...

Faith No More’s Angel Dust turned 25 on June 8. We’re releasing this retrospective a little late. Apologies to Mr. Patton and the rest. - Ed.

...

MTV’s playlist in the years of 1989 and 1990 was a wasteland of second-wave hair metal, boy bands, and aging ‘80s pop stars awkwardly transitioning into the new decade. The glory days of New York hip-hop, early days of West Coast rap, the heavier bands of ‘Headbanger’s Ball’, and headier pre-alternative rock groups of ‘120 Minutes’ were all occasional respites highlighting truly game-changing performers. The daytime and school night hours though were littered by a glut of bland and tired acts from the aforementioned wasteland.

The breakthrough success of Faith No More’s 1989 sophomore effort The Real Thing seemed unlikely within that landscape. The Bay Area quintet were always oddballs compared to the rest of the hard rock scene around them. Mike Patton’s nasally vocal delivery, Jim Martin’s ethereal guitar solos, and Roddy Bottum’s haunting keyboards sounded like they were from a completely different planet. The grotesque neon color scheme of the music video for the wildly successful single “Epic” and sheer charisma of Patton somehow propelled the band into MTV’s heavy rotation playlist. Faith No More was a different beast, visually and aurally, from everything else mainstream audiences were exposed to at the time.

The next three years saw one of the largest sea changes in rock history. Hair metal imploded, grunge rock exploded, and Metallica became the biggest heavy metal band in the world. Faith No More reaped some benefits from this shift and secured the opening slot on the infamous Guns N Roses/Metallica co-headlining tour in 1992. The group was preparing to unleash their next album – Angel Dust – as the landmark tour was announced in May of that year.

The video for “Midlife Crisis” – the first taste of what Faith No More’s new record had in store for the throngs of new fans - debuted as a heavily-hyped MTV exclusive. The tone of the song and the video was more sinister than anything on The Real Thing. The disjointed frame rate of the video as Mike Patton spewed venomous throaty rasps and the band played in what appeared to be a darkened forest – all intercut with footage of chained horses struggling to break free (at least that’s what the censored MTV version looked like to viewers) – was a far cry from the neon fluorescent splendor of the videos from the previous record.

The video and song were off-putting to the casual rock fans that enjoyed the catchy rap-metal of “Epic.” But the fans that had embraced the more esoteric musical aspects of The Real Thing were enraptured. The scariness and unpredictability of the first single intrigued and excited those that identified more as “Faith No More fans” than “rock” or “metal fans” to hear what else awaited them on Angel Dust.

...

...

Opening track “Land of Sunshine” eased listeners into the wild ride with an up-tempo track where Bottum's signature synthesizer work shared DNA with the more popular tracks from The Real Thing. “Caffeine” and “Crack Hitler” took harder left turns and amplified the discordant aggression of similar earlier tracks like “Surprise You’re Dead.” Poppier song such as “Everything’s Ruined” and “A Small Victory” cut through the musical chaos and likely would have been huge rock radio hits had they been the initial singles released, though lyrically they were still dark and dour. Faith No More creepily turned a cheerleading shout inside out with “Be Aggressive” and delivered the drunken mumble-speak depression ballad “RV.” After the caustic screams and haunting organs of “Jizzlobber” left listeners shaken and discombobulated from the rickety musical roller coaster that ensued for the previous fifty-plus minutes, the soothing theme from the 1969 Academy Award winning film ‘Midnight Cowboy’ played them off into the night like a post-coital cigarette comedown.

Angel Dust cemented Faith No More as a band that was strictly for the weird kids. Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Metallica t-shirts swarmed the wardrobes of high schoolers everywhere as the tides of heavy music shifted, but the ‘90s version of “normies” weren’t rocking Faith No More. They may have liked “Epic,” but Angel Dust creeped them out. Those that did fully embrace Faith No More clutched onto the band even more as a personal favorite.

Jim Martin would relinquish his guitar duties in the wake of Angel Dust, a casualty of wanting to continue a more traditional heavy metal direction while the rest of the band embraced the more avant-garde aspects of their sound. The album sold enough records to earn Faith No More a gold record, but on a strictly commercial level it was considered a disappointment compared to the promise coming out of The Real Thing. The group released two more albums during their original run – 1995’s King For A Day…Fool For A Lifetime and 1997’s Album of the Year – and 2015’s Sol Invictus after a decade-plus long hiatus. The albums that followed each have their eclectic strengths in their own rights, but Angel Dust remains the ever-powerful link in the chain between their earlier accessibility and their later oddness.

“Epic” is the one Faith No More song you’ll still hear on commercial rock radio. The people that are devoted Faith No More fans today are still here though because of Angel Dust. The loudest crowd response of a Faith No More live show in 2017 is when the band performs “Midlife Crisis,” sets their instruments down when the chorus approaches, and everyone in the room screams at the top of their lungs:

“You’re perfect, yes it’s true…”

-Jason Roche

...

...