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Faith No More - 'Angel Dust' Review

Faith No More Don't Let Success Blunt Their Freak Factor

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faith no more angel dust

Faith No More - 'Angel Dust'

Photo courtesy Slash/Warner Bros.
Faith No More burst into the mainstream with 1989’s The Real Thing and its bizarre rap-metal hit “Epic.” With their next album, Faith No More have decided that they’re only going to get weirder. A gutsy, ambitious, totally mad record, Angel Dust probably won’t translate to the average rock fan, but its willingness to wander all over the musical map – and to do it with real gusto – is inspired.

Refusing to Repeat Themselves

Led by frontman Mike Patton, Faith No More have dabbled in art-rock in the past, but Angel Dust offers a cornucopia of musical styles. Metal, performance art, ‘70s funk, pop, creepy cheerleader anthems, New Wave – about the only thing Faith No More don’t try on Angel Dust is to write “Epic 2.” Sometimes, bands decide to distance themselves from their big hit on the follow-up album, only to stumble over their artistic aspirations and self-indulgent experiments. That doesn’t happen on Angel Dust, which instead suggests how much Faith No More have grown as a band in a few short years.

A Lead Singer With a Thousand Faces

Patton joined the band during the making of The Real Thing, and his hugely theatrical vocals and stage presence immediately helped separate the group from other hard rock and metal bands. But armed with the more varied songs of Angel Dust, he shines, whether playing the bitter redneck of “RV” or a drug dealer on the run in “Crack Hitler.” Patton thrives embodying the album’s different fictional characters, with their only real similarity being their inability to cope within the realm of ordinary society. Singer-songwriters like Tom Waits and Randy Newman showed extraordinary skill at populating their songs with bizarre individuals, but neither artist has come up with an album’s worth of freaks like Faith No More do here.

Music That Pushes the Envelope

Just as Patton’s performances are a riveting high-wire act, so too does the band’s music push boundaries. It’s not as if Faith No More entirely reject commercial songwriting – “Everything’s Ruined” boasts a snazzy melody – but on Angel Dust they seem to be more interested in pulling apart genres than strictly adhering to conventions. A great example is “Midlife Crisis,” a desperate song about failure that incorporates hip-hop and prog-rock but yet somehow comes across as a sing-along rocker. While guitarist Jim Martin isn’t as prominent on Angel Dust as he was on previous Faith No More records, he does get a few moments to unleash his thrash-heavy style, like on “Smaller and Smaller” and the scary scream-fest “Jizzlobber.” Though they would still probably be labeled as metal, Faith No More refuse to be limited by metal’s slavish insistence on speedy riffs and monolithic tempos, opening the door for inventiveness and real artistic growth.

An Album for the Adventurous

Successful bands have to decide how they want to balance their own aspirations against the demands of their audience. In the case of Angel Dust, Faith No More have opted to roll the dice, getting as weird as humanly possible while still somewhat following the rules of traditional hard rock songwriting. Angel Dust’s weirdness won’t sit well with everyone, but adventurous listeners should leap at the chance to hear something that’s proudly different from most everything else out there in the market. And who knows – maybe it’ll inspire other bands to raise their game accordingly.

Best 'Angel Dust' Tracks:

“Land of Sunshine” (Purchase/Download)
“Midlife Crisis” (Purchase/Download)
“Everything’s Ruined” (Purchase/Download)
“A Small Victory” (Purchase/Download)

Release date – June 8, 1992
Slash Records

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