You usually need to know a fair amount about Metal and the history of Rock and Metal to fully understand absolutely every point I will make, and having listened to the album yourself will also help. If you don’t have a clue what I’m writing about but still wish to read, having a tab open on Wikipedia to intermittently check anything you don’t understand, as well as a tab open on Grooveshark, Youtube or something Spotify-esque to check any musical reference points you haven’t heard will help too. Of course, that’s not to say I’m some more-metal-than-thou elitist preacher type, its just that having to give context or explanations to absolutely every point as it comes to mind would severely derail these articles.
In this entry, I will be listening to The Real Thing by Faith No More. Faith No More are a band I was never really interested in, the garish and overly colourful videos for the singles ‘We Care A Lot’ and ‘Epic’ were off-putting to me upon first exposure back when I wasn’t particualrly open minded or all that educated about music, and the only other song of their’s I’d heard, ‘Easy,’ was off-putting in its own sofa advertisement kind of way.
Apart from those three songs, I was pretty much completely ignorant about anything Faith No More ever did for many years. I would read a lot that Mushroomhead, a band that I do like, were very derivative of Faith No More, which made me think of them in a more positive light, although still not enough to give them a try. I guess I always resented them a tiny bit for having that name but not being Deicide. Deicide should be called Faith No More.
Eventually, when I was enjoying Five Finger Death Punch’s debut album one day, I felt that one of the songs (‘Meet The Monster’) reminded me a little of Faith No More and looked them up online to see if it was a cover, only to discover that it wasn’t, but another track on the album, one of my favourite tracks at the time in fact (‘From Out Of Nowhere’) was.
I was on and off the brink of trying the band out for about two years after that point, firstly hearing ‘Epic’ in a bar on the night of my graduation from University and not totally hating it, then hearing Stephen Hill from The Metal Hammer Podcast constantly saying very positive things about the band, then checking out the occasional video by them on youtube, then watching a bit of their Download Festival performance online. Finally, getting a new Mushroomhead album this month sent my mild FNM interest over the edge and here we are.
Listening to the album now, it opens with ‘From Out Of Nowhere’ which is about as positive an introduction to the album as I could expect. It’s a little off-putting that the song isn’t exactly as heavy as the cover version I’m used to but apart from that, it was a remarkably faithful cover so everything I already loved about the song is present and accounted for. Its just a great, energetic and enjoyable song.
When I was really young and heard ‘Epic’ for the first time, Mike Patton’s high pitched nasal vocal style was terrible sounding, one more example of the music I and my ilk would call ‘gay’ at the time before we stopped being assholes, but having since gotten into singers like Cedric Bixler Zavala and Claudio Sanchez this is no-longer a problem. Listening to the actual music, I’m a little surprised at the funk parts which I never really noticed over the memorably whiney ‘you-want-it-all’ chorus (which is the entirety of what I remember about the song, so prone was I to change the channel whenever it came on, like I was being scalded by unfamiliar music) and yet-further surprised by the heavy chugging parts which I didn’t expect to find in, and then really surprised by the brilliant Coheed-esque lead bit in the middle, which actually does feel epic, and then again by hugely Coheed-esque piano ending. There’s a hell of a lot more substance and depth to the song than I’d given it credit for all those uniformed years ago.
Next up is ‘Falling To Pieces’ which I think I recall is a single, although I had never actually heard it before this year in the prelude to buying the record. It once more is an interesting mix of funk, keys and heavy-but-not-heavy guitar, but in a different way than either of the past two tracks. I don’t know if the band intended it to be, but to the track has a very summertime feel. It just sounds like bright sunshine and warm weather. I guess if you listened to this track and then something like ‘Come On’ off the newest album, you’d never understand why people say Mushroomhead sound like Faith No More. Its kind of interesting that such a huge influence can kind of be in one way hidden, as well as on-the-sleeve in another way. I suppose its just a question of what part of their sound that influenced them.
Next up is ‘Surprise, You’re Dead!’ which is a nice heavy song that has an Annthrax/Overkill East-Coast-Thrash feel to it musically. Its short and sweet and over before it particularly goes anywhere, but its still good.
Then there comes ‘Zombie Eaters’ which has a beautiful clean guitar beginning that I never expected from A) Faith No More and B) A song with that title. Its definitely my favourite song so far, the guitar is really, really impressive, and the keys are really effective.
After two minutes it kicks off into a very heavy part that I didn’t see coming, and Mike tries out a bunch of different vocal styles. The way he says ‘baby’ is very reminiscent of Mushroomhead, as is the mixture of heavy guitar with slow high keys.
A lot of Metal bands incorporate keyboards into the sound, from Helloween style backing to Dream Theater style lead playing, but Faith No More have one of the most distinct and identifiable key sounds I’ve ever heard.
The title track, ‘The Real Thing’ is a dynamic eight-minute prog track with a great atmospheric beginning and again, surprisingly heavy guitar. It shows off that the band are great at creating hooks through memorable patterns, the way that the vocals work, the mathematics of it, is brilliant to the ear. Then you have the rhythmic odd-time-sig riffs coming in, making the momentum of the song twist and turn back in on itself, like its intermittently having to fight off being overwhelmed by a small horde of spiders… or those baby bat-moth-alien things from Dead Space that swamp you and usually kill you quicker than giant monsters ever could. I can’t even imagine how weird this song must have seemed back in the late Eighties when it first came out.
In fact, I can’t really imagine how unique Faith No More in general must have seemed at the time, and consequently its odd to think that they ever got to be so huge and popular. When this album came out the rock radio was full of hair metal ballads, and somehow this got big.
The next song on the record is ‘Underwater Love’ which is back in the ‘Falling To Pieces’ territory more or less, except for the more traditional key sounds which in part sound like organ and in part sound like clav’ to my, admittedly amateur-in-key-based-instrument-related-knowledge, ears. It reminds me of pre-Darkside Pink Floyd in a way that nothing else on the album has so far.
‘The Morning After’ comes next and it’s a really interesting song. The bass is like the funk bit from ‘Epic’ turned from what I imagine, without knowing much about music theory, is the back beat to being on the up beat… if that makes any sense. From leaning backwards to driving forwards… But then the clean guitar style from the start of ‘Zombie Eaters’ comes back in over the driving funk softening it down a bit, then punchy heavy bits come in and out. It is like a bit of a summation of the album so far, and it’s a little hard to wrap the head around, but its bloody great and it instantly gets stars on my iPod.
The next song is called ‘Woodpeckers From Mars’ and unlike ‘Zombie Eaters’ it sounds exactly like its name. It really reminds me of King Crimson, specifically of their cover of ‘Mars’ and of ‘Larks Tongues In Aspic.’ Its balls-out-proggy but also balls-out heavy. Back when the entire Faith No More sound was limited to the chorus of ‘Epic’ and ‘Easy’ in my brain, I would never, ever have imagined that they’d sound anything like this. Even if I did hear it back then, with that title and this music I’d have thought it was some offensively quirky pandering to people who fit the bill of being hipsters in hindsight but which I didn’t have a name for back then. Basically, I’d have done an impression of the song along the lines of ‘Oh look at me, look how weird I can be, blah, blah, blah, I’m so silly, ooooh’ and ‘People only like me because of how stupid I am, I’m not a real song.’ Yes, I was a dick!
In fact overall I’m utterly surprised that they aren’t just called a prog band now, considering how innovative, interesting and unique against space and time they are on the one hand, and how much they remind me of other prog bands on the other hand.
Next up is an energetic cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ that I can’t really say anything else about. Its good. You know, because ‘War Pigs’ is good anyway, and this is people playing it like they care, so…
Even though there was a cover towards the end of the album, it wasn’t a bonus track, just a part of the album (bloody 1980s, defying traditional post-80s track sequencing conventions!) and there is one more song left to close the album. Its called ‘Edge Of The World’ and its kind of Lounge-Jazzy, but its very good and doesn’t feel like quirk-for-the-sake-of-quirk. I guess it set up a lot of the band’s future oddball bits (judging on what I’ve seen on Youtube anyway). It reminds me of Queen’s ‘Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy’ in a carrer position sense, (as opposed to musically) in that you could look at it as a stoney faced serious rock fan and get all offended, but its actually just a brilliant song anyway and you should just chill the fuck out and stop being so judgemental about it – ok?
…and then the album is over. Which is about the only bad thing that happened since it started. I liked everything on the album, but it just ended a little too early for my tastes. I think it was due two more rockers. But that’s just me.
Overall though, it was a very good album. I think it’s the kind of album that would reward repeat listening more than your average album, so I’ll definitely get on that in the future.
I didn’t expect quite so much of it to remind me of Coheed And Cambria (I’d never heard anything about them influencing them, short of the video for ‘Welcome Home’ reminding me a bit of the video for ‘Epic’ – but visual inspiration can be completely separate from musical inspiration anyway) and I didn’t expect it to be either as proggy or as heavy as it is in its proggiest and heaviest parts, but all that was definitely in the category of “pleasant surprise” (you’re not dead!) rather than “distasteful shock.”
I can tell that would’ve hands down hated this album if I’d heard it back in my Green Day and Korn phase, but right here and now its just the ticket.