing…
You are a Faith No More fan – was it hard to remain impartial in your review or did that paradoxically heighten your expectations?
Given my affinity, I was quietly confident that Sol Invictus would be quite good, but I was steeling myself to be heartbroken, too. Luckily, I genuinely think it’s a fantastic record.
However, I’m not really interested in remaining impartial in a review – in fact, I think that’s something of a false notion. Music exists within us. How we respond to and judge music is inextricably intertwined with who we are as people. Without people to hear it, there is no music, there are only meaningless soundwaves. So no, my review was completely non-impartial! But it was honest. I wouldn’t have shied away from expressing disappointment.
When did you first hear the album? Is receiving a preview so early normal practice? Did that help in that Sol Invictus seems to be an album that requires some immersion?
I received it in mid-March. I wasn’t the first to hear it, but it was slightly earlier than most, simply due to editorial deadlines. I was also due to interview the band for another magazine (which will be out in the next month).
It was a big day when the link arrived. My wife is also a massive FNM fan, so we cancelled our plans for the evening and made a date with the stereo.
I always try to listen to an album several times before reviewing it. With Sol Invictus, that was far from a chore, and I’m still listening to it a lot now. Every listen reveals more and more details and facets. It’s rich and beautiful and bloody great.
You mentioned in that review that Faith No More sound nothing like archetypal Faith No More – in what way?
In that there’s a certain default sound that some people associate with FNM –heavy riffs, with a groove, fat keys, big melodies, e.g. Epic, Ashes to Ashes, Midlife Crisis – but to understand Faith No More you have to appreciate that this is just a small facet of what they do. Seeming oddities (Star AD, She Loves Me Not, Malpractice, Pristina, RV, Helpless, etc.) are just as important as the big hits. It’s the unexpected tangents and diverse approaches that make this band what it is, and Sol Invictus is full of that stuff. The line in the review is also a reference to an old Fry & Laurie sketch. I probably shouldn’t tell you that.
You also mention Scott Walker touches on the album. Did you also hear any of the Cramps, Link Wray or Siouxsie influences that Bill Gould mentioned?
Like the Scott Walker thing, only in shades and hints. There are a lot of unusual touchstones in there, but they’re never domineering. It’s very Faith No More.
Do you think the band remain relevant in 2015?
Culture is now so fractured and compartmentalised that I honestly have no idea what relevance or a lack of it would mean. It sounds like a bogus marker of worth, a way for journalists to hype up or dismiss a band based on their sales or pulling power in the media. All I know is Faith No More are relevant to me.
Faith No More have gotten a bit of a bad rap for spawning the worst excesses of nu-metal. What is your take on that?
As I was saying earlier, there are many facets to FNM. Their influence on mu-metal is obvious and undeniable. But it’s bizarrely myopic – a whole generation of bands who drew influence from just one part of an older artist’s work.
So I don’t blame FNM for nu-metal. Nor am I entirely dismissive of the genre. While it produced some of the worst music imaginable, it also gave us a couple of more interesting bands, in Deftones and System of a Down.
What are the more positive influences that Faith No More’s music continues to have?
I would hope their influence is a matter of drawing inspiration from their sense of creative freedom, rather than attempting to ape their sound. They show that you can do anything. They’re one of those bands that make clear how ridiculous genre tribalism can be. Opening their Download comeback set with a Peaches & Herb song was a perfect example of this.
They also show that it is possible to make a comeback and not be painfully embarrassing. Who knew?
Is Sol Invictus your Album of the Year?
It’s only May, so who knows…?! There have also been great albums from Lightning Bolt, Sir Richard Bishop, Liturgy, Zu, Jessika Kenney, KEN Mode…. and the Babymetal album, which I love beyond all reason, is getting a European release.
But maybe. Ask me again in December.