Faith No More - Angel Dust
Slash Records
Experimental Funk Metal, Avant-Garde
14 songs (1:01:54)
Release year: 1992
Faith No More
Reviewed by Goat

After hit album The Real Thing affirmed Faith No More’s place as the band to watch in the early nineties mainstream Metal world, few could have predicted that an album as listener-unfriendly and just plain stubborn as Angel Dust would follow. Mixing many worlds together, most significantly to us Rap and Metal into one catchy unison, The Real Thing took a while to take hold of the public’s imagination, but it soon did, and after a year or so on break Faith No More began to write the follow-up. Clearly, the biggest change was that relatively new frontman Mike Patton had an influence on the songwriting process, having used the time out to record Mr Bungle’s (equally classic) debut. The band duly chose to change their musical direction, from the more or less straightforward catchiness of The Real Thing to a much darker, less commercial and more experimental style, despite the apparent friendliness of the cover art (the back cover shows an abattoir). Back when I listened to Angel Dust for the first time as part of my musical journey, I was completely confounded. I’d previously heard and fallen in love with The Real Thing, an album that takes its quirkiness to an acceptable plateau and whilst it does mix genres, does so with taste and style, yet Angel Dust clearly smashed the barriers and was unafraid of the more demented ideas behind it.

That the demented minds in question would work so well together here is the largest miracle, really. Five very individual members coming together to write some of the best songs of the 90s, the band starting on the road to break-up soon after with the departure of guitarist Jim Martin – few other bands can boast of this moment of perfection. And what songs they created! Opener Land Of Sunshine gently strikes at your ears with catchy post-The Real Thing riffing and keyboard backing, but Patton’s lyrics soon indicate that something’s wrong, if the manic laughter and the schizophrenic changes in the vocals aren’t clue enough. Caffeine continues to take steps away from what you expect, a more aggressive version of the same sound mixed with strange vocal gymnastics from Patton to riotous effect. What other band could create songs like Midlife Crisis, funky, catchy, yet far from commercial? The structures used, the mixtures of instrumentation, the difference between the backing melody and the upfront riffs... all melds into a single, perfect unit, fronted by Mike Patton in a performance that fans will find familiar yet one rarely repeated to such a level of quality as here. He sings, he screams, he talks, he makes funny noises; Mike Patton is hard to describe, but once you’ve heard him you never forget.

The songs get stranger as the album progresses. RV is a look at ‘trailer trash’ without condescension or cliché that totally works as it is supposed to, Smaller And Smaller builds on its own tension with Prog snootiness before falling in on itself, single Everything’s Ruined mixes lounge smoothness and 90s Thrash... each song on the album deserves paragraphs in its own right, but time and space don’t permit. Each song here is proof positive that the band were reacting against their fame in a pretty unique way, however. Where Kurt Cobain shot himself and Pearl Jam sued Ticketmaster and stopped making music videos, Faith No More went more Progressive in style, more underground and less radio-friendly – Angel Dust has marked its place in the mainstream on lists of most listener-unfriendly follow-ups to hit albums ever, yet for me and I’m sure many of you reading who are fans, it’s a helluva lot better than its predecessor. The songs are better, more infectious, with less obvious hooks, more progressive, more varied, all adding up to what is a more fun listen for those people, like us, that can take a little bit – or a lot in this case – of zaniness with their music.

This is really where people don’t like Faith No More, in general; they get hyped as something freakier than System Of A Down doing Frank Zappa covers, yet when you listen to the music for the first time there’s an undeniable Poppiness to it. Heck, Angel Dust ends with a cover of the Midnight Cowboy theme and a Lionel Ritchie cover, but consider that the band chose these deliberately to annoy Metal fans who had fallen in love with the cover of War Pigs that closed The Real Thing; they weren’t interested in appealing to anyone, whoever they were. Ironically, of course, the likes of Korn came along soon after and were influenced enough to create the bastard subgenre of Nu Metal, yet you can’t blame Faith No More for this any more than you can blame Public Enemy or Anthrax for their collaboration kick-starting Rap Metal. What Faith No More made here is far from Nu Metal; tying it down to a specific genre is impossible, of course, but it’s that mixture which is great, what keeps you coming back for more, whether it’s Malpractise’s chaotic noise or the gentler Kindergarten.

Picking highlight tracks is shooting fish in a barrel. Each track will say something different to you on each listen, from the violent Pop of Be Aggressive with its cheerleaders and funky basslines, to the almost orchestral A Small Victory – Patton’s lyrics are laden with multiple meanings and his delivery has so many nuances that the vocals alone need more than a few listens to really get to grips with them. The music itself is complex, a deep mixture that will also take time to understand beyond the initial Funk-induced sunshine. Of course, by the time you’ve reached songs like Crack Hitler and the Voivod-y Jizzlobber the catchiest moments are forgotten, and the only recourse is to listen to the whole album again. That, for me, is really where Angel Dust hits the heights and deserves the Classic tag – the songwriting is truly fantastic, and it sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1992. Some may criticise the Funkiness and reliance on bass and keyboards as much as guitars, but this is undeniably a Metal album, and undeniably Classic too. Which makes it a Metal Classic... as well as Faith No More’s best album.

Killing Songs :
All, from first to last
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Faith No More that we have reviewed:
Faith No More - Sol Invictus reviewed by Goat and quoted 82 / 100
Faith No More - Album of the Year reviewed by Goat and quoted 72 / 100
Faith No More - King For A Day... Fool For A Lifetime reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Faith No More - The Real Thing reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
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