Where would hard rock and heavy metal be today without Faith No More‘s 1992 classic Angel Dust? This question brings shivers to my fragile old soul and I prefer not to even think about the answer to that blasphemous query. Twenty-five years after its release, I don’t think any fan of Faith No More would argue that Angel Dust was their pinnacle. From the opening guitar chords and accompanying keyboards of “Land of Sunshine” you know this record is something special.
Mike Patton is about as close to a household name for fans of intense and experimental music as any is likely to get. What few of his modern fans probably think about is that this band, Faith No More, is where he really got his feet wet. Patton and company comprise one of those bands that absolutely every single fan of loud music should be aware of. Famous for his range and ability to do pretty much anything he damn well pleases with his vocal chords, Patton is still relevant now performing in several acts: the insane Mr. Bungle, the newly formed Dead Cross or even lending his talents to the efforts of other notable acts like The Dillinger Escape Plan.
As cited by other music journalists in the past, some vocalists have a knack for picking collaborators that often elevate their own abilities. Patton is no different and like other notable rock vocalists before him, namely Perry Farrell and Ozzy Osbourne, Patton knows how to choose a collaborator. Fortunately the guitar work of Jim Martin is seldom overlooked by his fan base. You may remember him from his cameo at the beginning of the notoriously good Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
Looking like a wild man and the physical embodiment of rock ‘n roll with long curly locks, skin-tight jeans and leather jacket he certainly embodied the part. Many of the notable moments are owed to Martin on the second proper Faith No More release. Martin adds a flavour to FNM’s sound that was noticeably absent when he left the crew after this album. Those of you just getting into Faith No More might not hear this upon first pass through, however,but with repeated play of the band’s next two chronological records you can tell it isn’t Martin riffing away.
The record is notable for being slathered in samples lifted from various sources likes movies and other famous musicians, something it was noted for at the time of release too, as the label felt it was an overabundant use. Saying that this album is a perfect mix of everything that represented rock and metal music during the 80s/90s is an understatement. During a time period where metal was flexing its muscles, rock ‘n roll was getting weak, punk had failed and hip hop was in development, Faith No More took the best elements of those diverse genres – and arguably a few more – and made one of the most enduring pieces of art from the 90s. Despite the 25 years since this album came out, rocking songs like “Caffeine”, “Smaller and Smaller” and “Kindergarten” still pack a crunchy wallop.
Bubbly thick bass lines, subtle keys and ambidextrous drumming back the pair of Patton and Martin. In fact, every member of the band played a key role on this release. Billy Gould, Roddy Bottum and Mike Bordin played just as critical roles giving the body to these compositions as did their more visible, lead playing counter parts. Faith No More couldn’t have made Angel Dust with any other line up, at least not the same way. How would they have pulled off the bizarre, sparkling mid-section to “Malpractice” without this line-up?
Angel Dust is best experienced as heard instead of described so I won’t be offended if I am not able to impress its revolutionary nature on you if you’ve never heard it before. Between the songs and the great back story that accompany the band and this particular record I would say this is a must hear for anyone, even if you only ever give it a single spin.
It’s easy to dismiss Angel Dust as just another hard rock album upon first play. It might not be to your taste, however, it will certainly impart you with some impression, or perhaps even hint at where a favourite contemporary artist you like may have gotten an idea or two. If “Everything’s Ruined” doesn’t put a smile on your face or you aren’t hooked in by “Be Aggressive” with its cheerleader backed anthems I pray for your music loving soul. I am positive once you’ve spun it all the way through you will come back to the record and maybe even to this review. And when you do, please, re-read this while listening to the album and tell me it isn’t a masterpiece of modern rock.