Mention three small words to bands like the Deftones, Korn, and Linkin Bizkit, and you'll see them turn pale, act like teenagers and say we're not worthy. Those words? Faith. No. More. And Angel Dust was their masterpiece.
Compared to the major rock records that preceded it, Angel Dust shows us exactly what rock music was capable of. Compared to this, Nevermind and Appetite For Destruction are just pop records with big loud guitars.
It's a thing of both extraordinary beauty and gruesome confrontation - even the cover art is oddly bipolar : a swan arising from a lake, reversed with a decapitated cows head hanging from a hook in an abattoir. Beauty and cruelty are the two driving forces in their music. And it is never more obvious than in "Malpractice" - four minutes of cacophonous riffling that suddenly but gracefully transforms into a lengthy recreation of the Kronos Quartet performing Shostakovich.
Angel Dust shows up most rock bands for the plodding visionless dinosaurs they are. It starts with a abrasive, screaming roar of guitars before following the same blueprint as the rest of the album : disparate sections of music shift tempos and styles within the same song - sounding like several different bands welded together and fighting it out at once, whilst guitars spew forth great big crunchy slabs of riffola and roaring vocals fight for your attention like screaming hyperactive children.
Vocals veer between a soft croon and guttural screaming. Lyrics range from the surreal and disjointed ("Land Of Sunshine") to paranoid evocative urban gangster fantasies ("Crack Hitler") . Guitars pick out gentle Country & Western touches on "RV" before grinding anything delicate into rubble dust on the following, colossal "Smaller And Smaller."
Further proof of the heart of the album is a throwaway four bar interlude in the middle of "Jizzlobber", but those four bars are enough for bands like Limp Park to use as their integral blueprint : great big menacing guitars, sleazy rhythms and growled vocals. And Faith No More take that idea, play with it briefly, and throw it away instead of building a career on it.
It's also the only album I know of that had a chart hit about gay ejaculation fetishism, complete with a chorus line of cheerleaders. ("Be Aggressive")
Angel Dust is a haemorrhage of ideas that, at the time, stuck out like a sore thumb : whilst Axl Rose preened, and Kurt Cobain whined, and Morrissey was touted as indie-god poster boys for Students, Faith No More simply took a different path. Ignoring all the pressure for a lame funk-metal follow-up to their previous Real Thing, they mined a deep and seriously heavy canyon. A grab bag of styles that at the time sounded like nobody else in the world. Now everybody wants to sound like them.
For music this brilliant, there are no words. Angel Dust is one of the best rock albums ever made. It takes your every preconception, your every doubt and your every reservation about rock music, tears it up in front of your eyes, cackles evilly and opens up the can of Rock Riffs to server you a feast. Buy it. You will not be disappointed.
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