Catching Up With…
Faith No More has always followed its own rules. So if the band wants to wait until it’s half a decade into its “comeback” to finally release a new recording, you can bet there’s a good reason for it. And that said album will melt your face off.
“Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” Hunter S. Thompson describes his drug-guzzling attorney in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas thusly—though it’s also a characterization eerily befitting of the hard-rock alchemists Faith No More, who expired after crafting some of the most unconventional and extraordinary major-label music of the ’90s. Thankfully, the inimitable Bay Area quintet proved to be only mostly dead, having recently completed an improbable Lazarus act with the arrival of Sol Invictus—its first new record in nearly two decades.
Boasting the confidence and maturity of a band in middle age—without sacrificing the sardonic teeth or genre-bending ambition for which Faith No More is synonymous—the taut ten-song set nails that sweet spot between fresh and familiar, thanks in large part to drummer Mike Bordin’s brontosaurus-size sonic imprint. Even at fifty-two years of age, Bordin is still the hardest hitter in all the land, and he’s quick to credit a patient approach and a protracted reunion tour (with dates beginning in 2009) when discussing how he and his cohorts have managed to return in such fine form.
“We have our own language, and it’s not just musical—it’s emotional and physical as well,” Bordin explains. “It’s a unique thing, and we had to give it time to work. When the band started getting pretty strong [live], we were like, ‘Okay, now either we’re done, or we’re going to have something else to say.’ Because if you don’t have something new to say and you just keep carrying on, it becomes nostalgia. No one was here to re-create a time when we had less gray hair and more brain cells, you know? So some music came. It came gradually, it came honestly, and in my opinion it came correctly.”
Supporting this earnest claim is the fact that Sol Invictus is a near-100 percent DIY effort. The album was released on FNM’s own label, Reclamation Recordings, and produced and engineered by bassist Billy Gould in the band’s rehearsal space. (Vocal savant Mike Patton recorded his parts in his own studio.) “It was an evolutionary process in the best sense,” Bordin says. “If Bill added a section or Mike altered a melody, I had the opportunity to rerecord a part that was sympathetic to those changes. It wasn’t like back when the studio cost us three grand a day, and everyone’s saying, ‘We’re going to need you to do all of your drum tracks in three days—hurry.’”
The dreadlocked southpaw (who plays a righty kit, but with the ride on his left) shines on the driving single “Superhero,” as well as Angel Dust–era throwbacks “Separation Anxiety” and “Matador,” both of which are built on vintage Bordin/Gould gut-punch grooves. Other standouts include the soul-sprinkled “Sunny Side Up,” which calls for nimble odd-time navigation, and the sinister “Cone of Shame,” which simmers along to an execution-style snare march before erupting into a devastatingly heavy swing. “I feel like there’s good pop on my tracks—they sound fluid and natural,” beams Bordin, who, after playing sideman with Ozzy Osbourne and others for a decade-plus, describes his approach in FNM as “instinctive” and “extremely comfortable.”
“I’m super-proud of [Sol Invictus],” the drummer says. “I’m proud of my guys. It’s been a crazy, cool gift to have a second chance to do this with more experience and more perspective under our collective belts. I really treasure it.”